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Fix to Delta’s Light Woes Might Not Arrive by End of Meet

By T. D. Thornton

A new lighting system at Delta Downs that was only operational for three races on the first night of the season back in October and has been repeatedly tweaked since then might not end up being deemed safe or usable for racing by the time the current Thoroughbred meet ends Mar. 5.

Ironically, after more than three months of debate over alleged shadows and perceived inconsistencies with how the patterns fall on the racing surface, the lighting installer and a consulting firm retained by Delta are now trying to rectify the problem not by increasing candlepower, but by actually turning down the intensity of the lighting from about 90% of full illumination to around 60% on each of the poles around the six-furlong track.

 

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Fair Grounds Not Definite on Dates Reduction

By T. D. Thornton

Jason Boulet, the Fair Grounds director of racing, was repeatedly pressed by Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) member Tom Calvert Tuesday about whether or not his track would once again seek a statutory change to reduce its required number of race dates from 80 to 75 when the state legislature convenes its 2022 session Mar. 14.

The exchange did not yield a definitive answer beyond Boulet’s disclosure that the Fair Grounds and its corporate parent, the gaming firm Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI), would be in favor of participating in discussions among stakeholders that might reduce race dates in Louisiana with the goal of making it easier to fill entries at the state’s four Thoroughbred tracks.

The dates statute wasn’t on the agenda for the Jan. 18 LSRC meeting. But Calvert brought it up after Boulet reported that so far through the November-through-March meet, the number of starters per Fair Grounds race has dipped from 8.3 to 7.6 in a year-over-year comparison, a decrease Boulet termed “alarming.”

 

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Delta Downs Trying to Light a Way to Safe Night Racing

Louisiana Racing Commission delays decision on restoring night racing for 30 days.

 

better lighting system at Boyd Gaming’s Delta Downs in Southern Louisiana has not been good enough for the track to restore its valuable two nights of racing per week.

The racetrack lost its lighting during the devastation from Category 4 Hurricane Laura in August 2020 and consequently its most valuable real estate in the national pari-mutuel simulcast landscape. A new lighting system was unveiled in October, which one expert has called “exceptionally better than in the past,” but the Delta Downs jockey colony has not been happy with the results, calling an uneven spread of dark and bright spots around the track dangerous to both horse and rider.

The Louisiana Racing Commission considered the issue Dec. 13 during a hearing to consider a Delta Downs request to convert two of its four weekly racing days from afternoon to night.

 

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Dispute Over Safety of New Lights Keeps Delta Dark at Night

By T. D. Thornton

Strenuous safety-related objections from Delta Downs jockeys about the allegedly inconsistent lighting from a new system that has been installed and tweaked over the course of several months kept the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) from approving a return to night racing when regulators met for an emergency session to address that one item Monday morning.

Mindy Coleman, an attorney representing The Jockeys’ Guild, told commissioners on the Dec. 13 Zoom call that while the Delta-based riders recognize and appreciate the efforts track management has made to try to improve the situation, “there are still some grave concerns” with the recently installed light-emitting diode (LED) system, which was necessitated by the old lights getting wrecked by a hurricane in August 2020.

 

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Louisiana Commission Backs Broberg in CDI Dispute

Churchill Downs Inc. banned him after one of his starters returned sore from a race.

 

Questioning the due process afforded owner/trainer Karl Broberg when Churchill Downs Inc. barred him this fall from competition at all of its tracks, the Louisiana State Racing Commission unanimously passed a motion during its Oct. 26 meeting authorizing his participation at CDI-owned Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots as long as he has a valid Louisiana license and is not suspended.

CDI’s ban as a property owner came last month when it revoked his stabling and entry privileges at all its tracks after his $10,000 claiming horse Rockandahardplace returned sore after a sixth-place finish Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs.

A submitted claim by another owner for the 5-year-old gelding was voided after the race when the horse was declared lame by a Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarian at the track’s test barn. The following week, CDI reported in a statement that “the horse was returned to his stall by a paid hot-walker, but a subsequent investigation revealed that there was no responsible representative of the trainer on-site to make veterinary decisions or to take appropriate steps to protect the welfare of the injured horse.”

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Hall Of Famer Delahoussaye Views Friday’s ‘Eddie D’ From Afar

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A certified all-time great and longtime member of Racing’s Hall of Fame, Eddie Delahoussaye, for whom Friday’s main event at Santa Anita, the Grade 2, $200,000 Eddie D Stakes, is named, will not be on-hand to present the winner’s trophy along with his wife Juanita.

“With all the Covid stuff going on, we just weren’t able to make it out this year,” said the popular Cajun native from his home in Lafayette, La. “At my age (69), you never know what you’re gonna get! Hopefully things will get back to normal and we can make the trip again next year.”

Retired due to injury in 2003, Delahoussaye, 69, who has worked part time as a blood stock agent and has dabbled in racehorse ownership himself, is in the process of taking on a new role—that of racing commissioner with the state of Louisiana. Although he won’t be officially sworn in until the Louisiana state legislature reconvenes in June, he’s serving in the role of apprentice commissioner in the interim.

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Delta Downs Looks to Open Delayed Meet in Late November

Stabling and tracking could begin by late October.

Delta Downs, which postponed its race meet when damaged by Hurricane Laura, could begin racing in late November, according to a company spokesman. Delta had been scheduled for its regular Thoroughbred season for 84 days from Oct. 6-Feb. 27.

Track officials are hoping to open its backstretch for training by late October, said David Strow, the vice president of corporate communications for Boyd Gaming, the track owner.

Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm, brought devastating winds causing damage or destruction to barns, the backside dining room, the track toteboard, its data/computer room, and its safety rail and starting gate, Strow said.

“The damage was fairly extensive. The good news is we are making great progress in our repairs, and we’re confident we can have the horses return in late October,” he said.

Boyd is working with the Louisiana State Racing Commission to extend the meet beyond its originally planned ending, though specific dates and the length of the season are still to be determined, according to Strow.

Delta Downs reopened its casino Sept. 16.

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Louisiana Judge to Rule Friday on Fair Grounds Emergency Stabling

By T. D. Thornton

A temporary restraining order issued Sep. 4 has blocked a Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) mandate from taking effect that seeks to force the Fair Grounds to open its backstretch stabling to as many as 500 Thoroughbreds displaced by Hurricane Laura in the last week of August. An Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge is now expected to rule on the injunction after a Sep. 11 hearing.

The news site Crescent City Sports first reported on the 57-page request for injunction filed by attorneys for the Fair Grounds, which is owned by the gaming corporation Churchill Downs, Inc. The filing stated that the LSRC “does not have the legal authority to issue the mandatory injunction” and that “issuing such an order constitutes an unconstitutional taking and violates Fair Grounds’ constitutional rights to due process.”

After the Aug. 27 hurricane wrecked infrastructure at Delta Downs, the racino announced that its property would close to assess and repair damage. The Oct. 6-Feb. 27 meet could be delayed or abbreviated.

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LA Horsemen Plea to Commission for Emergency Stabling

By T. D. Thornton

In the aftermath of Hurricane Laura that devastated structures at Delta Downs last week, the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA) made a written plea to the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) Sept. 2 asking for an emergency order to be handed down that would mandate “immediate access to stalls to stable at both Louisiana Downs and Fair Grounds.”

The request for stabling involves both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, and is complicated by meets for both breeds ending and starting within the same rough time frame at Louisiana’s four tracks. Additionally, the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic is making movement of people and horses difficult.

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Commission Approves Louisiana Downs to Open June 6

Money from the canceled Super Derby (G3) will be directed toward overnight purses.

 

Louisiana Downs received authorization by the Louisiana State Racing Commission during a May 5 teleconference to begin its Thoroughbred meet June 6 and continue until Sept. 23. The commission also approved the cancellation of the track’s lone graded race, the Super Derby (G3), which carried a $300,000 purse last year.

“We decided to take care of the local horsemen and put all that money toward overnight purses,” David Heitzmann, director of racing at Louisiana Downs, said in an interview after the commission meeting.

Purses in Louisiana are heavily subsidized by revenue from racetrack casinos, which have been suspended due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Determinations are still being made regarding the track’s purse structure, according to Heitzmann.

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