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August 29, 2008


Media Contact:
Julie Calzone
337.235.2924 ext. 3

Racetrack Contact:
Steve Darbonne

Inaugural Turf Race At Evangeline Downs Set For Labor Day
Racetrack Officials Are Carefully Monitoring Hurricane Gustav

(Opelousas, La.) - When the racetrack at Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino moved to Opelousas, Louisiana from Carencro, Louisiana, in November 2004, it opened with a one-mile dirt oval. Already underway were plans to add a turf track, the first for Acadiana. Now everything is set for the first race to run on it this Monday, September 1. Post time for the race is 6:20 p.m. and the distance is set for one mile.

"We had everything lined up for us on the turf track," said Steve Darbonne, executive director of racing operations. "We had the right contractor and team of people who built it." Le Talley Ho of St. Martinville, headed by Pat Talley, handled the physical construction. Their place on the team was not new since Le Talley Ho was instrumental in the reconstruction of the dirt racetrack in 2005.

Evangeline Downs' turf track is a 7/8 mile oval with a chute to run distances of 1 1/16 to 1 1/8 miles. It is 80 feet wide and planted with Tiff 419 Bermuda grass.  Ten inches of special blended sand mixed with sport grids was used as the growing medium.

 "Le Talley Ho was already experienced with our racetrack, the base and existing infrastructure," said Darbonne. "The base for the turf track and dirt track are almost identical.  When you put them with Matt Yount, our track expert, it helped put everything in our favor."

"This is another big milestone in the construction of Evangeline Downs build-out," said Darbonne. "The turf track puts us in the a league with major racetracks and will bring more top horses to our program."

The actual construction of the turf track was completed in five months. The grass sod was in for three months before the first horse galloped on it on Saturday, August 23. "Everything went very well with that first workout," said Yount. "The response was good from the riders and the horses galloped well. We're a go for Monday."

"We are also keeping an eye on Hurricane Gustav," said Darbonne.  "If the hurricane heads our way, we will do what's in the best interest of our patrons, employees and horses, including canceling the races."

There are some features that are unique to Evangeline Downs' turf track. The portable inside rail that helps set the distance for the races is designed to move in 10-foot intervals. There are electronic eyes at the different intervals that give it the capability of timing the races set at exact distances. Turf race lengths are usually mentioned as "about" lengths because the rails are not set at exact distances.

Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino was the first new facility of its kind in the United States to be built from the ground up. The land acquisition package was completed in the fall of 2002 and the first shovel of dirt was turned over in February 2003.
The Evangeline Downs project was completed in two phases. Phase one included the Casino that opened on December 19, 2003 with slot machines and several dining and entertainment venues. The Phase Two construction included a one-mile dirt track and stables for 1,000 horses. The Racetrack has grandstand and clubhouse seating for 1,450 patrons and apron and patio space for an additional 3,000 patrons.


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