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September 10, 2008

September 5, 2008

Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino Contact:
Trey Thibodeaux, Director of Community Relations

Racetrack Contact:
Steve Darbonne

Evangeline Downs' 2008 Thoroughbred Season Posts Solid Gains

(Opelousas, La.) - Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino's recently concluded 2008 spring/summer thoroughbred season posted all-time highs in the following categories, average nightly handle, single night handle, average field size, and purse distribution for the 84-night meet.

The average nightly handle of $1.734 million was a gain of more than 3% from last year's record average of $1.675 million. Making the average even more impressive was the fact that one program was cancelled after just four races and another program was cancelled after eight races.

Despite racing five fewer nights from 2007 (including the loss of the final night of the season, Labor Day, due to Hurricane Gustav), total handle dipped only 3.3% from last year's record $149,162,803 to $145,730,992. On-track handle showed slight declines in both total handle and nightly average, from $6,168,301 to $5,597,291 and $69,278 to $66,634.
On Saturday, May 3, buoyed by the Kentucky Derby, Evangeline Downs recorded the single highest nightly handle in the 43-year history of racing in South-Central Louisiana with a total of $2,444,675 bet on the 11-race program.
The increased wagering as well as casino proceeds also drove purses to an all-time level. This year's average purse distribution including the stakes program and the state-bred bonuses was more than $216,800, an increase of more than 10.5% from last year's purse average of slightly more than $196,000. This year's stakes line-up was once again highlighted by the $200,000 Evangeline Mile and the fourth edition of Louisiana Legends Night, a $1,000,000 program of eleven black-type events for horses bred in Louisiana. In the "Mile" Louisiana bred three-year-old Ide Like a Double swept to the lead in the final sixteenth under veteran jockey Kerwin "Boo Boo" Clark to record his third stakes victory in as many tries at Evangeline Downs en route to Horse of the Meet honors. The Ide colt is owned by Valene Farms and trained by B. J. Gilbert.
Known as the home of the biggest fields, Evangeline Downs continued to offer what is expected to once again be the highest average field size in the nation as a total of 8,743 horses started in the 858 races conducted during the season, an average of 10.19, a slight increase from last year's average of 10.02.
Evangeline Downs director of racing operations, Steve Darbonne, stated, "we are certainly proud of our results and are thankful for the support we have received from both horsemen and racing fans who have really embraced our exciting brand of racing with full and contentious fields." Darbonne further added, "not only did we show gains in our nightly handle and field size, but the quality of our product continues to improve. Additionally, our seven furlong turf course with a 1 1/8th mile chute will be fully operational in 2009 and other improvements are also in the planning stages as we continue to strive to make Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino the best place to race and wager."
Colby Hernandez and Keith Bourgeois captured the leading jockey and trainer titles. For Hernandez, the younger brother of 2004 Eclipse Award Winning Outstanding Apprentice Rider B. J. Hernandez Jr., it was the first title of his career. Still a teenager, Hernandez recorded an impressive 117 wins from 554 mounts and purse earnings of more than $1,915 million during the 84-night season. For comparison, last year's leading rider, Curt Bourque recorded totals of 93 wins and purse earnings of $1.69 million over 89-nights. Veteran Gerard Melancon improved on his 2007 totals at Evangeline Downs as he visited the winner's circle 75 times and his mounts earned more a total of $1.647 million but once again the Scott, La. native finished second in the standings. Bourqeois, who has won the leading trainer title in all four seasons at the new facility, chalked up an impressive 79 wins with earnings of more than $1.211 million from 355 starts, finishing well ahead of runner-up Sam Breaux who recorded 44 wins from 284 starts and Steve Asmussen with 37 wins from 188 starts.
Racing resumes on September18 with the 40-night fall quarter horse season. Racing will be conducted on a four-evening-a-week schedule, Thursday through Sunday with a first post of 6:20 p.m. central time.
For more information please contact Evangeline Downs at (337) 594-3000.  

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