Ten sprint specialists, including $800,000-plus lifetime earners and graded stakes winners Gantry and Sum of the Parts, were entered Tuesday in the inaugural running of the $300,000 Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint, to be run on Saturday, June 21, at Evangeline Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel.
Add the fastest Louisiana-bred horse in training in Heitai, as well as Grade 3 stakes winners Lemon Drop Dream and Berlino Di Tiger, and the inaugural running of this five-furlong turf dash has the potential to be one of the most exciting and best races in the 49-year history of racing in Cajun Country.
The Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint is just one of five stakes on the outstanding program that is worth more than $775,000 on the late Saturday afternoon card that will kick off at 3:50 p.m. Central. In addition, the Evangeline Turf Sprint, with a scheduled post time of 7:28 p.m. anchors an All-Stakes Pick 4 that features a $100,000 guaranteed pool and will be race 8 on the rich program. The All-Stakes Pick 4 will encompass races 5 through 8 with the 5th race, the Acadiana Stakes, scheduled to be run at 5:55 p.m. A total of 41 horses have been entered for the four races that make up the All-Stakes Pick 4: 10 in the Acadiana, 12 in the Opelousas, nine in the Evangeline Mile and 10 in the EVD Turf Sprint.
The five total stakes events will be run consecutively during the middle part of the card as races 4 through 8 beginning with the Lafayette and Acadiana, a pair of $70,000 races for Louisiana-bred 3-year-old horses at seven furlongs on the main track. The Opelousas, on the turf for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up going one mile and one-sixteenth, and the Evangeline Mile, for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on the main track, each have a $100,000 purse and are next on the program, with the EVD Turf Sprint, wrapping up the stakes portion of the program.
Gantry, coming off an uncharacteristic sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland, and Sum of the Parts, a runner-up in a six-figure event on the Tapeta racing surface at Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle Downs, are both stakes hardened veterans hailing from high percentage stables and have been installed as the 5/2 and 3/1 favorites in the track’s morning line odds. Gantry, who has been pointing for this event by his trainer Ron Faucheux since returning from Kentucky in April, has a string of sharp workouts at the Evangeline Downs Training Center, including a speed sharping :35.95 three-furlong drill this past Saturday, which was the fastest of 27 recorded works at that distance that morning. Sum of the Parts, based in Kentucky for conditioner Tom Amoss, also has been burning up the racetrack in his preparations as he worked a half-mile at Churchill Downs in :47.00, the fastest of 42 recorded works at that distance two weeks ago that morning under the Twin Spires.
The Evangeline Mile has also drawn a solid field, as Grand Contender, winner of back-to-back Grade 3 events in Texas, and Sunbean, the current reigning king of Louisiana, square off against each other for the first time. Trained by Tom Amoss, Grand Contender is also based in Kentucky, but no stranger to the South, as his last six races have been in either Texas or Louisiana and he has three wins and two runner-up finishes to his credit during that stretch and comes into the Mile in his career best form as the morning-line favorite at odds of 3/2. Sunbean, the local hero, is also in peak form as he has won five of his last six starts with the only blemish a third-place finish behind last year’s Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice in the Grade 2, $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on Louisiana Derby Day.