Delta considers cancelling Jackpot, Princess

Delta Downs is considering the elimination of eight stakes races in October and November, including the track's signature race, the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot.

Delta is located in Vinton, La., close to the Texas border and part of an area hard hit by Hurricane Harvey. Delta relies on the Houston metropolitan area, which experienced catastrophic damage from Harvey, for much of its business, and a decline in casino revenues since the hurricane has compromised the purse fund for Delta's upcoming 2017-2018 race meeting.

Delta vice president and general manager Steve Kuypers composed a letter dated Sept. 7 to Louisiana Racing Commission chairman Bob Wright requesting the LRC approve a request to eliminate eight open stakes races worth a total of $2.3 million.

"The impact of Hurricane Harvey to the people of southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana is having a significant effect on slot revenue and subsequently the track's purse funds," Kuypers wrote.

Kuypers's letter said Delta had met with the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association regarding their situation, and had decided to cut the open stakes schedule to maintain overnight purse levels.

"It is important that we support the local horsemen that fill our overnight races and this action will allow us to do that," Kuypers wrote.

Kuypers did not return a call requesting comment Monday, nor did LRC officials. Ed Fenasci, executive director of the Louisiana HBPA, confirmed stakes cuts had been discussed but said to his knowledge no final decision had yet been reached.

"We're un uncharted territory, really," Fenasci said. "We don't know how quickly their business will return to normal. It's a really fluid situation. I would say they were somewhat more concerned about a week ago."

The LRC has a regular meeting scheduled for Sept. 25. As of Monday, the Delta stakes matter was not listed as part of the meeting's agenda, but the situation is likely to come before the LRC.

Boyd Gaming owns Delta, which operates a successful casino that funds a major portion of what in recent years has been a healthy purse structure. Delta runs a Quarter Horse meet in the summer and races Thoroughbreds from October through March.

The Grade 3 Jackpot dates to 2002, though it was not run in 2005 because of Hurricane Rita. Gunnevera, who recently finished second in the Travers Stakes, won the 2016 edition, and Exaggerator, who would win the 2016 Preakness Stakes, won in 2015. The 2017 Jackpot is scheduled for Nov. 18. Among the other stakes that would be eliminated if Delta's plan goes forward are the $500,000 Delta Downs Princess and the $200,000 Jean Laffitte, the local Jackpot prep.

The Jackpot is on the schedule of Kentucky Derby qualifying races and offers 17 points with a 10-4-2-1 distribution to the first four finishers.