LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen July  21, 2024


It was a very exciting first three days of the Evangeline Downs Quarter Horse meet, which got underway on Thursday October 1.

Opening night featured 13 trials for the $475,851 LQHBA Sale Futurity (RG1), which is usually run at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Moving the ten Fair Grounds dates to Evangeline Downs was not an easy undertaking, but through the cooperation of many entities, it happened!

Kenneth Roberts, Sr., who won the Evangeline Downs training title and was honored as 2019 LQHBA Champion trainer, was pleased with the outcome.

"It saves us a lot of money not having to ship," he said. "Being able to get settled at Evangeline Downs for 39 days is a good thing. The weather is cooler, and we have a good stakes schedule ahead. It feels good to be running again!

The fastest qualifier in trials for the LQHBA Sale Futurity was Patrick Richardson's Sheza Freighttrain T, a daughter of Freightrain B, who scored an impressive victory in the 13th trial of the evening. Under regular pilot Rolando Pina, the filly, bred by Rusty Trahan, surged to the wire of the 350-yard trial in :17.277. That was the fourth win in five starts for Sheza Freighttrain T, who ran second in the Mardi Gras Futurity at Harrah's Louisiana Downs prior to winning her trial and final of the Lassie Futurity at Delta Downs for trainer Eric Long.

"She's an amazing filly and continues to improve with each race," said Pina. "I was a little worried about her inside post, so I tapped her left-handed and she drew off on her own. As good as she always runs, even I was surprised at her final time. As we returned, I looked at the tote board and turned to Everardo (Rodriguez) and asked, 'am I seeing it right'?

Pina, 31, began riding in 2015 at Indiana Grand, relocating to the Louisiana circuit four years ago. Sheza Freighttrain T is his second-highest earner; he rode Stone Cold Leader, also owned by Richardson in 11 of his 13 career victories.

Pina was asked how if felt to get back to race riding following the conclusion of the Delta Downs 2020 live racing season on August 22.

"I couldn't wait for the Evangeline meet to begin," explained Pina. "But I was kind of nervous knowing I would ride the full card. I wanted to make sure I was in shape, so every day after working horses, I went jogging for a mile, sometimes a mile and one-half. Thank God I was in good shape because I got bucked off a baby I was working that morning and banged up twice in the starting gate earlier on the opening night card."

Pina will be a rider to watch this season as will 2019 Evangeline Downs leading jockey Everardo Rodriguez and David Alvarez, who rode seven winners on opening weekend. Plus, a shout out to veteran pilot Gilbert Ortiz, who qualified both Fast Group Dash and Jrs Shiney Tee to the LQHBA Sale Futurity. The final will take place on Thursday, October 22.

One other notable highlight of the opening night Evangeline Downs card was the presentation of the LQHBA Champions Awards in between races. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual LQHBA Banquet was canceled, but the winners were never forgotten!

"It was great to see so many of our notable LQHBA members at Evangeline Downs on Thursday night," said Bruce Salard, LQHBA executive director. "We know the challenges that everyone in our industry has battled through for the past six months. The board of directors and I appreciate the dedication and perseverance of each of our members, We look forward to finishing 2020 on a high note!"

The 2020 Evangeline Downs Quarter Horse will conclude with the LQHBA Louisiana Million (RG1) on Saturday, December 19. We know there will be many exciting highlights and accomplishments to come in the next two months of the year! Wishing the best to each of the breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys and backstretch workers who give their all for Louisiana Quarter Horse racing!

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.