Boyd-owned Delta Downs set to host two key races

It’s easy to believe the horse racing season ended with the Breeders’ Cup. I can assure you it didn’t.

Key races remain in 2011, including the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and, on Saturday, the $1 million Delta Jackpot and the $500,000 Delta Princess for 2-year-olds.

Delta Downs in Vinton, La., is owned locally by Boyd Gaming and has had slot machines for a decade now. Boyd has invested heavily at the track to build a hotel with a casino, which has 1,600 slot machines, and to improve the daily racing product.

And those who run the facility have picked an optimum time to shine the attention on its core product — horse racing. A good racino owner will continue to market the sport while counting on slot revenues for income.

If they lose that focus, some states in dire economic straits might question why any money at all is going to horse racing, especially when public services such as education lack funding.

Delta is normally a night track. But on Saturday, first post for an 11-race card will be at 11:15 a.m. PST.

The two feature races have full fields of 10. If you think you can beat Bob Baffert’s heavy favorites, Drill (2-1) in the Jackpot and Candrea (5-2) in the Princess, then you have a chance at a big score.

I expect both Baffert horses to go off at much shorter odds than their morning lines. If you’re shopping for price — and who isn’t? — let me recommend two long shots.

In the Princess, Inny Minnie (10-1) is shipping in from Churchill for a lethal combination of trainer Steve Margolis and jockey Julien Leparoux. Sired by Hard Spun out of a Seattle Slew mare, she will run all day long.

My Jackpot long shot is Longview Drive (10-1). When Jerry Hollendorfer and Joel Rosario ship out of town, they must be respected. This Pulpit colt has won three straight races in wire-to-wire fashion.

■ DELTA JACKPOT CONTEST — Las Vegas’ Boyd Gaming properties are hosting a $10,000 handicapping contest Saturday in conjunction with the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot stakes. The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town and the Fremont are the participating race books. The entry fee is $20.

■ SUTHERLAND APPEARANCE — Top female rider Chantal Sutherland will appear at the South Point race book at noon Nov. 30. The meet-and-greet is free to the public. There also will be a free $1,000 handicapping contest.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.

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