State’s Quarter Horse industry alive and well, heading back to Louisiana Downs

A QUICK TRIP: Quarter Horses, such as Mrs Kennedy TLC, can run start to finish in as little as 12 seconds. (Submitted Photo)

By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports

The 84-day thoroughbred meet at Louisiana Downs ended a week ago. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until next May to watch horseracing at the Bossier City track.

The Downs’ 2023, 46-day Quarter Horse meet starts Jan. 5 and runs through April 1.

Thoroughbred racing gets most of the headlines, but for those of you who are impatient, Quarter Horse racing may be more to your liking. For example, in a six-furlong race, it takes thoroughbreds more than one minute to navigate their way home. A Quarter Horse can cover 220 yards — a traditional race length — in around 12 seconds. That means there is excitement as soon as the starting gate opens.

“It’s like looking at a short-distance runner, compared to an athlete who runs the mile,” said Bruce Salard, executive director of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association. “The horses are built entirely differently. A Quarter Horse is going to have more muscle — that short twitch muscle — so I would tell (people) to really watch for the speed. You’re going to be watching the entire track, from gate one to gate 10, as they come down the track and across the finish line. It’s like watching the 100-yard dash in a human race. If you look at the Olympics, it’s the shorter distances that are the most exciting.”

While Quarter Horse racing takes place at all four Louisiana tracks, Salard is pleased with the quality of racing at Louisiana Downs.

“It’s very fortunate that we’ve had the Mardi Gras Futurity and the Louisiana Downs Futurity, which is an open race, at Louisiana Downs,” Salard said. “Trump My Record  – who won the Louisiana Downs Futurity — started his career there. This year we had a filly, Jes An Angel, who started her career at Louisiana Downs and moved to Delta (Downs). She was the (morning line) favorite for the $3 million All-American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs.

“There have been a lot of quality horses come through Louisiana Downs. (The meet) is at a good time. It starts early. People are trying to see what Sires are hitting — who’s hot. They’re watching those races.”

Jes An Angel was a steward’s scratch the day of the All-American Futurity. But the point remains – quality Quarter Horses make their way to Bossier City, and will next year.

In 2023, Louisiana Downs will feature a new Quarter Horse race — one just for the ladies.

“We know that historically, our broodmares have gotten stronger and stronger here,” Salard said. “To capitalize on that, and people wanting to buy really nice fillies, we’re trying to give them more opportunities to run just against fillies. At Louisiana Downs, we will have the Mardi Gras Futurity, which is for colts and geldings, and we will have the Mardi Gras Oaks, which is for 3-year-old fillies.

“We’re trying to make sure the fillies have the opportunity to run just against fillies, and to get black type (running first, second, or third in a stakes race).”

For a little more than three years, Salard has been in charge of the Quarter Horse Breeding Association in Louisiana. His move back to Alexandria, where he was born and raised, was the result of quite a career change. Salard has spent most of his adult life in banking and public accounting. When he took this job, Salard was working in private equity.

“The gentleman before me had resigned,” Salard said. “I got a call asking if I would be interested. I said, ‘Yes.’ I had a condo in Dallas and probably three weeks later, I was working back in Alexandria.”

But that’s not to say Salard didn’t have experience with Quarter Horses. His father owned and raced Quarter Horses, starting before Salard was born. Then, when Salard would get home from school, he would clean stalls every day.

“It has been my passion — following and keeping up with Quarter Horse racing,” Salard explained. “(I’ve been) trying to be involved. (I’ve been) breeding and racing Quarter Horses. My dad and I bred a horse (Magic Black Jack) that won the Mardi Gras Futurity at Louisiana Downs in 2015. Two years later, he became the first accredited Louisiana-bred to set a world record (220 yards in 11.46). He did that at Delta Downs.”

Overall, Salard thinks the state’s Quarter Horse industry is in good shape.

“Our breeding program is definitely the best in the country, by far,” Salard said. ”So far, we’ve had the right Stallions, and our owners, our breeders, have really built up the quality of the broodmare.”

However, something Salard would like to see improve — along with folks on the thoroughbred side — is an increase in everyday purse money.

“We need larger purses in our overnight races, and not necessarily in our Stakes races,” Salard said. “They’re holding just fine. I think the management at Louisiana Downs has been trying to get the OTB’s (Off-Track Betting sites) established, and other new ideas to try and get those purses higher. There’s just more and more competition for everybody’s entertainment dollar.”

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