Saenz wins Evangeline Downs leading rider title

OPELOUSAS — Diego Saenz, the 32-year-old native of Chihuahua, Mexico dominated a talented and deep riding colony en route to recording his second leading rider title in the past three years at Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino at the recently concluded 88-night spring/summer racing season.

Rebounding from an injury plagued 2010 season, Saenz started the meet out strong and never looked back while landing in the winner’s circle a total of 84 times from 533 mounts, and his mounts earned more than $1.435 million. Fan favorite Gerard Melancon recorded 67 wins and finished second in the rider standings for the fourth consecutive season. Both Saenz and Melancon are represented by Lewis Coco, the dean of Louisiana Jockey Agents.

Long known in the industry as the “Birthplace of Champions” for the inordinate amount of successful jockeys and riders the South-Central Louisiana area has produced. This season saw another bright young star emerge in 16-year-old C. J. McMahon, a native of Opelousas, La. and the son of former thoroughbred jockey and current quarter horse rider Charles McMahon, impressed fans and horsemen with his poise in the saddle and a solid sense of pace and race awareness well beyond his years and experience. McMahon won a total of 65 races with purse earnings just shy of $1million. Last year’s leading rider John Jacinto and Colby Hernandez rounded out the top five with win totals of 64 and 56, respectively.

Karl Broberg, the 40-year-old Arlington, TX resident who has been training for less than three years after participating in the sport as an owner, ran away from his opponents in the final half of the season to nail down his first leading trainer title in Louisiana. Sending out winners at an impressive 29% rate, Broberg hit the winner’s circle 53 times from just 181 starters. In addition, his runners finished in-the-money more than 62% of the time and earned more than $638,000.

Sam Breaux, who finished second in the standing for the fifth consecutive season, sent out almost 150 runners yet still finished a distant second with 35 wins. Breaux’s stable did earn more than $750,000, more than any other outfit. Scotty Gelner was third with 32 wins. The second generation horsemen, like Broberg hit at an impressive 29%, followed by Tony Richey and Keith Bourgeois, who recorded win totals of 27 and 26 each.

Star Guitar, the two-time La. Bred Horse-of-the-Year, remained undefeated at Evangeline Downs and the now six-year-old Quiet American stallion captured the Evangeline Mile & the La. Showcase Classic for the third consecutive year. The Evelyn Benoit homebred is now a perfect six-for-six at Evangeline Downs and has bankrolled more than $1.35 million in his career, with $405,000 of that earned here at Evangeline Downs.

Live racing will return to the Opelousas, La. oval on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 with the start of the fall quarter horse season. The 46-night meet will split between a four and five day racing week, with a Tuesday-Saturday and a Wednesday-Saturday schedule and run thru closing day, Saturday, December 17, 2011.

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