By Ann Switalski.
Tuesday, March 8, started like any other race day at Louisiana Downs. Yes, I kept staring at the skies and wondering when I would have to dress myself in head to toe rain gear, but I wasn’t complaining. After all, we’ve had a really mild winter with great weather for most race days. After a few races, the rain started to fall lightly and then eventually picked up in intensity. By the end of the day, I was standing on an aluminum ladder in pouring rain with thunder and lightning and trying desperately to keep my lens dry. Yes, the conditions were miserable but I kept thinking, well, at least this is last race day this week until Saturday – it will be better then. Little did I know that life would not be getting back to normal anytime soon. The rain continued to fall after the last horse crossed the finish line. And it fell the next day. And the next. So much rain fell on the track that the road leading to the backside was overrun with water and I had to find an alternative way to the vet’s office. On Friday, the water cleared off the road and I thought that once again that we were in the clear. From far it. In the middle of the day, a voice came over the loud speaker announcing that everyone was to vacate the track. I knew that horses were being evacuated but was shocked by the order that everyone had to leave…NOW.
The entire backside community had to pack up and move out very quickly. Horses were loaded in trailers, washing machines were thrown in the backs of trucks and everyone proceeded to move to higher ground. Trainers and owners made multiple trips, some over very long distances, to transport their horses to safety. The remainder of the racing season became a big question mark. Would the final weeks of racing be canceled? Would the stakes races be held at a different track? It was a very difficult time for everyone involved as they started to come to grips with the impact the evacuation would have on their lives. Pay would be lost, horses would lose training time, and many opportunities to win big just slipped away.
On Monday, the horses started to return. Of course not everyone will return. Tough decisions need to be made. Is it worth coming back to LA Downs or is it best to just move on to the next meet? Maybe just the best horses will be brought back in hopes of winning the bigger purses. There will be 4 more days of racing left in this season. Four more days to try to win big one last time until the next season starts.