OPELOUSAS — Colby Hernandez saddled up Mystery Train for a first-time ride Saturday night and then cruised to a victory in the $100,000 Evangeline Mile feature race at Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino.
Hernandez, who entered the night as the track’s leading jockey, led from gate to finish line as Argentine-bred Mystery Train, a 5-year-old ridgling, held off a late challenge from Stormdriver.
Stormdriver, with Diego Seanz aboard, pulled to the outside down the stretch and made an attempt to overtake Mystery Train as the two approached the grandstand.
At that point Hernandez put the whip to Mystery Train, who responded with a win by nearly a length.
The Lafayette jockey was originally scheduled to ride in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes aboard War Story. Several weeks ago, War Story’s owners decided to scratch the horse from the Belmont and run in the Ohio Derby on June 20.
The Evangeline Mile victory preceded Hernandez’s victory in the next race, the $70,000 Acadiana Stakes.
This time however, it was jockey Courtney Hernandez outdueling her brother Colby to get the Acadiana Stakes victory.
Courtney Hernandez, one of just a few Evangeline Downs female jockeys, mirrored her brother’s victory on Mystery Train.
She maneuvered Thiscatcanjam onto the center of the track from the start and ran away down the back stretch.
Second place Persuade Me Lady, with Colby Hernandez riding, chased down the stretch but couldn’t close on Thiscatcanjam.
Colby Hernandez said there was never any problem with Mystery Train, even though he had never ridden the horse.
“I had watched tapes of (Mystery Train) when he ran at the Fair Grounds, so I knew what to expect,” Hernandez said. We broke real good, and I knew right away that I had a horse that could take this.
“From what I saw of him running before, I knew he was going to be quick and would finish strong,”
The Evangeline Mile was one of three stakes races hosted by the track Saturday.
Track officials rescheduled the Evangeline Mile, the Lafayette Stakes and the Acadiana Stakes after last Saturday’s card was postponed because of lightning and wet track conditions.
On Saturday, track officials said the previously scheduled $300,000 Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint would be run later this summer.
Seanz won the $70,000 Lafayette Stakes after he circled the field late in the race and then positioned Mobile Bay on the outside as the 3-year-old colt trained by Scott’s Victor Arceneaux took a close finish.
“I hung outside, so I would stay out of trouble and then I moved the horse around the field,” Seanz said. “I knew I had plenty of horse left.”
The 13-horse field broke clean from the gate, and Mobile Bay was far in back as Master Chief Ron, ridden by Filemon Rodriguez took the early lead, just ahead of Derek Fever and Cullen.
Cajun Spirit, the 9-5 favorite, never appeared in the top three throughout the seven-furlong event for Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds.
Mobile Bay made its appearance among the leaders as the field turned toward the stretch, pulling out five wide and then closing fast to challenge the leaders, including Whoz Talkin Now.
Arcneaux said Seanz ran the race that the two had planned.
“I thought we had a good horse,” said Arceneaux. “The colt has been improving every race and (Saturday night) I thought he really stepped up again.”