That Jake Delhomme’s stable, Set-Hut, has two horses running on Louisiana Champions Day certainly was not lost on others.
Champions Day is a celebration of Louisiana-bred horse racing, of which Delhomme is a staunch advocate. Delhomme, a former backup quarterback with the Saints for six seasons, is involved in horse racing as an owner and on at least two levels concerning breeding, and he also has his hands in training.
His filly, Forest Lake, is the No. 5 horse in the Champions Day Ladies race, one of nine with a $100,000 purse, not including the $150,000 Classic. Another Set-Hut filly, P Boo — which is owned by Delhomme’s father, Jerry — will run in the Lassie.
“The most important thing about Jake is he’s really focused on the Louisiana-bred program,” said Fair Grounds senior director of racing Jason Boulet, who grew up less than a mile from Delhomme in Breaux Bridge. “I’m very happy for him and proud that his horses are running on Champions Day because he’s bred nice horses and bought nice Louisiana breds. So, it’s only right he gets to shine on one of those days, because he really deserves it.”
Delhomme also has been involved in the buying and selling of young horses in Kentucky. However, his horses are bred in Louisiana and run exclusively here. It’s part of his hands-on approach that touches nearly every aspect, he said.
“I just love being at the barn every single day, dealing with the horses,” he said. “It’s great when you have success as an owner, but there’s just something about being there in the morning with them, and when we’re running them to travel with them and be in the backstretch with them.
“We do it all, which for me is the most rewarding thing in the world.”
That is a big part of why Delhomme is excited about Forest Lake. The filly, now 4, was born behind Delhomme’s house. He said their operation trains only about six horses at a time.
He said Forest Lake, which may turn out to be the best horse he’s had, may have a chance in the Ladies. She finished second in the Si Cima Overnight Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Nov. 20, a race won by Seaside Candy, tained by Al Stall. Forest Lake has 4-1 odds in a race that also has Seaside Candy (5-2), Big World, the 2-1 favorite trained by Tom Amoss, and Pacific Pink (3-1).
“It would be fantastic to win (the Ladies),” he said. “(Forest Lake) had given good account of herself every time she runs, for the most part. She’s going to need to bring out her best race Saturday. It’s a tough one.”
Delhomme said he really enjoys breeding because he’s a big believer in numbers, statistics and probabilities. This year, he was selected by the national Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association as its Breeder of the Year in Louisiana.
He he has worked diligently through the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association in an effort to help the state’s horse-breeding industry stay competitive, he said, mainly with New York, Florida and California, after the gold standard, Kentucky.
“We’re in challenging times right now, certainly with the economy, the way it has been and in particular with the oil field,” said Delhomme, who is on the LTBA board of directors and is past president of the organization and a current vice president. “The biggest thing for us as the breeders’ organization is that the foal numbers have dwindled down in our state. We were able to combine two sales companies and have one unified sale, and that looked to be a success.”
Stall said Delhomme has been invaluable for the state’s equine industry, starting with investing his money and time.
“The main thing is, he’s got passion for it,” Stall said. “If you love what you’re doing, you have a tendency to do right things.
“Jake definitely loves horse raising and loves Louisiana breds, and he’s a good ambassador for us.”
Delhomme is a third-generation horseman whose grandfather, Sanders Delhomme, is a legend in Acadiana bush-track and match racing. For him, much of growing up was going to school, playing sports and shoveling manure out of the barns, he said, chuckling.
So after the end of a 15-year NFL career in which he took Carolina to its first Super Bowl after the 2003 season, his first with the team, Delhomme knew what he wanted to do.
“My wife and I are both from Lafayette (area),” he said, “so, there was the lure of family. And, there’s no horse racing in Charlotte, North Carolina. I enjoy working with my brother (trainer Jeff) and dad.”
Delhomme played six years with the Saints — three under coach Mike Ditka and three under Jim Haslett.
“I enjoyed some good times,” he said. “The first time the Saints ever won the division, the first playoff win ever.
“Then, I went to Carolina (in the same division), and I had to hate everything about the Saints, along with Atlanta and Tampa Bay. It was my job.”