While it is ably backed up by Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs and Louisiana Downs, Fair Grounds Racecourse is undoubtedly Louisiana’s premier race track. It boasts a huge stakes schedule and shelling out millions of dollars per season in prize money.
The race meet at Fair Grounds runs from the end of November to the end of March each season. There are 80 live racing dates planned, though the facility remains open during the rest of the year for simulcast racing. This allows visitors to watch and wager on races from all around the country.
They have been racing in this area since 1838. The thoroughbred history at Fair Grounds Racecourse is simply huge. It's this background that enables them to attract some of the biggest names around.
The 2016 Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby winner Gun Runner went on to take several big Grade I races after being victorious here. These include the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup which was then the richest race in the world.
In terms of the top jockeys to watch out for, those to have ridden most winners at Fair Grounds of late include:
- James Graham,
- Mitchell Murrill,
- Colby Hernandez,
- Gabriel Saez and
- former British-based rider, Adam Beschizza.
The top trainer names are even more impressive. Superstar handlers Brad Cox and Steve Asmussen being among the highest earners here. Ron Faucheux and Thomas Amoss are not too far behind.
General admission is free for all unless it is a stakes day. On most stakes days the ticket price is only $5 for general admission or $10 on Louisiana Derby Day. While the Clubhouse is priced up at $10 daily or $20 on Louisiana Derby Day. All prices are thoroughly generous given the quality of the action at the track.
Fair Grounds Track Details
Things are pretty straightforward at Fair Grounds in terms of the layout, with the two tracks being of very conventional size and shape for North America.
The dirt track is a standard one-mile oval, left-handed, flat and with sharp bends. As is always the case, in fields of around 8 or more you’d want your horse to have as low a draw as possible. The sharp left-handed turns here can lead to horses losing a couple of lengths if they are forced wide, something you need to avoid where possible.
While it can be quick here, races are run in the first quarter of the year so expect some occasional bad weather. When this happens, you’ll need a horse who is tough.
On the grass, it is even sharper. The turf course is just seven furlongs in length. It sits inside the dirt track meaning the bends are tight and flat and the emphasis once again is put on speed rather than stamina.
There’s barely a furlong-and-a-half from the turn down the stretch to the line. Jockeys need to be in a position to challenge before that point, making speed from the gate in shorter races crucial.
Some front-runners can go off a little too quickly here though, so don’t worry too much when in races over a mile or more if you find your horse a few lengths off the pace early, pace-setters can burn out as long as your jockey creeps into the race and gets on the front end around the turn.
This really is a top race track and their big races highlight that fact. The stakes schedule here is massive with around 30 races being worth $100,000 or more, the Louisiana Derby, in fact, is worth a cool $1million on its own. Here’s just a taste of the action at Fair Grounds:
- Lecomte Stakes – Grade III, 1m½f, 3yo only, January
- Mineshaft Stakes – Grade III, 1m½f, February
- Risen Star Stakes – Grade II, 1m1f, 3yo only, February*
- Rachel Alexandra Stakes – Grade II, 1m½f, 3yo Fillies, February
- Muniz Memorial Classic – Grade II, 1m1f (turf), March
- New Orleans Classic – Grade II, 1m1f, March
- Fair Grounds Oaks – Grade II, 1m½f, 3yo Fillies, March
- Louisiana Derby – Grade II, 1m1½f, 3yo only, March*
*Both the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby are major trials for the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown.
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