Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, commonly referred to as the third-oldest racetrack in the country, will kick off its 142nd season of thoroughbred racing the week prior to the traditional Thanksgiving Day opening with a special Starlight Racing event on Friday, November 22.
The 84-day live racing meet will be highlighted by 58 stakes races worth a total of $7.51 million, headlined by the 101st running of the Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby to be run on March 29. Closing Day is March 30.
Opening Night, presented for the third time by East Jefferson General Hospital, will feature a special nine-race Exotic Starlight Racing card that will include two ostrich races and a camel race. First post is 3 p.m. The Starlight Racing series is the place to ‘see and be seen’ while enjoying live racing, great bands, mouth-watering dishes from local restaurants, Tujague’s, Ho Shun and The Munch Factory, and special drink selections. Clubhouse admission is $15, children ages 5-12 will be admitted for $10, and children under age 5 will be admitted free. Admission to the Miller Time Beer Garden is $15 and restricted to guests age 21 and older. Grandstand General Admission is $10, with children under age 12 admitted free.
“From our Opening Night Exotic Starlight Racing through the 101st running of the Grade II Louisiana Derby, we anticipate another successful meet at the Fair Grounds with top-quality racing and marquee social events in New Orleans,” said Fair Grounds President Tim Bryant.
Miller Lite and Blue Moon are celebrating their fifth season as the Official Presenting Partner of the Starlight Racing Series. Fair Grounds is proud to welcome Absolut and Jameson to the Starlight Racing family as the Official Starlight Spirits Partners for the next two years. Not only will guests enjoy the best in beer offerings from the MillerCoors brand, but they will also enjoy the full-flavored spirits from the Pernod-Ricard portfolio (parent company for Absolut & Jameson). Local Production Company, Royal Productions, also new this year, will ensure the Miller Time Beer Garden tent is hopping with vibrant lights and wild beats as the Official Audio Visual Provider of the Series for the next three years. For the fifth consecutive season, Where Y’at will be an official media partner of Starlight ensuring local revelers are in the know and ready to party at the track.
The first stakes race of the meet – the sixth running of the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes – will also be contested opening weekend on Saturday, November 23. First post is 1 p.m.
Traditionally set on the racing calendar to begin the meet, Thanksgiving Day (November 28) will once again see fans treated to a festive holiday atmosphere and top-quality racing with a ten-race card highlighted by the 88th running of the $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, a six-furlong test for top sprinters. First post is 11 a.m. Clubhouse General Admission is $10, and Grandstand General Admission is free.
Thanksgiving Day Clubhouse dining reservations start at $70 per person – at tables of four or six only – and go up to $125 per person, depending on the row. Seating is limited and nearly sold out – reservations are required. Reservations can only be made by phone weekdays (until November 22) or any live racing day (November 22 and beyond) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at (504) 943-2200. The Grandstand Buffet will be open to the public for $32.
Major Stakes Days
The majority of Fair Grounds stakes races are run on five banner days. Louisiana Champions Day Presented by Acadian Ambulance, the Official EMS/EMT Provider of Fair Grounds on December 14 is comprised of 11 stakes for Louisiana-breds worth $1.1 million and is followed by Santa Super Saturday the next weekend, December 21, including four stakes totaling $300,000. Santa Super Saturday features Holiday Family Fun Day on the apron.
Over the course of the meet, Fair Grounds will present 10 graded stakes races in multiple divisions. This series of races, containing preps in multiple divisions to allow horses to run in through a progression of stakes races leading up to Louisiana Derby Day, will be carded on January 18, February 22, and March 29.
“Our daily racing program and attractive stakes schedule will spotlight top-class thoroughbreds throughout the meet,” said Fair Grounds General Manager of Racing, Howard “H.” Withers, “our daily product will provide competitive racing, and our three graded stakes races that serve as preps for the Kentucky Derby will again attract the top Derby hopefuls in the nation to the Fair Grounds.”
Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone, The Official Hotel property of Fair Grounds, will take place January 18. Comprised of five stakes totaling $625,000, the day will be highlighted by the 70th running of the Grade III Lecomte Stakes for three-year-olds. The Lecomte Stakes will be the first of three graded stakes events that will help three-year-olds qualify for the Kentucky Derby in May. The 22ndSilverbulletday Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies attempting to race their way to the Kentucky Oaks, and the 28th Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap will also be run.
Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford, The Official Automotive Partner of Fair Grounds, consists of five stakes worth $975,000 on February 22. The 41st running of the Grade II Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford is the second of three preps for Kentucky Derby hopefuls and the final local prep for the Grade II Louisiana Derby. The Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes, the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap, and the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap will also be run on Louisiana Derby Preview Day.
Louisiana Derby Day on closing weekend brings the curtain down on the season’s stakes program with seven stakes events worth a combined $2.51 million. Fair Grounds’ marquee event, the Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby will offer hopeful three-year-olds a final local chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. The Grade II $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, a race that has remarkably produced five of the last nine Kentucky Oaks winners, will also be presented on Louisiana Derby day, along with the Grade II New Orleans Handicap and the Grade II Mervin H. Muniz, Jr. Memorial Handicap.
Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Points Systems
A points-based qualifying system for the Kentucky Derby was put into effect for 2013 and renewed for the 2014 Derby. It includes all three major Louisiana prep races: the Grade II Louisiana Derby was installed as one of the major, final preps given the highest consideration in determining Kentucky Derby eligibility. Under the system, 3-year-old Thoroughbreds earn their way to the Kentucky Derby by earning points in select stakes. The $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII), the signature event at Fair Grounds, is one of only seven races that will offer the maximum 170 points (100 for first, 40 for second, 20 for third, 10 for fourth).
Thirty-four stakes are included in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” point system.
The first two stakes in Fair Grounds’ three-race graded stakes series for 3-year-olds also carry significant value. The Grade II Risen Star will offer 85 points (50-20-10-5) and the Grade III Lecomte will be worth a total of 17 points (10-4-2-1).
A similar point system is used for 3-year-old fillies aspiring to the $1 million Kentucky Oaks. All three of Fair Grounds’ major route stakes for 3-year-old fillies are included in the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks.” The Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks will be one of the premier 170-point (100-40-20-10) stakes, the Grade III Rachel Alexandra is worth 85 points (50-20-10-5) and the Silverbulletday is worth 17 points (10-4-2-1).
More Stakes Races
The remainder of the Fair Grounds’ diverse and lucrative stakes schedule, comprised of 58 stakes races worth $7.51 million can be found by visiting http://www.fairgroundsracecourse.com/horsemen
PJ’s continues to serve as The Official Coffee and Tea of Fair Grounds. Customers can enjoy PJ’s beverages every racing day from the Sweet Shop located on the first floor of the Grandstand. The Tenacious Bar is receiving a makeover this year, allowing Clubhouse attendees to view the Paddock on the glass at the new Absolut & Jameson Tenacious Bar which will feature signature cocktails from the Pernod-Ricard portfolio. While dining in the Clubhouse, guests are encouraged to review the robust wine list created in part with Official Wine Partner, Constellation Wines, Robert Mondavi Private Selection. Constellation Wines, the featured wine brand of Starlight Racing, will be present on the Clubhouse level for a few hours prior to each Starlight event, allowing guests to sample their featured line of reds and whites.
Race fans may notice a different color roaming around the racing surface as Fair Grounds goes orange with Kubota tractors, in partnership with local dealer, Lee Tractor Company, serving as the Official Tractors of Fair Grounds with a five year partnership in place. In addition to these new partnerships, Fair Grounds is excited to continue our association with other respected partners. Local personal injury attorney Allan Berger & Associates will continue to serve as the Official Legal Partner of Fair Grounds for the third consecutive year, and Richards Disposal is again on board as the Official Sanitation Provider of the Grandstand facility, track backside and all ten OTB and Casino locations.
A new player to the New Orleans telecommunications market, MetroPCS, is a personal cell phone provider and the new Official Mobile Partnerof Fair Grounds.
Fair Grounds’ popular Starlight Racing Series presented by Miller Lite and Blue Moon returns for the third season, with a total of five Starlight dates scheduled. Fans can enjoy night racing throughout the facility, whether it be in the clubhouse while listening to live music, or in the Miller Time Beer Garden featuring Starlight Dancers and a video DJ. With the exception of the early 3 p.m. first post for Opening Night, Starlight Racing events have a first post of 5 p.m. Admission for all Starlight Events except Opening Night is $5 for General Admission and $10 for Clubhouse admission.
The Starlight Racing dates scheduled for the 2013-2014 season are: November 22 (Opening Night featuring Exotic animal races, live music byChee Weez in the Clubhouse and DJ San-D in the Miller Time Beer Garden); December 20 (live music by Bucktown All-Stars in the Clubhouse and DJ Crush in the Miller Time Beer Garden); January 17 (live music by Groovy 7 in the Clubhouse and DJ Digital in the Miller Time Beer Garden); February 7 (featuring Team Ghost Riders and live music by The TopCats in the Clubhouse and DJ San-D Miller Time Beer Garden); March 14 (live music by The Mixed Nuts in the Clubhouse and DJ Kemistry in the Miller Time Beer Garden).
Full-time students enrolled at an accredited institution of higher learning are eligible to win one of four $1,000 scholarships to be given away Friday, December 20 during Starlight Racing. Sign-up will be held at the West entrance, and students must show their college ID and driver’s license to enter. Drawings will be held after each of the final four races of the night. Scholarships are sponsored in part by the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
Jockeys: Rosie Napravnik Seeks Fourth Consecutive Riding Title Against Deep Colony
Three-time defending jockey champion Rosie Napravnik, having collected 346 wins over the course of the last three racing seasons, will seek her fourth consecutive Fair Grounds riding title against a typically deep jockey colony. Napravnik won the 2012 Kentucky Oaks aboard Believe You Can, who prepped in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks. The top 13 riders in the 2012-2013 standings are all expected back for the 2013-2014 racing season including: James Graham, second to Napravnik in the standings in each of the last two seasons; Shaun Bridgmohan, a top five Fair Grounds rider in each of the last three seasons; Richard Eramia, Miguel Mena, and Brian Hernandez, Jr. are among other notable names along with John Jacinto who earned a top five finish with 69 wins last season.
One familiar face will rejoin the riding colony at Fair Grounds along with a pair of jockeys who will ride consistently at Fair Grounds for the first time. Robby Albarado, a seven-time Fair Grounds riding champion, will winter in New Orleans again this season after spending most of last winter at Oaklawn. David Flores, a popular and established rider in Southern California with multiple Breeders’ Cup victories to his credit will ride full-time in Louisiana for the first time along with French-born, Chicago-based jockey Florent Geroux, a multiple graded stakes winning rider.
Trainers: Fresh Faces Join Nationally Prominent Fair Grounds Veterans
As usual, the deep jockey colony is matched by a competitive set of trainers stabled at Fair Grounds this season. Steve Asmussen and Tom Amoss, who tied for top honors in the 2012-2013 season with 42 wins apiece (they also tied one another for the 2000-2001 training title), will again stable large strings of horses on the Fair Grounds backstretch. Asmussen’s tie in last meet’s standings gave him a sixth consecutive training title. Many familiar barns that consistently impact the trainer standings will also return, including: Al Stall, Jr., Larry Jones, Mike Stidham, Bret Calhoun, Steve Margolis, Wayne Catalano, and Mike Maker.
Canadian horsemen will be well-represented by the major barns of Malcolm Pierce, Josie Carroll, and Mike Keough. The 2013-2014 meet will also see the return of several Chicago-based horsemen who were notably absent when unable to participate in the majority of the 2012-2013 meet due to a quarantine at Hawthorne Race Course. Doug Matthews, Hugh Robertson, Richie Scherer, and Gary Scherer will all be welcomed back to New Orleans this winter. New faces Jimmy Toner (New York) and Jimmy Baker (Kentucky) will stable locally.
Post Times and Admission
First post is 1 p.m. daily, except Exotic Starlight Racing (November 22; 3 p.m.), Thanksgiving Day (November 28, 11 a.m.), Starlight Racing (December 20, January 17, February 7, March 14; 5 p.m.), Major Stakes Days (December 14, January 18, February 22; 12:30 p.m.) and Louisiana Derby Day (March 29, 12:30 p.m.).
Free Grandstand General Admission and $10 Clubhouse General Admission daily, except Exotic Starlight Racing (November 22 - $10 Grandstand/$15 Clubhouse and Miller Time Beer Garden) Starlight Racing (December 20, January 17, February 7, March 14 – $5 Grandstand/$10 Clubhouse and Miller Time Beer Garden) and Graded Stakes Days (January 18, February 22, March 29; $5 Grandstand/$10 Clubhouse).
Clubhouse dining and box seat reservations are now being accepted (except for Louisiana Derby Day, which opens Jan. 6). Call (504) 943-2200 (reservation line open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., until Opening Night; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on live racing days while in season).
For more details about the 142nd Thoroughbred Racing Season at Fair Grounds, visit us online at www.FairGroundsRaceCourse.com. A plethora of historical racing information – including stakes histories, past standings, Fair Grounds Hall of Fame bios, Louisiana Derby facts and more – can be found in the Online Media Center at www.FairGroundsRaceCourse.com/Media.
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