Fair Grounds opens: What to know for the '20-21 meet

Fair Grounds opens: What to know for the '20-21 meet
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Fair Grounds opens its 2020-21 meet on Thursday, a 76-day racing stand that will include paths to both the 2021 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

Storylines abound for the meet, including Brad Cox’s quest to earn his fourth straight Fair Grounds training title. The meet also includes several changes after last year’s slate was cut one week short by the COVID pandemic.

For starters, fans will not be allowed in attendance at the beginning of the meet. However, Fair Grounds’ slots and off-track betting facilities remain open during normal operating hours.

Purses are also slightly up this year, with some maiden races going as high as $47,000.


Normal racing days for Fair Grounds are Thursday-Sunday with occasional Monday and Wednesday races.

Top races

The highlight of the Fair Grounds meet comes March 20 when the Louisiana Derby (G2) will be run for the 108th time. The race is worth 100 points to the winner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, while the second, third and fourth places finishers will receive 40, 20 and 10 points, respectively.

The 2020 edition of the race was won by the Cox-trained Wells Bayou, who would be knocked off the Kentucky Derby trail with bone bruising following a fifth-fifth place finish in the Arkansas Derby. He has yet to return to the races


The March 20 card will also include the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), which offers the same amount of points toward the Kentucky Oaks. Last year’s race was won by Bonny South, also trained by Cox, who did not race in the Kentucky Oaks, but finished second in the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in October.

The Thanksgiving Day slate of races includes one stakes race, the Thanksgiving Classic, highlighted by Manny Wah, who finished fifth in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland last time out. The race also includes Bobby’s Wicked One, who won last year’s Thanksgiving Classic.

Other highlight races at the 2020-21 meet include the Rachel Alexandra (G2) and Risen Star (G2) on Feb. 13 and the Lecomte Stakes (G3) on Jan. 16.

Lasix

Fair Grounds goes into the meet as one of the few remaining tracks that still allow use of Lasix in 2-year-olds to finish the calendar year.

On Thursday’s slate, 26 horses are listed as running with Lasix for the first time.

Championships

Cox will look to defend his trainers' title starting on the first day of racing when he has five horses entered in various races.

Cox has one entered in the Thanksgiving Classic. Landeskog will break from post position No. 6 and is currently sits at 4-1 morning line odds.

Last time out, the 4-year-old gelded son of Munnings out of the Mineshaft mare Minewander finished in sixth place at the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Pimlico on Oct. 3. His best finish in a graded stakes race was second place in the 2019 Gallant Bob (G2) at Parx.

Cox will face stiff competition in his chase for a fourth title, from the likes of locally-based Ron Faucheux, Tom Amoss and Steve Asmussen, who finished second, third and fourth respectively last year.

On the jockey side, James Graham won last year’s title with 63 victories, followed by Mitchell Murill and Colby Hernandez, who both had 57.

Last year’s contenders will face off against other top riders, including Florent Geroux, who won 47 races in the last Fair Grounds meet, and Brian Hernandez Jr., who won 43.

Betting menus and post times

For the Thanksgiving Day program, first post is scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern, and for races Friday through Sunday, first post is set for 2 p.m.

The full wagering menu can be found here. Notably, this year’s Black Gold Pick 5 wager is no longer a jackpot bet, but pays in a traditional Pick 5 format.

The 2020-21 Fair Grounds meet is scheduled to run through Mar. 28.

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