Fair Grounds Race Course

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This article is about thoroughbred racetrack. For the New Orleans neighborhood, see Fairgrounds, New Orleans.
Fair Grounds Race Course
Fair Grounds logo.png
Location New Orleans, Louisiana
Owned by Churchill Downs Inc.
Date opened 1852
Course type Flat/Thoroughbred
Notable races Louisiana Derby (G2)
New Orleans Handicap (G2)
Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Mml Handicap (G2)
Fair Grounds Oaks (G2)
Official website

Fair Grounds Race Course, often known as New Orleans Fair Grounds, is a thoroughbred racetrack and racino in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is operated by Churchill Downs Louisiana Horseracing Company, LLC.

In 1852 Union Race Course, which today is the site of Fair Grounds, was laid out on Gentilly Road in New Orleans, making it the third oldest site of horseracing in America still in operation, after Freehold Raceway and the Saratoga Race Course.

In 2009, the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system for 65 Thoroughbred racetracks in North America. Of the top Fifteen, New Orleans Fair Grounds was ranked #12, behind Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana, which was ranked #6.

History[edit]

Sometimes referred to as the "New Orleans Fair Grounds", the track was initially opened as the "Union Race Course" in 1852. The track closed in 1857 due to competition from the Metairie Course. In 1859 the track was renamed the "Creole Race Course." In 1863, the name was changed again to the "Fair Grounds" and racing was conducted during the Civil War.

The track then closed when the Metairie Course reopened after the war. In 1871, the younger members of the Metairie Jockey Club broke away to form the Louisiana Jockey Club and begin holding meets at the Fair Grounds. In 1872 the first race card is held at the Fair Grounds under the auspices of the Louisiana Jockey Club.

Fair Grounds main entrance gate on Gentilly Road

In 1907, Colonel Matt Winn arrived in New Orleans to establish racing dates and deal with other matters in the Louisiana horse industry. In 1908, racing was banned in New Orleans but returned in 1915. In 1919 a fire burned down the grandstand but the track was still able to conduct a race meeting.

In 1921, an auto race was held at the track, the only car race at the fairgrounds.

In 1940, legislative sanction was given to racing in Louisiana.The track was then sold to developers for construction of a subdivision. In 1941, a group of investors saved Fair Grounds from destruction. The track resumed racing after World War II.

The Fair Grounds Racing Hall of Fame was established in 1971. [1]

In 1981 a turf course was installed. In 1990 the track was sold to the Krantz family. In 1993, the grandstand was completely destroyed by a seven alarm fire and racing continued with temporary facilities in place for a couple of years. A new $27 million construction project began in 1994 and the completed grandstand/clubhouse was opened to the public on Thanksgiving Day 1997. The track was purchased by Churchill Downs Incorporated in 2004. Fair Grounds was heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina, and was closed for over a year, until re-opening on Thanksgiving Day 2006. The track conducted a 37-day meet at Louisiana Downs in replacement of the scheduled 2005-2006 meet.

Both the great race mare Pan Zareta and the winner of the 1924 Kentucky Derby, Black Gold are buried in the infield. It's also here that Tippity Witchet, the beloved son of Broomstick, ran many of his 266 races.

Fair Grounds is the 3rd oldest thoroughbred race meet in the United States, behind Saratoga and Pimlico.

Grandstand main building

Physical attributes[edit]

The track consists of a one mile (1.6 km) dirt track and a seven furlong turf oval. In addition to the grandstand and clubhouse, an adjacent building, formerly used for simulcasting, opened on September 21, 2007 as a temporary slot-machine gaming facility. On November 14, 2008, the new slot-machine facility opened for operation.[2]

TV Personalities[edit]

Racing[edit]

In a normal year the following graded stakes are run at Fair Grounds, the most prestigious of which is the Louisiana Derby, a Grade II stakes prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Grade II:

Grade III:

Also on the card are several important ungraded races including:

Other events[edit]

The Fair Grounds is also the location of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, held each year over a pair of three-day weekends - the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°59′02″N 90°04′52″W / 29.983784°N 90.081067°W / 29.983784; -90.081067