Fair Grounds extends distances of Louisiana Derby, other 3-year-old preps

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Fair Grounds stretch
(Photo: Stephen Lew)

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has announced that 56 stakes worth a combined $7.13 million will be offered during the upcoming 2019-20 racing season, which is set to begin Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28).

“We are proud to once again continue our growth and support of the thoroughbred racing industry with our purse allocations and this diverse and dynamic stakes schedule” said Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots president Doug Shipley. “We look forward to our 148th racing season and the continuation of bringing many of the best horsemen and jockeys from around the world to enjoy the high caliber racing at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.”

The “Louisiana Derby Day” card on March 21 will feature eight stakes worth a total of $2.425 million, including the 107th running of the Grade 2 $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby for 3-year-olds.

Previously run over nine furlongs on dirt, the distance of Louisiana Derby has been extended to 1 3/16th miles. The third and final local prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the race is worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers. Run at 1 1/16 miles, the 52nd running of the G2 $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies offers the same number of points en route to the G1 $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks.

“We’ve also lengthened the Lecomte from 1 mile and 70 yards to 1 1/16 miles and the Risen Star from 1 1/16 miles to nine furlongs,” said Fair Grounds racing secretary Scott Jones. “The Lecomte has always been a popular early season prep for the horsemen and we wanted to provide the horses a longer run into the first turn. The elongated distances of the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby will help differentiate our races from the other Kentucky Derby preps. We consulted with key participants from recent years, and they were in favor of the slight alterations.”

We are proud to once again note 2019 has been a banner year for 3-year-olds who campaigned at Fair Grounds:

  • G2 Risen Star runner-up Country House, who was also fourth in the Louisiana Derby, was the adjudicated winner of the G1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
  • G3 Lecomte and G2 Risen Star winner War of Will won the G1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
  • Serengeti Empress and Liora, the one-two finishers in the G2 Rachel Alexandra, also ran first and second in the G1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.
  • Street Band, winner of the G2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, won the G3 Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand and the G1 Cotillion at Parx.
  • G3 Lecomte runner-up Hog Creek Hustle, who also competed in the G2Risen Star and G1Louisiana Derby won the G1 Woody Stephens at Belmont.
  • Mr. Money, who competed in both the G2 Risen Star and G1 Louisiana Derby, rattled off four consecutive G3 victories prior to finishing second in the G1 Pennsylvania Derby.

A pair of nine-furlong, high-impact stakes for older horses are also scheduled on the Louisiana Derby Day program – the G2 $400,000 New Orleans Classic and the G2 $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes, to be run over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. In addition, four undercard stakes are slated for the lucrative card, including the $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass and a trio of Louisiana-bred events – the $75,000 Costa Rising Stakes, a 5½-furlong turf sprint, the $75,000 Crescent City Derby for 3-year-old males at 1 1/16 miles and the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks for females at 1 mile and 70 yards.

On January 18, the “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day presented by Hotel Monteleone” features a pair of key 3-year-old events — the G3 $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, now run at 1 1/16 miles, and the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes for fillies at 1 mile and 70 yards. The top four finishers in each race receive 10-4-2-1 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively.

Four stakes for older horses will also be presented on the January 18 program — the $125,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes at 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the $100,000 Louisiana Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at six furlongs and the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass.

On February 15, “Louisiana Derby Preview Day presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln” features a pair of key 3-year-old stakes — the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln, now run at 1 1/8 miles, and the Grade II $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes presented by Fasig-Tipton, increased by $100,000 for this year’s renewal, for fillies to be contested over 1 1/16 miles. The top four finishers receive 40-20-10-5 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively.

The Rachel Alexandra has produced the last two Kentucky Oaks winners in Monomoy Girl (2018) and Serengeti Empress (2019) and 2014 winner Untapable also took down the Run for the Lilies. The Fair Grounds is hopeful the Rachel Alexandra will soon achieve the Grade 1 status it deserves.

Four stakes for older horses will also be presented on the Feb. 15 program — the G3 $200,000 Mineshaft Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the G3 $150,000 Fair Grounds Stakes for at nine furlongs on turf, the $100,000 Colonel Power Stakes at 5½ furlongs on turf and the $100,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

The Dec. 21 “Santa Super Saturday presented by Coca-Cola” card offers a six-pack of $75,000 stakes. Four of the races are for older horses — the Tenacious Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards, the Bonapaw Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs on turf, the Blushing K.D. for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf, and the Buddy Diliberto Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf. The other two are six furlong events for juveniles – the Sugar Bowl Stakes for the boys and the Letellier Memorial Stakes for the girls.

Louisiana Champions Day presented by Acadian Ambulance will be held on December 14. With the races run over various divisions and distances on both dirt and turf, the program features ten stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds. Each Louisiana Champions Day is worth $100,000 with the exception of the Louisiana Champions Day Classic, which carries a $150,000 purse.

Named in honor of the Hall of Fame jockey who passed away in August, The Randy P. Romero Memorial Overnight Stakes (formerly Captain Maestri) will be run on Feb. 1 (3-year-olds, one mile on turf).

Named in honor of the longtime horse racing reporter and author who passed away in July, The Bob Fortus Memorial Stakes (formerly the Tiffany Lass) will be run on Dec. 26 (fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1 mile 70 yards on dirt)

Stakes races named last racing season in honor of the late Thoroughbred owner and New Orleans icon Tom Benson, who owned the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, and Shantel Lanerie, the late wife of long-time jockey Corey Lanerie and the inspiration for the Shantel Lanerie Breast Cancer Foundation, also remain on the schedule on March 21 and Feb. 8, respectively.

The open undercard stakes on “Road to Derby Kickoff”, “Louisiana Derby Preview Day” and “Louisiana Derby Day” as well as the Thanksgiving Day Classic will now be run for $100,000, up from $75,000. In addition, Fair Grounds has eliminated handicap conditions for stakes races. These races will now be weighted under allowance conditions.

The 80-day, 2019-20 Fair Grounds racing season run conclude Sunday, March 29. Regular post time will be 12:30 p.m. CT. The exceptions are Louisiana Derby Day (March 21 at 11 a.m. CT), “Twilight Racing” (Dec. 7 and Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. CT) and “Starlight Racing” (March 13 and 27 at 5 p.m. CT).

“On the heels of a banner 2018-19 season, we’re excited to offer another outstanding stakes program to horsemen and fans,” said Jones. “Our biggest days are direct feeders into the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, and the recent results of the horses who have participated with us in New Orleans speak for themselves. This year will be no exception. We are equally excited to see an enhancement in purse money for some of our stakes and we are confident that the program and our day to day racing product we will be well supported by our horsemen.”

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