Fair Grounds to offer $8.5 million in stakes purses this season
NEW ORLEANS – Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has announced that 65 stakes worth a combined $8.5 million, up more than $700,000 from last season, will be offered during the 80-day, 2022-23 Thoroughbred meet. In each of the 13 unretricted, non-graded stakes, purses have been increased by $25,000. In addition, twelve new Louisiana-bred stakes have been added to the schedule, including six over the first two days of the meet.
“We worked with the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association and Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association to come up with these new stakes,” said Fair Grounds’ racing secretary Scott Jones. “We’re proud to have worked together for the betterment of our sport to create not only the best stakes schedule, but also the richest program we’ve ever offered in the state.”
The traditional Thanksgiving opening will give way to an earlier start to the meet, with opening day slated for Friday, November 18. Six inaugural $75,000 Louisiana-bred stakes will be run over the dirt course on the season’s first two days. Fillies and mares take center stage on Friday in the Happy Ticket Stakes (6 furlongs) and the Big World Stakes (1 mile & 70 yards), both for 3-year-olds and up. The Donovan L. Ferguson Memorial Stakes, a 5 1/2 furlong event for 2-year-olds, will also be carded on opening day. Saturday’s trio of stakes are a mirror-image in terms of age, distance and surface, but these open Louisiana-bred events are highlighted by a 6-furlong dirt sprint named in honor of Ivery Sisters Racing’s multiple stakes winning, fan favorite Monte Man, who retired from racing last year at age 9.
“Coming off a very successful 150th anniversary season we can’t wait to welcome fans back to experience the best winter racing in New Orleans starting in November,” said Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ president Doug Shipley. “We have made significant investments at the track which includes our new $1.5 million dollar state-of-the-art Tote board. The new board is one of the best in the country and provides an unparalleled experience. While our season will officially begin on November 18th we will still have our Thanksgiving day celebration that has become a staple for the residents of New Orleans.”
Louisiana Derby Day is scheduled for Saturday, March 25, and it will card eight stakes worth a total of $2.6 million. Run at 1 3/16 miles for the third time last year, the Twinspires.com $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby (G2) is traditionally worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top four finishers on the Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). The strong infusion of our sport’s top 3-year-olds training and racing at Fair Grounds was never more apparent than it was last season. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter, who won the Gun Runner, Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds in 2021-22, would later run second in both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) in advance of victories in both the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1) at Saratoga. Haskell (G1) winner Cyberknife, Jim Dandy runner-up Zandon, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby and Travers, Ohio Derby-winner Tawny Port, and the 148th Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike also participated in Fair Grounds’ 2021-22 Road to the Derby series.
Run at 1 1/16 miles, the Grade 2 $400,000 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks awards 100-40-20-10 points en route to the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). Last year’s winner Echo Zulu, who was Champion 2-year-old of 2021, finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. Second and fourth-place finishers Hidden Connection and Turnerloose also competed in the Run for the Lillies.
“Fair Grounds has proven to be one of the premier winter racing destinations,” Jones said. “Once again last year, the quality of horses who stabled or came through New Orleans have made a huge impact in premier stakes races all over the country. Beginning with the Gun Runner and the Untapable for late season juveniles, our progressive schedule of 3-year-old races for both the boys and girls gives horsemen even more opportunity to develop their horses and compete for excellent purses.”
A pair of high-impact, nine furlong stakes for older horses are also scheduled on the Louisiana Derby Day program — the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) on dirt and the $300,000 Muniz Memorial Stakes (G2) on turf. Four undercard stakes, each worth $125,000, are slated for the lucrative card, including the Tom Benson Memorial for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass and a trio of Louisiana-bred events – the Costa Rising Stakes, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint, the Crescent City Derby for 3-year-old males at 1 1/16 miles and the Crescent City Oaks for females at 1 mile and 70 yards. The purses for each of those stakes has been raised $25,000.
After 2021’s successful debut, the Road to the Derby Kickoff Day will keep the same December 26 date, but will card nine stakes, up three from last year. From top to bottom last year’s 13-race card was a holiday feast, featuring Cyberknife breaking his maiden, and the 148th Kentucky Derby exacta, Rich Strike and Epicenter, both participating in the Gun Runner. A pair of 2-year-old stakes with Kentucky Derby and Oaks point implications (10-4-2-1) highlight the 9-stakes race card: the $100,000 Gun Runner contested at 1 1/16ths miles and the 1 mile 70 yards $100,000 Untapable for fillies.
Two long standing juvenile 6-furlong sprint stakes have been moved to the December 26 card, the Sugar Bowl and the Letellier Memorial for fillies. The 1 mile 70 yards Joseph E. “Spanky” Broussard Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares shifts to this date as well to pair with the Tenacious Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, both for 3-year olds and up. Also for older horses, the Buddy Diliberto Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf, the Blushing K.D. for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf, and the Richie Scherer Memorial at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. All nine races will be run for $100,000, which is a $25,000 boost for the Sugar Bowl, Letellier, Broussard, Diliberto, Blushing K.D., and Scherer.
On January 21, Road to the Derby Day features a pair of key 3-year-old events — the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) which was extended from one mile to 1 1/16 miles three years ago, 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 21 program, including the $150,000 Louisiana Stakes (G3) run at 1 1/16 miles, the $100,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes at 1 1/16 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf and the $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on grass.
On February 18, Louisiana Derby Preview Day features a pair of key 3-year-old stakes — the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2), which was extended from 1 1/16 to 1 1/8 miles three years ago, and the $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2), for fillies to be contested over 1 1/16 miles. The top four finishers receive 50-20-10-5 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively. The Rachel Alexandra has produced two of the last five Kentucky Oaks winners in Monomoy Girl and Serengeti Empress and 2014 victress Untapable also took down the Run for the Lilies.
Four stakes for older horses will also be presented on the February 18 program — the $250,000 Mineshaft Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles, the $150,000 Fair Grounds Stakes (G3) at nine furlongs on turf, the $100,000 Colonel Power Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf and the $100,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
Louisiana Champions Day presented by Acadian Ambulance will be held on December 10. With the races run in various divisions over a variety of distances on both dirt and turf, the program features nine stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds. Each Louisiana Champions Day stakes is worth $100,000 with the exception of the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic and the two new additions – the $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Starter and $50,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Starter, both of which will be run at 5 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve started early,” Scott Jones said. “It means less five-day weeks for us during the entirety of the meet and gives us the opportunity to run multiple preps for Louisiana Champions Day on December 10. Starting on Thanksgiving only gave us 16 days to Champions Day. In this day and age it’s just not enough time. Of course we will still have the Thanksgiving Classic, a fantastic day of racing, and a festive crowd, as is the New Orleans tradition.”
Three other stakes will make their debut in 2023, most notably on January 7 the $75,000 Gary P. Palmisano Memorial Stakes. Paired with the $75,000 Bob F. Wright Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares, both 6-furlong dirt sprints are for 4-year-olds and up. A longtime Louisiana trainer and most recently the paddock judge at Fair Grounds, Gary Palmisano, Sr., who passed away last December, was a beloved member of the local racing community.
Also added to the Fair Grounds’ stakes program are the $75,000 Louisiana Stallion of the Year Half Ours Stakes at 1 mile 70 yards and the $75,000 Louisiana Broodmare of the Year Buttercup’s Song Stakes at one mile – both written for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds and named for two of the great producing influences in Louisiana’s breeding history. Half Ours sired 22 stakes winners, but his reign came to an untimely end after a freak paddock accident in July of 2021. With twelve foals and nine starters, the earnings of Buttercup’s Song’s foals totaled $1,721,518, highlighted by Pound for Pound and the graded-stakes winner Flatlined. Those stakes will be contested on February 25.
The 80-day, 2022-2023 Fair Grounds racing season runs through Sunday, March 26. Regular post time will be 1:05 p.m. CT, but opening day post time is 3:00 p.m. CT. There will be an earlier noon CT first post on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24), Louisiana Champions Day (Dec. 10), Road to the Derby Kickoff Day (Dec. 26), Road to the Derby Day (Jan. 21) Louisiana Derby Preview Day (Feb. 18), and Louisiana Derby Day (March 25).
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