FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Communications and Pari-Mutuel Marketing Manager
Thoroughbred meet will open with NIGHT racing Nov. 22
NEW ORLEANS (Tuesday, July 9, 2013) - For the first time in a century-and-a-half of racing on this site, a Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meeting will kick off under the lights with a Starlight Racing party for Opening Night of the 142nd Thoroughbred Racing Season on Nov. 22, a Friday. Of course, racing will also be held the following Thursday on Thanksgiving Day, continuing a revered New Orleans tradition dating back to 1898. The dates and stakes schedule for the 84-day meet were officially announced today.
Thoroughbred season will run Nov. 22 to March 30, highlighted by the 101st running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII) on March 29. The complete stakes schedule, featuring 58 races cumulatively worth $7.51 million, closely mirrors that of last season.
New Stakes Added
Two minor stakes restricted to Alabama-breds - the $50,000 Magic City Classic for older horses and the $25,000 Kudzu Juvenile for 2-year-olds - are the only new additions to the stakes schedule. Every race that appeared on last season's schedule is back, most with identical purses and conditions. Two stakes for older females - the $75,000 Mardi Gras Handicap, now a turf sprint, and the $75,000 Happy Ticket Stakes, now on the main track - swapped conditions due to where they would fall on the calendar relative to Fat Tuesday.
The meet's final Louisiana-bred stakes event for older horses has been renamed the Star Guitar Stakes in honor of the five-time Louisiana Champions Day winner and member of the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame. Star Guitar became the all-time Louisiana-bred earning leader in 2012 by winning the race that will now bear his name, previously known as the Costa Rising Stakes. The Costa Rising name will now be applied to another Louisiana-bred stakes race, replacing the Bayou St. John Stakes name.
Ten Graded Stakes
The Fair Grounds stakes schedule is highlighted by 10 stakes that were graded last season - five Grade II and five Grade III. The Grade II events are the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby for 3-year-olds, the Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the New Orleans Handicap for older horses and the Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap for older turf horses.
The Grade III events are the Lecomte Stakes for 3-year-olds, the Rachel Alexandra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the Mineshaft Handicap for older horses, and both the Fair Grounds Handicap and the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap for older turf horses.
The North American Graded Stakes committee will meet in December to determine grades for 2014.
"We continue to hope that the esteemed committee will finally recognize that Fair Grounds deserves a Grade I race," said Eric Halstrom, Vice President and General Manger for Racing. "The Louisiana Derby produced two of the top three finishers in the Kentucky Derby and the winner of the Belmont Stakes. Our three-race prep series overall featured five of the top six Kentucky Derby finishers plus the Preakness and Belmont winners. A nationally televised, million-dollar race that is now proven as the key final Triple Crown prep has probably earned Grade I status."
Four Starlight Dates Announced
Fair Grounds also announced four Starlight Racing dates in addition to Opening Night. The popular social events feature live music, DJs, drink specials and live racing under the lights on select Friday nights. The 2013-2014 Starlight dates are Nov. 22, Dec. 20, Jan. 17, Feb. 7 and March 14.
Bands and DJs will be announced once the lineup is finalized. For information on private parties and corporate events at Starlight Racing, contact Group Sales at (504) 948-1285.
About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation's third-oldest racetrack, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 11 off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. The sixth Summer Quarter Horse Meet runs Aug. 16 to Sept. 7. The 142nd Thoroughbred Racing Season - highlighted by the 101st running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby and the accompanying Infield Festival - will run from November 2013 through March 2014. More information can be found online at http://www.fairgroundsracecourse.com/.