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Fair Grounds Announces 2008-09 Stakes Schedule

NEW ORLEANS, La (September 24, 2008) - Major event days are once again the highlight of Fair Grounds' 2008-09 stakes schedule announced Wednesday.

Click here to view the schedule

The track will offer 63 stakes worth more than $6.6 million in its 87-day meet, which begins Nov. 14 and continues through March 29, 2009.

Louisiana Derby Day on March 14 will again offer more than $2 million in purses, headlined by the 96th running of the $600,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby for 3-year-olds. Fair Grounds' three other Grade II races are also on the card - the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap for older horses and the $500,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap for turf horses.

Louisiana Derby Preview Day will be Feb. 7 and again features four Grade III races, including the Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Silverbulletday Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The other graded stakes on Preview Day are for older horses - the Mineshaft Handicap and the Fair Grounds Handicap.

"Road to the Derby" Kickoff Day is Jan. 10, with the Lecomte Stakes serving as the headliner. The Lecomte is one of two Grade III stakes on the card, along with the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap on the turf.

Other major events include the 18th edition of Louisiana Champions Day, featuring 11 stakes worth $1.1 million for state-breds, on Dec. 13; Santa Super Saturday, with five stakes, on Dec. 20, and Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend on March 28-29, the meet's final two days.

Five stakes have been added to the schedule, all on the opening two weekends of the meet, which are part of the track's first pre-Thanksgiving opening since the 1970s.

The co-features on opening day will be the Blushing K.D. Handicap, named for the 1997 Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks winner, and the Si Cima Stakes, named for the multiple stakes winning Louisiana-bred.

On opening Saturday, the Mr. Sulu Stakes for Louisiana-breds on the turf salutes the three-time winner of the Louisiana Champions Day Turf, of which this race will serve as a prep.

On Nov. 22, a pair of 2-year-old sprint stakes that have not been contested since 2001 return to the schedule - the Pontalba Stakes, which is restricted to fillies, and the Old Hickory Stakes.

One race has been re-named. The Louisiana Lagniappe Sprint on closing weekend will now be the John E. Jackson Jr. Memorial Stakes, named for the longtime Louisiana State Racing Commission official.

Four stakes races run in 2007-08 will not be contested this season: the Grindstone and Bedanken for 3-year-olds on turf and the Louisiana Lagniappe Ladies Sprint and Classic.

Fair Grounds announced earlier this month its overnight purses will average approximately $300,000 per day, the highest structure in its history.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation's third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, 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 nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds' 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.