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Fair Grounds Concludes 136th Season
NEW ORLEANS, La (March 23, 2008) - The final race of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots' 136th season was run Sunday, but the meet's legacy may not be determined until later this year.
For instance, will Louisiana Derby winner Pyro go on to become only the third horse to achieve a Louisiana Derby-Kentucky Derby double? Will his stablemate, 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, be the first horse to train on Gentilly and go on to win the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup? Or will one of the talented 3-year-old fillies on the grounds this winter continue a recent trend by capturing the Kentucky Oaks?
What is certain is that the 2007-08 Fair Grounds meet will go down in history as the first to be run with slot-machine gaming in operation at the track. With slots operating out of a temporary facility that opened in September and previously served as the on-track home for simulcasting, construction of a permanent facility continued throughout the meet.
"On behalf of our staff, we owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to our on-track patrons who battled the inconveniences brought about by our ongoing construction," said Fair Grounds president Randy Soth. "However, we feel we offset those circumstances by offering a high-quality racing product, especially on our major event days."
The most notable of those events was Louisiana Derby Day on March 8, which was headlined by Pyro's impressive win. A record all-sources handle of $12,962,024 was set, while at Fair Grounds, simulcast-era marks were set for attendance (9,971) and on-track handle ($1,027,467).
Pyro and Curlin's conditioner, Steve Asmussen, finished as Fair Grounds' leading trainer for the seventh time in eight years. Asmussen became the first trainer in Fair Grounds history to average more than one win per day and the third trainer ever to win at least 80 races. He finished with 86 wins, 37 more than second-place Cody Autrey.
Autrey's primary jockey and owner claimed the other two titles.
Louisiana native Jamie Theriot captured his first Fair Grounds riding title with 94 wins, 13 more than Shaun Bridgmohan, who rode at Fair Grounds for the first time this winter. Six-time Fair Grounds leading rider Robby Albarado was third with 79 wins.
Heflin and Driver Racing took home the owner's title with 36 wins, doubling the total of second-place Maggi Moss, who finished with 18 wins. Sandy and Jerry Heflin were leading owners in 2006-07.
Pyro, the only multiple graded stakes winner of the meet, was a landslide choice of media and racing officials as Horse of the Meeting.
Dates for Fair Grounds' 2008-09 season are to be submitted to the Louisiana State Racing Commission next month.
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. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.