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Fair Grounds Continues Growth as Meet Opens Friday
NEW ORLEANS, La (November 12, 2008) - Fair Grounds continues its increasingly exciting growth pattern when the 137th live Thoroughbred race meeting at the nation's third-oldest track gets underway Friday.
The 2008-2009 meet at the historic New Orleans facility will get underway in advance of its traditional Thanksgiving Day debut for the first time since 1979. The earlier start has allowed for six more days to be added to the schedule.
Fair Grounds will offer a record $300,000 in daily overnight purses, in addition to a $6.6 million stakes schedule headlined as always by the $600,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 14.
First post for Friday's Opening Day is 12:30 p.m. CST. The day begins at 8:30 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the track's new slots facility.
An additional entrance for slots customers has been created near Gentilly Boulevard, and the valet parking entrance (inoperable last season because of the slots facility construction) has now been restored. Along with the entrance at the east end of the track apron, customers and horsemen now have four ways to enter the facility.
In addition to the brand new slots facility, off-season improvements in place at Fair Grounds include new perimeter fencing, which features an iron ornamental fence facing Gentilly Boulevard and Fortin Street and an 8-foot chain-link privacy fence along the backstretch. Barn roofing that was damaged during Hurricane Gustav has been repaired.
The entire tote system at Fair Grounds has been rewired since last season to accommodate AmTote - its new tote provider - and fans will have brand new tote equipment on which to place their wagers.
Fair Grounds fans will again see a strong cast of trainers and jockeys in New Orleans for the 2008-09 season.
Steve Asmussen, who led Fair Grounds trainers in wins for the seventh time in eight years last season, will be in local residence once again this winter. Asmussen, who has won 533 races in 2008 through Monday, is closing in on his own national record of 555 wins in a calendar year.
Last season, 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, who also returns to Fair Grounds following two straight runner-up finishes locally.
Tom Amoss, with nine local training titles to his credit, will also be back at Fair Grounds with a full barn once again, and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who stabled at Fair Grounds last winter after an absence of almost two decades, will have a local contingent once again
New Orleans-born Al Stall Jr., a two-time local champion, is back again this season, along with local stalwarts Dallas Stewart, Mike Stidham, Neil Howard, and Patrick Mouton.
West Coast-based conditioner Doug O'Neill, who captured two graded stakes at Fair Grounds in 2007, will have a local contingent for the first time and heads the list of new outfits in New Orleans this winter.
Heading the jockey colony, Louisiana native Jamie Theriot will pursue his second consecutive local title, Another Louisiana native, Robby Albarado, will be seeking to become the first jockey in modern Fair Grounds history to win seven local titles.
Theriot will arrive in New Orleans in time to ride on opening day, while Albarado will join the colony at the conclusion of Churchill Downs' Fall Meet on Nov. 29.
Other regulars back this season include Eddie Martin Jr., Corey Lanerie, James Graham, E.J. Perrodin, Jesse Campbell, Ramsey Zimmerman, and the twin brother duo of Lonnie and Donnie Meche.
Canadian jockey champion Emma-Jayne Wilson, a former Eclipse Award winning apprentice who done well locally for the past two seasons, may return to New Orleans this winter after the close of Woodbine.
Highlighting the stakes schedule of Fair Grounds' major events are "Road to the Derby" Kickoff Day on Jan. 10, Louisiana Derby Preview Day on Feb. 7 and Louisiana Derby Day on March 14, each of which will again feature six stakes. All 10 graded stakes on Fair Grounds' schedule will be offered on one of these three days.
Other event days include the 18th edition of Louisiana Champions Day on Dec. 13; Santa Super Saturday on Dec. 20, and Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend, which closes out the season March 28-29.
Fair Grounds' 137th season runs through March 29. The track will be live each Thursday through Sunday (except Nov. 20, Christmas and March 26), with Mondays added from Dec. 22 through Feb. 23. In addition, there are live programs scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 31, and Tuesday, Feb. 24 (Mardi Gras).
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.
FAIR GROUNDS QUICK FACTS
Location: 1751 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70119
2007-08 Meeting Dates (87 Race Days): Nov. 14, 2008 through March 29, 2009
Racing Schedule: Thursday through Sunday, with Mondays added from Dec. 22-Feb. 23. Exceptions: Racing on Wednesday, Dec. 31, and Tuesday, Feb. 24; dark Thursday, Nov. 20; Thursday, Feb. 26, and Thursday, March 26.
First Post Time: 12:30 p.m.
Doors Open: Grandstand, 11 a.m. or 30 minutes before first simulcast race; Slots, 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.
Admission Prices: Grandstand and slots facility, free; Clubhouse, $6
Parking Prices: General parking, free; valet parking, $6
Major Events: Louisiana Champions Day, Dec. 13; Santa Super Saturday, Dec. 20; "Road to the Derby" Kickoff Day, Jan. 10; Louisiana Derby Preview Day, Feb. 7; Louisiana Derby Day, March 14; Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend, March 28-29.
Main Phone Number: (504) 944-5515
Clubhouse Dining Reservations: (504) 943-2200
Group Sales (25 or more): (504) 948-1285
Race Replays: Online after each race