FG to Reduce Purses Starting Sunday
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots will reduce purses of overnight races by nine-percent, effective Sunday, January 31, and trim the value of 12 stakes events.
A pair of Grade II races for older horses—the New Orleans Handicap and the Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap on turf—have had their purses reduced to $400,000 from $500,000. Four stakes were reduced to $100,000 from $125,000: the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap, the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap, the Bayou Handicap and the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes. Six stakes have gone to $60,000 from $75,000: the Pan Zareta Stakes, the Colonel Power Stakes, the Bienville Stakes, the Crescent City Oaks, the Crescent City Derby and the Grindstone Stakes.
“Our gaming and pari-mutuel businesses have been slower than anticipated through the first half of the season and there has been less revenue generated for purses,” said Fair Grounds Vice President and General Manager Eric Halstrom. “The economic downturn across the country as well as the all-time record rainfall in December in New Orleans has negatively affected our business and we were left with no choice but to take this action. While we’re disappointed, we’re proud to know that the quality of racing at Fair Grounds has never been better.”
Fair Grounds purses remain among the richest in the country, comparing favorably to all of its chief competitors. Even with the ensuing reduction in purses, Fair Grounds purse levels are above or equal to those of other southern racetracks with whom Fair Grounds competes for horses.
“We still have plenty to be proud of with our purse structure,” Halstrom said. “The forces that led to this action were largely beyond anyone’s control and I am confident that the best of our season is still to come. Eight of our 10 graded stakes, including all four of our Grade II events, have yet to be run and our two biggest wagering days—Louisiana Derby Preview Day and Louisiana Derby Day—are in February and March.”
Louisiana Derby Preview Day is Feb. 20 and Louisiana Derby Day is March 27.
The reduction in overnight purses will only be in effect for the final 34 days of the 85-day meet. “When all is said and done the reduction will be roughly three-and-a-half percent of what was projected to be paid out over the course of the season,” said Fair Grounds President Austin Miller. “We’ve worked hand in hand with our horsemen and this was the most sensible decision to ensure a strong purse structure for years to come.”