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Starlight Racing Lights Up New Orleans

The first of three Starlight Racing programs at Fair Grounds this season on Friday night had track management describing the event as successful beyond expectations – and that was despite increasingly rainy weather and a temporary late afternoon local power outage that caused a one-hour delay before the first race of the evening.

“If you had told me that with the rain and the power outage we would still have this many people I wouldn’t have believed you,” Fair Grounds President Austin Miller said midway through the racing program. “It is probably double the average Friday crowd.

“In terms of creating an environment and creating a vibe, it all went fantastically,” Miller said. “You can just look around and tell that this is not our average Friday crowd. Next month (for the Feb. 19 Starlight Racing event) we’ll have to get a bigger tent. If we had had better weather it would have been spilling over.”

Anecdotal evidence also suggested a very successful evening. The parking lot was full around the far turn, similar to a Thanksgiving Day program, and all available clubhouse dining tables were occupied.

Starlight Racing brought an upscale club atmosphere to the racetrack, with live music and an enhanced menu in the Clubhouse and a DJ to go with charbroiled oysters from Drago’s in the Miller Beer Garden chalet. Both areas featured live dancers outfitted in jockey silks, themed lighting, specialty cocktails, beer specials and lounge seating.

In the $47,000 featured race of the evening, James Tafel’s Country Flavor took command approaching the lane and drew off for a 4 3/4-length score under jockey Shane Sellers. The Empire Maker gelding paid $7.80, $4.40 and $5.60, toured the 1 1/16-mile distance over the sloppy track in 1:47.15 and increased his career earnings to $74,195 with his third win in nine lifetime starts.

Marquee Event pressed the early pace, could not stay with the winner when challenged but saved second by a half-length to return $23.40 and $15.60. Unbridled Vicar, coupled in the wagering with the winner, got up for third in the late stages while Kaddish made the pace with early splits of 25.41 and 49.74 before tiring.

Racing resumes Saturday at Fair Grounds with a first post-time of 12:40 p.m.