Into the Stretch at Fair Grounds...

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has saved the best for last with a jam-packed schedule of special events over the final week of the 139th Thoroughbred Racing Season, highlighted by the richest day of horseracing in state history, Louisiana Derby Day on March 26. 

To help keep you straight on the upcoming Fair Grounds-related happenings, here’s a summary of all the special events to mark on your calendars (all times Central):

Wednesday, March 23, 6-8 p.m. – “Letters from the Backside” Opening Reception

The Neighborhood Story Project (www.neighborhoodstoryproject.org) presents “Letters from the Backside,” an exhibition in the Fair Grounds paddock area revealing personal stories behind the scenes at the racetrack through first-person letters written by the subjects and photography by Aubrey Edwards. The exhibition will remain on view through Closing Day, March 27. The opening reception in the paddock area will feature light fare and a cash bar.

Thursday, March 24, 6-8 p.m. – Fair Grounds Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

After a six-year hiatus, the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame returns with its first new class since before Hurricane Katrina. The ceremony honors 2011 inductees Steve Asmussen, Peace Rules and Rachel Alexandra and includes a buffet dinner featuring items from the Clubhouse Dining menu and a cash bar. Admission is $25 in advance or at the door (cash only at the door). To purchase tickets in advance, contact the Fair Grounds Group Sales department at 504-948-1285.

Friday, March 25, first post 12:40 p.m. – Battle on the Bayou

A series of five Louisiana-bred stakes with purses totaling $375,000.

SATURDAY, MARCH 26 - LOUISIANA DERBY DAY

Annually the biggest day of racing at Fair Grounds, the 2011 installment of Louisiana Derby Day is the richest horseracing program ever in the state with six stakes worth more than $2.5 million, including four Grade II events. Every race will be broadcast live nationally on HorseRacing Television (HRTV, Cox Digital Channel 313 in the New Orleans area).

9 a.m. – Dubai World Cup Day Simulcast (East Grandstand OTB)

From Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, the live simulcast of the world’s richest horserace, the $10 million Dubai World Cup, plus key supporting stakes.

9 a.m. – Gates open (General admission: Grandstand, $5; Clubhouse, $10; Kids 12 & Under, Free)

$1 of every general admission sold will benefit Children’s Hospital. Grandstand box reservation holders will pay General Admission before paying for their box on the second floor. Advance tickets will be available at the Retail Kiosk inside the Clubhouse/Valet Lobby entrance. Twin Spires Club VIP members (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum) admitted free with Twin Spires Club card. 

11 a.m. – “Fillies, Fashion & Fizz” Trackside Party

An upscale “dress-to-impress” afternoon of racing, high fashion, champagne, desserts and more along the apron and in the trackside Miller Beer Garden. Events include the annual Derby Hat Contest, free to enter with prizes in several categories. Admission to the Miller Beer Garden is included with $10 Clubhouse General Admission or $5 in addition to Grandstand General Admission.

11:00 a.m. – Free Seminar: “Handicapping Louisiana Derby Day and the Triple Crown”

Join special guests Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form and Jennie Rees of the Louisville Courier-Journal, in The Phoenix Room (Grandstand, third floor) for an in-depth look at the Louisiana Derby Day races and the Triple Crown. Hosted by Churchill Downs racing analyst Jill Byrne.

12:10 p.m. – First post

The first of 13 live races with six stakes worth $2.55 million, including four Grade II events.

Race 2 – Deadline to enter Louisiana Derby Day on-track “Bet or No Bet” contest

Enter in Clubhouse lobby for one of six chances to bet $250 of house money or walk with $100.

1:00 p.m. – Book signings

Authors of new racing-related titles autograph copies in the Clubhouse and near the paddock.

Richard Mature, author, Triple Crown Winner: The Earl Sande Saga

Alex Brown, author, Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy

Races TBA – Special $200,000-Guranteed All-Stakes Pick Four

A special $200,000-Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick Four culminating with the Louisiana Derby.

4:45 p.m. – Estimated post time for the $1 million Louisiana Derby

For 3-year-olds pointing to the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

And last but not least...

Sunday, March 27, first post 12:40 p.m.  – Closing Day

The final live racing day of the 139th Thoroughbred Racing Season. Don’t miss the Sale of the Season – enjoy 50% off all retail merchandise at Fair Grounds Gift Kiosks.