Three Stakes Reduced By $100k Each

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots will reduce the purses of three stakes races still to be run this season—the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks, the Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap and the Grade II New Orleans Handicap—by $100,000 each, to $300,000.

“This move, painful as it is, ensures that we will not have to cut overnight purses for our final month of racing,” said Fair Grounds Vice President and General Manager Eric Halstrom. “Looking at this from a long-term perspective we have to get closer to a balanced purse account if we are to offer the highest possible purses for our horsemen next season.”

Fair Grounds has offered some of the highest quality racing in the track’s 138-year history this season while battling the worst winter weather ever in New Orleans, as well as a nationwide decrease in wagering that mirrors the overall economic downturn. According to figures released last week by Equibase, wagering in the United States this year is down 12.5-percent when compared to the first two months of 2009.

“We’re hoping that the world-class racing we have lined up for our big days during the final three weeks of the meet will allow us to end on a high note and then head into next year ready to go with an attractive purse structure and stakes program,” Halstrom said.

Highlights of Fair Grounds’ final weeks include the seasonal debut of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra on Saturday; the last Starlight Racing program March 19; a Fair Grounds Oaks Day with four stakes for females March 26; and the most important day of racing in the Gulf South region, Louisiana Derby Day, with six stakes, including three Grade II events, on the season’s final Saturday, March 27.