By Ryan Martin
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has announced an early first post of 11:00 a.m. CT on Louisiana Derby Day, Saturday March 23.
As part of their “Road the Kentucky Derby” series, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will broadcast (4:30 to 5:30 p.m. CT) both the Grade II $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby and the Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks Presented by TwinSpires.com. With a scheduled post time of 5:17 p.m. CT, the Louisiana Derby will be the final event on the 13-race card.
“We are looking forward to what we expect will be another successful Louisiana Derby Day,” said Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots President Doug Shipley. “Our handle on major race days this year has exceeded expectations and we believe that Louisiana Derby Day will be no different based off of the way the meet has shaped out thus far. We look forward to showcasing some of the finest Thoroughbreds on the Kentucky Oaks and Derby trail in New Orleans once more. With the growing popularity of our Derby prep races, we are thrilled to welcome track fans back to our signature race day. The competition in our stakes races will be notable and promises to provide fans worldwide with yet another example of the finest Thoroughbreds the industry coming through New Orleans. We also look forward to New Orleanians enjoying many of the usual entertaining traditions that weekend as well.”
Louisiana Derby Day will feature an All-Stakes Pick Four with a 50-cent minimum wager (races and guaranteed pool to be determined). Eight stakes will be presented on the program, including:
• Grade II $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap (4-year-olds and upward going 1 1/8 miles over the Stall Wilson Turf Course, winner gets an automatic berth (no fees) to the Grade I $1 million Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs and the Grade I $1 million Arlington Million at Arlington International Racecourse)
• Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap (4-year-olds and upward going 1 1/8 miles over the main track)
• Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks presented by Twinspires.com (3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles over the main track, a 100-40-20-10 points qualifier on the Road To The Kentucky Oaks)
• Grade II $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles over the main track, a 100-40-20-10 points qualifier on the Road To The Kentucky Derby)
• $75,000 Crescent City Oaks (Louisiana-bred 3-year-old fillies going one mile and 70 yards over the main track)
• $75,000 Crescent City Derby (Louisiana-bred 3-year-old colts and geldings going 1 1/16 miles over the main track)
• $75,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes (fillies and mares four years old and upward going 1 1/16 miles over the Stall Wilson Turf Course)
• $60,000 Costa Rising Stakes (Louisiana-bred colts and geldings four years old and upward going 5 ½ furlongs over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course)
The Louisiana Derby is the final of three local preps on Churchill Downs’ Road To The Kentucky Derby, the first two of which (the Grade III Lecomte Stakes and Grade II Risen Star Stakes presented by LaMarque Ford) were won by Gary Barber’s War of Will, who currently sits atop the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 60 points. Should he sweep the local Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve qualifiers, the Mark Casse-trained son of War Front would join other notables to accomplish the feat: Girvin (2017), International Star (2015) Friesian Fire (2009), Dixieland Heat (1993) and Line in the Sand (1992).
The Fair Grounds Oaks has been an exceptional recent prep for eventual Longines Kentucky Oaks winners such as Untapable (2014), Believe You Can (2012), Rachel Alexandra (2009), Proud Spell (2008), Summerly (2005) and Ashado (2004). Trainer Tom Amoss won last year’s edition with Chocolate Martini and is likely to seek back-to-back victories in the Fair Grounds Oaks with Serengeti Empress, the impressive winner of the Grade II Rachel Alexandra Stakes on February 16.