Home of the Louisiana Derby

Saturday is Road to the Derby Kickoff Day!

Here's a summary of everything you need to know about Saturday’s big day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

What the heck is going on Saturday?
It’s the 66th annual running of the Lecomte Stakes, the first of three major races at Fair Grounds that help determine which top 3-year-old Thoroughbred racehorses will go on to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1.

There are also five other stakes races (a “stakes race” is the most important type of race and offers the largest amounts of prize money) featuring horses from other popular divisions (like fillies, older horses, grass specialists, sprinters) before the Lecomte.

How many races are there and when is the big one?
There are 13 races at Fair Grounds on Saturday.
The first race begins at 12:10 p.m. CST.
The biggest and most important race, the Lecomte Stakes, is scheduled as Race 10 at 4:43 p.m.
The final race of the day is Race 13 at 6:11 p.m.

What other special events will be happening?
The Miller Beer Garden, a trackside chalet for hanging out with friends and having fun, will be open all afternoon with $1 Miller Lite and $2 Abita beer specials, plus special food vendors with Gumbo and Red Beans and Rice specials.

Will you be giving away any awesome prizes?
Glad you asked! Miller Beer Garden visitors can register to win three great prizes to be given away between races: an iPhone, an iPod and a PlayStation 3.

What does it cost?
General admission to the Grandstand and the Miller Beer Garden is free.

You can also get a reservation for the Clubhouse Dining Room, which costs $6 per person on top of whatever you spend ordering food and drink from the excellent full menu by Chef Ray Derderian. That’s a fancy upscale experience, though, and there’s a dress code, so be sure you’re up for looking good and spending some money before you give that a try. Call (504) 948-1171 for Clubhouse dining reservations.

Who are some of the big names racing?
The young horses in the Lecomte just turned 3-years-old and are still proving themselves as they attempt to earn their way into even more important upcoming races like the Feb. 20 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, the March 27 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and the May 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Some of the most promising contenders in the Lecomte include Turf Melody, Maxiumus Ruler, Cool Bullet, Worldly, Ron the Greek and Letsgetitonmon!

In the other races you can see veteran stars like Friesan Fire, last year’s Louisiana Derby winner and Kentucky Derby favorite; General Quarters, who was a major story at last year’s Kentucky Derby in part because of his popular 76-year-old trainer, a retired school principal; and Euroears, winner of the Thanksgiving Handicap and one of the fastest horses seen here in recent years.

How do I know what to bet?
There’s a ton of great information on this website related to handicapping (“handicapping” is a word that describes the art of evaluating racehorses against one another). For example, you can find daily race-by-race help from our resident expert Jessica Pacheco here. Also, find statistics on leading trainers and jockeys here.

Why is the big race called the Lecomte?
Lecomte was a Thoroughbred racehorse known for a series of famous match races (a “match race” is a race between only two horses) in which he became the only horse to ever defeat his legendary half-brother Lexington, at the old Metairie Race Course in 1854 and 1855. The town of Lecomte, La. (now Lecompte due to, as legend has it, an incorrect railroad station sign), in Rapides Parish, was later named for the horse by his owner, Jefferson Wells, in honor of local planter Ambrose Lecomte.

What if I have more questions?
We’re here to help make your racetrack experience a positive one. If you have questions about anything related to racing at Fair Grounds, call us at (504) 944-5515 and you’ll be directed to the appropriate person for an answer.

See you at the races!