Wilson At the Top of Fair Grounds’ 152nd Season of Racing


Contact: Kevin Kilroy
Notes Writer/Media Relations
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  • The 152nd racing season saw stakes purses rise to $9.95 million, the richest in Louisiana’s history
  • Trainer Brad Cox swept the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series and added another Louisiana Derby to Resume

New Orleans, La (March 27, 2024) – Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots wrapped up its 152nd season of racing on Sunday, March 24, having offered the richest stakes schedule in Louisiana history at $9.95 million. The 2023 – 2024 trainer, owner, and jockey title winners all extended from one barn, as Shane Wilson finished atop all conditioners, first call Jose Guerrero earned top pilot honors, and Brittlyn Stable hoisted the owner’s title.

Brad Cox swept Fair Grounds’ “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series presented by Fasig-Tipton,  sending out Alpine Princess in the $100,000 Untapable Stakes, West Omaha in the $150,000 Silverbullerday, and Tarifa who took both the $300,000 Rachel Alexandra (G2) and the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).. 

The meet began as it did the year prior, with Louisiana Champions Day Preview Weekend on Nov. 17-18, featuring six stakes written for horses bred in the Pelican State. On Saturday, Dec. 2, the Claiming Crown was held at Fair Grounds, the first time since 2011, followed by Louisiana Champions Day on Dec. 9. The pinnacle of the meet was Louisiana Derby Day on March 23, when eight stakes were carded, including four graded affairs. The 111th running of the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) was the highlight of the 73 stakes contested over the 76-racing day meet. Trained by Brad Cox, Albuagh Family Stable’s Catching Freedom put on a stellar performance to go from last to first and catapult to the top of the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Standings. 

The 2023-2024 meet began with unveiling two new barns, erected to replace those wrecked in 2021 by Hurricane Ida. The Stall-Wilson turf course maintained its integrity throughout the meet, showcasing many of the sport’s best grass runners, like the rising star I’m Very Busy who dazzled the full field of older males to win the $300,000 Muniz Memorial (G2) presented by Horse Racing Nation on March 23. 

Another race that will be forever remembered took place on Louisiana Derby Day, as Set-Hut’s Louisiana-bred Touchuponastar ran his heart out on the lead only to be chased down late by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Red Route One for trainer Steve Asmussen in the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) presented by Relyne GI By Hagyard.

The 76-day meet featured all the traditions that horsemen, horseplayers, and fans adore: Miles Ahead won the 99th running of the $200,000 Thanksgiving Classic for trainer Paul McGee; the Road to the Derby series saw Track Phantom walk over from Steve Amsussen’s barn to score the first two legs with the Gun Runner and the Lecomte; Chad Brown shipped Sierra Leone in to take the Risen Star. Low takeout in the 50-cent Pick 5 and $1 Pick 6 pools remained at 15%. 

Coinciding with the Black Gold Stakes, on March 2 Fair Grounds celebrated the 100-year anniversary of Black Gold becoming the first Louisiana Derby champion to win the Kentucky Derby. His connections’ family were in attendance as the ceremonial wreath was placed at Black Gold’s grave in the infield.

Celebrating its 25th year, the Claiming Crown returned to Fair Grounds on Dec. 2. With purses ranging from $75,000 to $200,000, the card showcased Money Supply from trainer Joe Sharp who scored in the $200,000 Jewel, and later won the $300,000 Mineshaft Presented by Relyne GI By Hagyard (G3). Sharp had another strong meet, finishing sixth in the standings with over $1 million in purse earnings. 

Inspired by strong handle during the first seven weeks of the meet, Fair Grounds announced a 10% purse increase across the board, along with $25,000 added to the purses of ten stakes. 

Wilson’s hot start to the meet never cooled off, and the trainer put a bow on his first Fair Grounds title winning three races in a row on Closing Day, including two stakes with Brittlyn Stable’s Ova Charged and Behemah Star. Tallying 50 on top finishes, Wilson earned over $2 million in purses. Having transferred her string to Wilson’s care prior to the meet, with 14 wins Evelyn Benoit of Brittlyn Stable was awarded her second owner’s title in the last three years. Also stabling Thoroughbreds with Shane Wilson, Wayne T. Davis finished in second with 12 wins.

Jockey newcomer Jose Guerrero piloted 48 to winner’s circle for Wilson, plus four for other connections, to take the riding title with 52 in total. The title for leading rider came down to the last day as fans saw Guerrero win three races in a row on Closing Day’s 15-race card, edging out Jareth Loveberry by one win. Three new additions to the jockey colony finished at the top of the standings, as Ben Curtis and Jaime Torres joined Jose Guerrero in the top five. On Dec. 3 jockey James Graham brought home his 3,000th career win, piloting Vortex for trainer Keith Desormeaux. 

Having achieved a 5,000th career win prior to the meet, Corey Lanerie added 49 more to his tally, finishing third in the standings–very much in striking distance of his first ever local title. No win was more special than in the final race of the meet when he piloted Chasey Pomier’s Free Like a Girl to win the $100,000 Shantel Lanerie Memorial, which is named in honor of Corey’s departed wife.  

Donned the “Cajun Queen” by track announcer John G. Dooley, Brittlyn Stable’s 6-year-old mare Ova Charged took the title in four stakes for a perfect meet, highlighted by beating open company fillies and mares sprinting across the Stall-Wilson Turf Course in the $100,000 Mardi Gras Stakes.

The veteran turf router trained by Tanner Tracy, Joel B. Hunsburger’s Niles Channel was the first to four wins this meet (from six tries). Only to be outdone by Ova Charged’s perfect record and gaudy speed figures. Thirteen different Thoroughbreds won three races each, including Dream Walkin’ Farms’ Wardy for Joe Duhon and Rigney Racing’s Speedy Traveler for Philip Bauer. Those two joined Tarifa and Ova Charged with perfect records on the meet. Set-Hut’s Touchuponastar reigned supreme as the top Louisiana-bred, winning the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic. The $100,000 Star Guitar Stakes went to Brittlyn Stable’s Behemah Star. 

Many famed connections continued their tradition of remarkable success at Fair Grounds. Tom Amoss finished second in the trainer standings with 28 wins and over $1 million in purse earnings. At a 28% strike rate, Brad Cox was right behind with 27 on the meet. Having saddled Catching Freedom ahead of his Louisiana Derby victory, Cox was also celebrated for repeating an Oaks-Derby prep sweep on Louisiana Derby Day, which he also accomplished in 2020 with Bonny South and Wells Bayou. New Orleans-natives Dallas Stewart (15 wins) and Al Stall Jr. (14) also finished in the top ten of the trainer standings.

New barns which had headline-grabbing meets included two young and hungry trainers from the NYRA circuit, as Rob Atras won an impressive 43% clip with 6 scores and Robert Falcone Jr. finished at 31% with 5. 

On Saturday, Feb. 24, Fair Grounds honored the equine athletes with the fourth annual “New Vocations Day at the Races.” Jockey Rosie Napravnik, a four-time local champion, joined Fair Grounds personality Joe Kristufek on-air to raise money for all aspects of racehorse aftercare.

At season’s end, four of the top ten and six of the top 20 horses on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard ran in Fair Grounds’ prep series. Last year Two Phil’s, Angel of Empire, and Disarm traveled Fair Grounds road to the Derby starting gates to finish 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively. If recent history is any inclination, many of the top performers from Fair Grounds’ 2023 – 2024 meet will go forward to snatch purses and grab headlines on horse racing’s national scene.


About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 16 off-track betting parlors throughout Southeast Louisiana. The 152nd Thoroughbred Racing Season–highlighted by the 111th running of the Louisiana Derby–will run from Nov. 17, 2023 through March 24, 2024. More information is available online at www.fgno.com.

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