Edited CDI release
Churchill Downs Inc. Tuesday announced the company had reached a preliminary arrangement with the leadership of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association ("LAHBPA") on details for a shortened Fair Grounds race meet from Nov. 19, 2005, to Jan. 22, 2006, for a total of 37 race dates.
Under the preliminary arrangement, the 37 Fair Grounds race dates would be conducted at Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La. As previously announced, CDI has determined that it is not feasible to conduct Fair Grounds' 2005-2006 racing season at its historic venue in New Orleans, La., due to damage and the surrounding devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Fair Grounds was scheduled to conduct 83-days of live racing in New Orleans.
The preliminary arrangement would require a number of Quarter Horse race dates, currently scheduled for Oct. 28 to Nov. 27 at Harrah's Louisiana Downs, to be shifted to Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., thereby extending Evangeline Downs's Quarter Horse meet. The preliminary arrangement is subject to acceptance by Harrah's Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs, as well the Louisiana Horse Racing Commission and state officials.
"We are pleased to come to terms with our Louisiana horsemen on a preliminary arrangement that would allow the important tradition of Fair Grounds racing to go forward, despite the considerable challenges created by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath," said Andrew G. Skehan, CDI's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "There are a number of issues to resolve, including how we would staff and manage a Fair Grounds race meet at Harrah's Louisiana Downs, and it will take some time to work through those details.
"We look forward to working with the LAHBPA, Harrah's Louisiana Downs, Evangeline Downs, the Louisiana Horse Racing Commission and state officials on a final agreement," said Skehan. "Our ability to work cooperatively and put the industry's best interests above our own will send an important message to our customers - and to countless Gulf Coast residents affected by this terrible storm - that Fair Grounds racing will go on."
The preliminary arrangement includes projected average daily purses of $270,000 and a limited stakes schedule, including a Jan. 14, 2006, "marquee" stakes day with four events: the Grade III Risen Star Stakes, Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. II), Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) and Duncan F. Kenner Breeders' Cup Handicap. The 14th running of Louisiana Champions Day, featuring a total of 10 stakes events for Louisiana-bred Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds would be scheduled for Dec. 10, while the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) would be tentatively scheduled for Jan. 7.
Under the preliminary arrangement, two of Fair Grounds' signature events, the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) would be put on hiatus for one year. A revised Fair Grounds condition book and stakes schedule will be released once a final agreement for a shortened Fair Grounds race meet has been accepted by CDI, Louisiana horsemen, the LHRC, state officials and the Louisiana racetracks involved.
"We are happy to have reached a preliminary arrangement that makes it possible for Fair Grounds' legacy to continue, while providing important winter race dates for Louisiana horsemen," said LAHBPA President Sean Alfortish."We also extend our sincere thanks to the management teams at Harrah's Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs for considering this preliminary arrangement and offering to be part of a solution that will benefit horse racing throughout our state. We look forward to reaching consensus with our industry partners - and to putting on a competitive race meet at a host site."