Fair Grounds continues its increasingly exciting growth pattern when the 137th live Thoroughbred meeting at the nation’s third-oldest racetrack gets underway Nov. 14.
The 2008-2009 meet at the New Orleans facility will get underway in advance of its traditional Thanksgiving Day debut for the first time since 1979. The earlier start has allowed for six more days to be added to the schedule.
Fair Grounds will offer a record $300,000 in daily overnight purses, in addition to a $6.6 million stakes schedule headlined by the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 14.
First post for opening day is 12:30 p.m. CST. The day begins at 8:30 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the track’s new slots facility. HorseRacing TV will present in-depth coverage of the entire meet. HRTV's daily coverage of Fair Grounds will feature full post parades, up-to-date odds, as well as handicapping analysis and insight for each races.
Fair Grounds fans will again see a strong cast of trainers and jockeys in New Orleans for the 2008-09 season.
Steve Asmussen, who led Fair Grounds trainers in wins for the seventh time in eight years last season, will be in local residence once again this winter. Asmussen, who has won 533 races in 2008 through Nov. 10, is closing in on his own national record of 555 wins in a calendar year.
Last season, Asmussen became the first trainer in Fair Grounds history to average more than one win per day and the third trainer ever to win at least 80 races. He finished with 86 wins, 37 more than runner up Cody Autrey, who also returns to Fair Grounds following two straight second place finishes locally.
Tom Amoss, with nine local training titles to his credit, will also be back at Fair Grounds with a full barn, and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who stabled at Fair Grounds last winter after an absence of almost two decades, will have a local contingent once again.
New Orleans-born Al Stall Jr., a two-time local champion, is back again this season, along with local stalwarts Dallas Stewart, Mike Stidham, Neil Howard, and Patrick Mouton.
West Coast-based conditioner Doug O’Neill, who captured two graded stakes at Fair Grounds in 2007, will have a local contingent for the first time and heads the list of new outfits in New Orleans this winter.
Heading the jockey colony, Louisiana native Jamie Theriot will pursue his second consecutive local title. Another Louisiana native, Robby Albarado, will be seeking to become the first jockey in modern Fair Grounds history to win seven local titles.
Highlighting the stakes schedule of Fair Grounds’ major events are “Road to the Derby” Kickoff Day Jan. 10, Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 7, and Louisiana Derby Day March 14, each of which will again feature six stakes. All 10 graded stakes on Fair Grounds’ schedule will be offered on one of these three days.
Other event days include the 18th edition of Louisiana Champions Day Dec. 13; Santa Super Saturday Dec. 20; and Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend, which closes out the season March 28-29.
Fair Grounds’ season runs through March 29. The track will be live each Thursday through Sunday (except Nov. 20, Christmas, and March 26), with Mondays added from Dec. 22 through Feb. 23. In addition, there are live programs scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 31, and Tuesday, Feb. 24 (Mardi Gras).