Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

Fair Grounds Offers More Stakes Days, Wagers

Track will host the Claiming Crown for the first time Dec. 3.

The 140th Thoroughbred racing season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots includes more major stakes days, new trainers, and an expanded wagering menu.

The New Orleans track opens Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24. The 10-race card is highlighted by the 86th running of the Thanksgiving Handicap. First post is earlier than usual, at 11 a.m. CST.

Blue-collar horses will be on display as the Claiming Crown comes to Fair Grounds for the first time Dec. 3. Racing’s championship day for claimers, Claiming Crown XIII features six stakes worth $500,000.

Among those nominated to the Claiming Crown is Rapid Redux, who could end his historic 2011 campaign with an attempt at a record 20th consecutive win in the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel.

Other big stakes days in December include Louisiana Champions Day, with 11 stakes for Louisiana-breds worth $1.1 million on Dec. 10, and Santa Super Saturday, with three open-company stakes topping a 12-race card Dec. 17. The New Year’s Eve card features two gender-restricted divisions of the Louisiana Futurity, the season’s final stakes for 2-year-olds.

The other major stakes days to circle on the calendar prior to closing weekend are Road to the Derby Kickoff Day (six stakes worth $650,000, including the gr. III Lecomte) on Jan. 21 and Louisiana Derby Preview Day  (six stakes worth $885,000, including the gr. II Risen Star) Feb. 25.

Fair Grounds has boosted the purses of 19 open-company races on its 2011-2012 stakes schedule. This season will feature 60 stakes cumulatively worth $7.54 million, including the six Claiming Crown stakes. Ten of the stakes are graded – five grade II and five grade III. To view the complete Fair Grounds stakes schedule visit www.FairGroundsRaceCourse.com/Horsemen.

On the same weekend as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in New Orleans, sports fans will be treated to Starlight Racing under the lights March 30 (a Friday), followed by Fair Grounds Oaks Day March 31 (a Saturday) and Louisiana Derby Day on closing day, April 1 (a Sunday).

The Oaks Day card features four stakes for fillies and mares worth $735,000, including the gr. II Fair Grounds Oaks. The grand finale, Louisiana Derby Day will feature seven stakes, four of them grade II events, highlighted by the $1 million Louisiana Derby for 3-year-olds.

An expanded Fair Grounds Wagering Menu will offer bettors more opportunities to cash tickets, large and small. For those seeking the big score, the new “Black Gold 5” is a jackpot Pick 5 carryover wager requiring the bettor to hold the lone successful ticket with the winners of five consecutive races. On cards when there is no single-ticket winner, half of the pool will be paid as consolation to tickets with the most correct and half will go to the carryover. The Black Gold 5 will begin on Race 5 every day and the bet carries a $.50 minimum.

Fair Grounds will also offer rolling Daily Doubles for the first time. Previously available twice per day, a Daily Double will now be offered beginning in every race.

The availability of the Black Gold and rolling Daily Doubles remain subject to the approval of the Louisiana State Racing Commission.

Fair Grounds has added two new handicapping contests this season, including the first-ever Fair Grounds NHC Superqualifier on Dec. 17, with an unprecedented 10 berths to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship on the line.