Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Fair Grounds Oaks.

Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Fair Grounds Oaks.

Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Fair Grounds Oaks Upped to $500,000

Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Fair Grounds Oaks on her way to Horse of the Year.

The purse for the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) March 26 has been boosted to $500,000 from $400,000, making it the richest prep race for 3-year-old fillies pointing to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 6.

Four of the last seven winners of the Fair Grounds Oaks have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks: Rachel Alexandra (2009), Proud Spell (2008), Summerly (2005) and Ashado (2004).

Fair Grounds also announced a $50,000 increase for the Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) March 26 for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on turf, bringing its purse to $400,000. Cumulatively, the six March 26 stakes--led by the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles and also including the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap for older horses at 1 1/8 miles, the $150,000 Duncan Kenner Stakes for older horses at six furlongs, and the $100,000 Bayou Handicap for older females at 1 1/16 miles on turf--are now worth $2.55 million, further extending its claim as the richest day of racing in state history.

In addition, three Louisiana-bred stakes on March 25 have been bumped from $60,000 to $75,000 apiece: the Costa Rising Stakes for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, the Red Camelia Stakes for older females at 1 1/16 miles on turf, and the Bayou St. John Stakes for older horses at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. Along with the Crescent City Oaks and Crescent City Derby, already worth $75,000 each, the five-stakes Louisiana-bred extravaganza billed as “Battle On the Bayou” kicks off the final weekend of the season.

To encourage attractive field sizes on the three-day closing weekend, March 25-27, Fair Grounds will add 25% to the purse of any overnight race that has a field of 10 or more at the time horses leave the paddock.

“Due to the strength of our local businesses--live racing, casino gaming, and video poker--we’re able to add some additional funds to the purses during the last week of our meet,” said Fair Grounds vice president and general manager Eric Halstrom. “Increasing the purses on certain stakes is consistent with our continued effort to attract the best horses in the country to New Orleans and the bonuses on the overnight races for full fields will benefit the horsemen who have stayed with us through the end of our season, not to mention the value-seeking bettors.”