Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Fair Grounds to Open Even Earlier in 2009

Fair Grounds will begin its fall/winter meet even earlier this year.

The meet at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots got a little bit longer calendar-wise in 2008-09, and it will get even longer in 2009-10.

The Louisiana racetrack said April 27 it received Louisiana State Racing Commission approval to begin its Thoroughbred meet Nov. 6, the earliest starting date in track history. Last year, Fair Grounds opened Nov. 14; traditionally, the meet began Thanksgiving Day.

The start of the Fair Grounds meet will now overlap almost entirely with the Churchill Downs fall meet. Both tracks are owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

Though the 2009-10 meet will cover more of the calendar, total requested racing days will drop from 87 in 2008-09 to 85. The meet will end March 28, 2010.

“The additional week of racing allows us to open our season on the same weekend as the Breeders’ Cup World Championships,” Fair Grounds vice president and general manager of racing Eric Halstrom said in a statement. “By spreading out our schedule, we will also reduce the number of five-day racing weeks, which should enable us to enhance our day-to-day product.”

The 21-week schedule will feature racing every Friday through Sunday except for Christmas Day. The track will race on Thursdays from Thanksgiving and in December, except Christmas Eve, and on Mondays from Dec. 7 through the end of the season.

Thus, racing will be held five days a week in December, but for the most part four days a week the other months. The Mardi Gras Day card will be held Feb. 16, a Tuesday, and a special live program will be offered March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Wednesday.

The Fair Grounds meet follows the Harrah’s Louisiana Downs meet, which ends Oct. 4.