Promotions, Personnel, Stakes Schedule Among Developments at Fair Grounds

Ever since the Oct. 15 purchase of Fair Grounds by Churchill Downs Inc., new track president Randy Soth hasn't been getting much sleep.

"The past six weeks have been a blur," Soth said. "I was waking up at 3 o'clock in the morning, concerned if we had everything covered and writing down ideas and notes on a yellow legal pad I kept by the bed."

Most of Soth's plans in the initial transition phase have concerned people. "The entire company is going through a process of change management," Soth explained, "with the emphasis on utilizing all resources and providing quality depth at every position. It's easier to move a person than to move a grader from Hollywood Park to New Orleans."

With that logic in mind, the new track announcer at Fair Grounds is John Dooley, who call the races at Arlington Park. "There was a void in his work schedule," said Soth. "So it made sense to bring him down with us. Besides, John is one of these individuals who is willing to volunteer and do anything to help the racetrack succeed."

Marketing promotions like "Pigskins and Ponies" draw on local interest in football and horse racing. Twin Spire Club members who pick three pro football game winners and the winner of three horse races win $1,000. Another promotion called the "Triple Play" involves matching three numbers coded on a voucher sent to Twin Spire Club members with the trifecta order of finish on all races specific to the day of the promotion. Worth $100, there were eight winners Dec. 19.

There has been significant re-design of the stakes schedule. Stakes that used to be spread out are now compressed into one day. On March 12, the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), and New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) will all go on the same card. "With these big event days, we expect not only local interest but national attention," said Soth.

Soth views the traditional organizational pyramid as being inverted. "If customer services is going to be a major initiative here at Fair Grounds then executive management's role is to serve and support the front line employees. We don't see them as being at the bottom."