Fair Grounds Numbers Decline

(from Fair Grounds report)
Fair Grounds Race Course concluded its 2004 winter meet Sunday with across-the-board decreases in daily averages.

A total of $317 million, or an average of $3.96 million per day, was wagered on Fair Grounds races during the 80-day meet. That represented a 6.7% decline from last year's average of $4.25 million.

The average daily attendance of 2,202 was a fraction of a percentage point lower than last season, though handle was 6.5% lower. On-track handle totaled $17.3 million or $216,082 per day.

Fair Grounds attracted a combined 14,160 for New Orleans Handicap, Fair Grounds Oaks and Louisiana Derby days, the largest total in the seven-year history of the track's new grandstand/clubhouse facility. Additionally, Fair Grounds had four crowds of 5,000 or more this season, a first for the new facility.

Total purse distribution exceeded $20 million and averaged more than $250,000 per day for the sixth consecutive season. The $20.77 million distributed was an average of $259,641 per day, 1% lower than last season's $262,267 average.

Field size at the New Orleans track increased nearly 1% for the second consecutive season, to 8.26 starters per race, from last year's 8.19.

Jockey Robby Albarado won 106 races for his fifth Fair Grounds riding title in seven years, one shy of Ronald Ardoin's modern Fair Grounds record of six titles. Albarado, who topped the 100-win mark for the sixth time at Fair Grounds, won his 13th stakes race of the season on the meet's final day, eclipsing Ardoin's single-season record of 12 set in 1993-94.

Steve Asmussen captured his fourth consecutive Fair Grounds trainers' title with 63 wins. Asmussen, who was second in the nation in wins in 2003, leads the nation in wins this year with 142.

Asmussen also won his first owner's title with 16 wins. The owner-trainer title sweep is the first in modern Fair Grounds history.

Turf specialist Mystery Giver, who captured the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) and the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap, was voted Horse of the Meeting in a poll of media and racing officials.