Fair Grounds Race Course will decrease its purses, effective with this Saturday's card, track officials announced Monday.Purses will decrease between $1,000 and $2,000 per race, depending on race conditions. Additionally, eight stakes races in March will undergo a total of $180,000 in purse reductions.Fair Grounds president and general manager Bryan Krantz cited several reasons for the changes, including a projected decrease in handle because of a third out-of-state simulcast signal being offered in New York and fewer Fair Grounds races simulcast in California; a decrease in the horse population because of a variety of factors within the region, and local issues including a general economic recession and an erosion of video poker revenue.
"We overpaid purses by $1.1 million in 2001-02 and had made adjustments this season to mitigate the fallout from last season," Krantz said. "With the continued downturn in business, we can no longer forestall a purse cut for this year."The only open stakes races affected by the purse changes are the Mardi Gras Handicap on March 4 (new purse $65,000), the Victoria Lass Handicap March 15 ($100,000) and the grade II Explosive Bid Handicap March 23 ($650,000). Also affected are five stakes restricted to Louisiana-breds: the Dixie Poker Ace Handicap on March 2 ($65,000), the Battler Star Handicap March 9 ($65,000), the Gentilly Handicap March 22 ($75,000), the Sarah Lane's Oates Handicap March 29 ($75,000) and the Red Camelia Handicap March 30 ($75,000).Fair Grounds' 131st season continues through March 31.