Address: 1751 Gentilly Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70119
Meeting: The historic Fair Grounds Race Course traditionally hosts a race meet beginning in late November and concluding at the end of March. Along with Gulfstream Park, it is a major destination for horsemen looking to escape the harsher climes of the north during the winter months, and it offers both dirt and turf racing. Boosted by slot revenue, the Fair Grounds produces an extremely lucrative stakes schedule led by the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby, which serves as a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Among the other prestigious races run at the track are the Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, the Grade 2, $400,000 New Orleans Handicap and the Grade 2, $300,000 Muniz Memorial Handicap. Additionally, the track puts on the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star and Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte as part of a series of races that culminate with the Louisiana Derby. With dozens of other stakes races, all featuring sizeable pots, and a strong statebred program, the Fair Grounds meet is must-see racing over the winter.
History: The Fair Grounds is America’s second oldest racetrack in existence, surpassed only by Freehold Raceway in New Jersey. Its origins date back to 1838, when Bernard de Marigny, Julius C. Branch, and Henry Augustine Tayloe organized races on Gentilly Road. At its conception the track was known as the “Louisiana Race Course,” and in 1852 it was renamed the Union Race Course, then the Creole Race Course, and finally in 1863 it was given its current name. The track, which is a major hub for winter racing, first conducted a meet resembling its modern schedule in 1892, when racing was held from December to April. In the early 1940’s the track was very nearly torn down by developers, but was saved by a group of investors looking to preserve its heritage. In 1993, the grandstand was completely destroyed by a seven-alarm fire, and the track was again ravaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, which forced the Fair Grounds to close for more than a year.
Facilities: The current $27 million grandstand/clubhouse was erected in 1997. In late 2008, a dedicated slot-machine facility opened for business. General Admission is free daily, with the exception of Starlight Racing & Specialty Programming ($5) & Louisiana Derby Day ($10). Clubhouse Admission is $10 daily, with the exception of Louisiana Derby Day ($20). Children 12 & under are admitted free every day.