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Fair Grounds.

Timing, Photo Finish

Client Description

September 2004 – Churchill Downs Incorporated purchases Fair Grounds and its affiliated OTBs for $47 million. U.S. Bankruptcy Court approves the sale Sept. 24 and the acquisition becomes final Oct. 15. Randy Soth named president.

2005 – Summerly wins the Fair Grounds Oaks and the Kentucky Oaks, the second consecutive year a filly has accomplished the feat. Fair Grounds introduces new stakes schedule, creating major event days. Louisiana Derby, New Orleans Handicap and Fair Grounds Oaks are run on same day (March 12) for the first time.

August 2005 – Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in New Orleans on Aug. 29. The subsequent failure of federal levees constructed and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers leaves 80% of the city flooded. The Grandstand roof is torn open by wind, resulting in significant damage to the Clubhouse seating area, and most of the property is flooded. Fair Grounds officials, working with state regulators, shorten the 2005-06 season to 37 days and transfer the meet to Louisiana Downs, marking the first winter without racing in New Orleans in 91 years.

2006 – The shortened “Fair Grounds at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs” meet is run at the Bossier City, La. racetrack, with an abbreviated stakes schedule that does not include the track’s biggest races like the Louisiana Derby and Fair Grounds Oaks. Fair Grounds is partially rebuilt in time to host the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in late April, and other restorations are done in time for start of 135th racing season on Thanksgiving Day, where a facility record crowd of 8,732 welcomes racing back to New Orleans.

2007 – Preakness winner Curlin, with the trainer/jockey combination of Fair Grounds regulars Steve Asmussen and Robby Albarado, trains in New Orleans for a month. A temporary Slots facility with up to 250 machines opens Sept. 21 in the Derby Building while construction begins on a permanent casino.

2008 – Proud Spell wins the Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks, the third filly to pull off the feat in the four most recent runnings of the Fair Grounds Oaks. Austin Miller assumes responsibility for racing operations upon the departure of track president Randy Soth. Miller named president Oct. 27, 2008, after 17 months as vice president and general manager of gaming and OTB operations. Eric Halstrom, formerly of Canterbury Park, simultaneously named vice president and general manager for racing. A permanent slots facility covering 33,000 square feet and holding more than 600 state-of-the-art gaming machines opens Nov. 14.

2009 – Friesan Fire sweeps all three of Fair Grounds’ graded stakes for 3-year-olds, earning the distinction of post time favorite in the Kentucky Derby. Rachel Alexandra wins the Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks, the fourth filly to pull off the feat in the five most recent runnings of the Fair Grounds Oaks, en route to a historic Horse of the Year campaign.

2010 – Rachel Alexandra becomes the first reigning Horse of the Year to start at Fair Grounds since Whirlaway in 1942 as she finishes second in the inaugural New Orleans Ladies, her 4-year-old debut. Tim Bryant named new president of Fair Grounds on April 20, taking over for Miller, who was named president of CDI’s Calder Race Course. Blame, who spent the winter training at Fair Grounds with New Orleans native trainer Al Stall Jr., wins a dramatic Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs over previously undefeated mare Zenyatta.

140 Years and Counting

2011 – The Louisiana Derby carries a $1 million purse, the first seven-figure race ever run in New Orelans. Rosie Napravnik becomes the first woman to win the leading jockey title at Fair Grounds with 110 wins, including the Louisiana Derby aboard Pants On Fire. The Fair Grounds Hall of Fame hosts its first induction ceremony since before Hurricane Katrina, inducting trainer Steve Asmussen and horses Peace Rules and Rachel Alexandra. Fair Grounds opens its 140th Thoroughbred Racing Season on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24.

Client Details

  • Client Fair Grounds
  • Date March 28, 2014
  • Tags Thoroughbred
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