Although it was known at the time as the Union Race Course, horse racing has been taking place at what today is called Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, Louisiana since 1852, making it the third oldest horse racing track in the United States, behind Freehold Raceway (New Jersey) and Saratoga Race Course (New York). Today, Fair Grounds offers live racing from mid-November through to the first weekend of April and ends every meet with the running of the Louisiana Derby. Although Fair Grounds does not host a Grade 1 stakes race, there are several Grade 2 and 3 stakes run every year, as well as 18 other ungraded stakes. As well as live racing and simulcasting, Fair Grounds also includes a racino with slot-machine gaming.
Fair Grounds Picks
While New Orleans is one of America’s great cities to visit, it of course is not possible for everyone to travel there to take in live racing. But you can still make your Fair Grounds picks online with an account through one of these racebooks.
Fair Grounds Racetrack Racing Tips
Every year Fair Grounds hosts a trio of races for three-year-old horses that are part of the Kentucky Derby qualifying series, whereby horses that finish in the top four in each race earn points toward gaining a spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May.
The first of the races is the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, held toward the end of January. The Lecomte is run at a distance of 1 mile and 70 yards on the dirt track, and in 2016 offered a total purse of $200,000. While the distance of the Lecomte would suggest the race sets up well for front-running sprinters, last year’s race turned that theory on its head, as both the first and second-place finishers – Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready – came from the back of the pack to rally down the lane and get up for the top two spots.
One month after the Lecomte, the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes stretches the distance to 1 1/16 miles, and doubles the purse to $400,000. In 2016, the Risen Star was won by Gun Runner, who would go on to figure prominently in big races throughout the summer, finishing third in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes and second in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, before winning the Grade 1 Clark Handicap in November. Running second in the Risen Star was Forevemo at odds of 40-1, combining with the 5-1 Gun Runner to produce a $2 exacta payout of $335.
The Fair Grounds season wraps up with the $1 million Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on the first Saturday of April, run at the distance of 1 1/8 miles, also on the dirt. Once again, Gun Runner proved the best of the field in 2016, this time in convincing fashion as he pulled away through the stretch run to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Also in similar fashion to the Risen Star, a longshot came second, although this time it was Lecomte runner-up Tom’s Ready at odds of 30-1 for an exacta payout of $187.
One of the most popular winners of the Louisiana Derby was Grindstone, who took the race in 1996 at odds of 6-1, and then went on to win the Kentucky Derby after running second in the Arkansas Derby. Trailing by eight lengths with a quarter-mile to run in the Kentucky Derby, Grindstone came roaring down the stretch to pass seven other horses and take the win by a nose at the wire. Unfortunately, just a few days later bone chips were discovered in Grindstone’s knee, and he was retired from racing, the first horse to be retired immediately following a Kentucky Derby win in 70 years.