Racing At Fairgrounds

The Fair Grounds Race Course is one of the oldest operating racetracks in America.

It is located in historic Mid-City on Gentilly Blvd. in New Orleans, Louisiana, and has a long, complicated history that has seen it rise from the ashes of war, development, flood and fire.

The grounds upon which Fair Grounds currently sits has been the site of horse racing since before the Civil War.

Union Course opened its first meet on September 25, 1852, conducting its first race for pacers. One year later on April 1, 1853, it staged the first Thoroughbred meeting.

Union Course closed down in 1857 but reopened two years later as Creole Course under the authority of the Metairie Trotting and Pacing Club.

Just two years later, though, the Confederacy assumed control of the grounds and converted it into a military encampment known as Camp Walker.

Union soldiers occupied New Orleans in 1862, and Creole Race Course eventually evolved into the Mechanics and Agriculture Fair Grounds, also called the Louisiana Fair Grounds Course.

Finally in 1871, former members of the Metairie Jockey Club broke away to begin holding meets at the track.

Since then, Fair Grounds has been in continuous operation (aside from a period between 1908 and 1914 when racing was banned in New Orleans and in 2005 after suffering heavy damage due to Hurricane Katrina).

The Metairie Jockey Club reorganized following the war and resumed racing from 1867-1872, but infighting broke out between the old and new guard.

In 1871, the younger members revived the Louisiana Jockey Club, renovated the track and, on April 13, 1872, hosted the inaugural day of racing at Fair Grounds.

In 1873, pari-mutuel wagering was offered to bettors and by 1900 Fair Grounds was the only track in the country that accepted and continued the system.

During that time, Fair Grounds passed through different management hands and organizations before the Locke Law ended racing in 1908 at the New Orleans track for seven years.

Racing resumed on January 1, 1915, but four years later a fire destroyed the grandstand. It took only four days for a temporary facility to be constructed and a 54-day meet took place.

The next 40 years saw such luminaries as WHIRLAWAY, Bill Shoemaker and JOHN HENRY compete at the track.

In 1981, turf racing was introduced as the Stall-Wilson turf course was installed.

Fair Grounds was (again) devastated by a seven-alarm fire on December 17, 1993, which completely destroyed the grandstand, but racing continued after temporary facilities were constructed.

A new grandstand and clubhouse facility opened on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1997, and Fair Grounds soon established itself as a wintering ground for major stables around the country.

Champions and Triple Crown prospects all began using the track to kick off a new season of racing.

Fair Grounds is home to several notable Graded Stakes races, most notably being the Grade II Louisiana Derby (March 25th).

That race is considered a major prep race for the Run for the Roses, and is included in the Road to Kentucky Derby prep series and has points implications for the horses that finish in the top 4.

In the race’s history, only two Winners have gone on to Win the Kentucky Derby: BLACK GOLD (1924) and GRINDSTONE (1996).

This year, the traditional Thanksgiving Day kickoff will give way to an earlier start to the meet, with opening day slated for Friday, November 18th.

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