Fair Grounds Race Course
Originally called the Union Course, the first horse race on the site of what is now Fair Grounds Race Course was held on September 25, 1852 and was for pacing horses, with the first thoroughbred race held on April 1, 1853. The course closed and reopened in 1859 as the Creole Course, and then shut down in 1861 to 1863.
Fair Grounds Race Track Layout
Following the Great Depression and World War II, the modern era of racing began at Fair Grounds with a complete rebuild of the track surface in 1947. Disaster would strike the Fair Grounds in 1993 when a fire destroys the grandstand, although racing would resume in just 19 days after a temporary structure is built.
Track History & Quick Facts
Following the end of the US Civil War, racing at the Fair Grounds would encounter a mixture of success and failure, as a number of different ownerships and management groups would be in charge of racing. During this time a number of colorful figures in American history would be associated with the track, including Pat Garrett, the man who killed Billy the Kid, and who raced a stable there in 1893, and Frank James, brother of Jesse, who worked as a “betting commissioner” in 1902. World Heavyweight boxing champions Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney both would visit the track to watch races named in their honor.
In 1950 the great jockey Bill Shoemaker would make Fair Grounds his home track for the final month of the season in which he would win his first national riding title. Over the course of the 1977-78 Winter meet, John Henry would begin his career in modest fashion with two second place finishes in nine starts, before becoming a two-time Horse of the Year in the early 80s. The year 1984 would see Wild Again win the New Orleans Handicap, his first stakes victory, before claiming the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic.
In 1996, Grindstone would set the stakes record in the Louisiana Derby, and six weeks later captures the Kentucky Derby, the first horse to complete the Louisiana-Kentucky double in more than 70 years. War Emblem, after starting three times at Fair Grounds, would win the 2002 Kentucky Derby, while Funny Cide, runner up in the Louisiana Derby, would take the Run for the Roses in 2003.
Tragedy strikes again in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina causes severe damage to the track and grandstand, forcing management to move racing to Louisiana Downs for a shortened 37-day meet, marking the first time without winter racing at Fair Grounds in 91 years. But things are back on track in time for the 2006 season, and in 2009 the great filly Rachael Alexander would win both the Louisiana Oaks and the Kentucky Oaks, on her way to being named Horse of the Year.
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