Louisiana Champions Day Nomination Forms are now available online at the following link:
Please print and mail with payment to:
1751 Gentilly Blvd
New Orleans, LA 70119 USA
Make checks payable to FAIR GROUNDS
The 2021 Louisiana Champions Day nominations will be handled by New Orleans Fair Grounds. As soon as Fair Grounds provides the LTBA with nomination forms, the LTBA will post them to our website. Please monitor http://www.louisianabred.com for updates.
Evangeline Downs was fortunate to escape the brunt of the storm.
Hurricane Ida, which battered New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, damaged portions of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, though no on-site injuries were reported.
Photographs forwarded by Fair Grounds president Doug Shipley show a mangled tote board, a downed lighting pole, and roof and wall damage to numerous barns.
“The team at Fair Grounds continues to assess the extensive damage to the property as a result of the impact of Hurricane Ida,” he said in a statement. “While there will be much necessary repair in preparation for our Thoroughbred racing season in November, we are most grateful that our Quarter Horse meet had been relocated this year and therefore there were no horses were on property.
Jazz Fest annually leaves the Fair Grounds grass course in need of recovery.
The recent COVID-19-related cancellation of this fall’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival should leave full turf racing opportunities this fall and winter at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, according to Bernard Chatters, president of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
Fair Grounds annually hosts the music festival, an event known as Jazz Fest, typically in the spring, drawing thousands onto its infield area and leaving its grass course in need of recovery. The event, a staple in New Orleans tourism, was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, and this year it was postponed until the fall before festival officials scrapped it Aug. 8, citing “exponential growth” of COVID-19 cases in the area. It is scheduled to resume next year from April 29-May 8.
Purses Raised Three Times During Banner Meet
New Orleans (March 29, 2021) – Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots wrapped up the 149th season of racing on Sunday, March 28, and while times were a bit more trying because of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, simulcast business was exceptionally strong due to the tremendous support from both horseman and bettors alike. The meet, which kicked off with the traditional Thanksgiving Day opener on November 26, included 76 racing days and it was highlighted, as always, by the 108th running of the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2).
“It was a meet like no other but we are extremely proud of everyone who came together to put out a great product on a day-in, day-out basis,” Fair Grounds senior director of racing Jason Boulet said. “We are extremely grateful to the horseman and our fans and bettors for their continued support throughout the meet.”
The meet reached its zenith on March 20, when the Louisiana Derby highlighted a robust 14-race card that included eight stakes. Known as “the big three” for their accomplishments at the meet, Lecomte (G3) winner Midnight Bourbon, Risen Star (G2) victor Mandaloun, and Proxy, who was the runner-up in both of those races, would meet again in the Louisiana Derby, but it was Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, and William Strauss’ California invader Hot Rod Charlie who would post the gate to wire victory for trainer of record Leandro Mora (Doug O’Neill). The Oxbow colt earned 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve in the process.
The co-featured TwinSires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) once again played out to be a key prep for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). Carded one race prior to the Louisiana Derby, the Fair Grounds Oaks was billed as the battle between budding rivals in OXO Equine’s Travel Column, trained by Brad Cox, and Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Clairiere, trained by Steve Asmussen. The pair had split their previous two encounters, with Travel Column taking the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill and Clairiere turning the tables in locally run Rachel Alexandra (G2) in February. Travel Column got the jump on Clairiere to win the Fair Grounds Oaks, and the duo once again ran one-two in what was a sure precursor to the Kentucky Oaks.
In a race that brought that much more of a national scope to one of the biggest days of the year in New Orleans, Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam, arguably the best turf course in the country off his win in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), invaded to take the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Louisiana Derby Day card also marked the return of a small number of fans to Fair Grounds for the first time in over a year as the effects of COVID-19 forced the track to conduct live racing with no patrons, as only essential employees, licensed horsemen (including owners) and credentialed media were allowed on track. A select group of tickets were sold to the general public and marked a welcome, albeit brief, return of the fans who have long supported local racing and made Fair Grounds one of the best racing venues in the country.
Trainer Ron Faucheux won his coveted first ever trainer’s title with 40 wins, while dethroning four-time defending champion and Eclipse Award winner Brad Cox (37 wins) in the process. Both 11-time local titlist Tom Amoss (35), as well as Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen (33), made runs at Faucheux, with the former holding the lead for much of the meet, while Joe Sharp completed the top-5 with 23 wins. Faucheux scored a stakes win with Monte Man in the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint in December and in the end the New Orleans native was too strong from start-to-finish to secure a title that clearly hit close to home.
“It means the world,” Faucheux said. “Being here, being from New Orleans and coming to this track since I was a child. This is what it’s all about. We have so many people that put their faith in us. I have some great owners. I have the best help. This is my track; this is the best track in the country, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s a privilege and an honor to be a part of it.”
Cox, who was in contention for a five-peat until the penultimate day of racing, left with plenty of hardware of his own. He won the Oaks with Travel Column and the Risen Star (G2) Presented by Lamarque Ford-Lincoln with Mandaloun, along with three other stakes. Asmussen had a strong meet as well, winning six stakes. Clairiere’s win in the Rachel Alexandra was the barn highlight, though Midnight Bourbon flashed his Kentucky Derby form when he won the Lecomte (G3) in January to kick off the local 3-year-old stakes series. Asmussen also posted his remarkable 100thcareer Fair Grounds stakes when Joy’s Rocket captured the Letellier Memorial on December 19.
James Graham not only repeated to win the jockey’s title for the third time, but he obliterated his total of 63 wins last year, posting a seismic 88 on the board to hold off Adam Beschizza (85), with Mitchell Murrill (73) nabbing a podium finish as well. Colby Hernandez (69) bested his brother Brian (56) to round out the top-5.
“It means everything,” Graham said. “We kept digging away and plowing through and doing what we had to do. My stock ran really good this year and everything ran accordingly. It’s been a fantastic meet. You can’t race anywhere better in the wintertime; Fair Grounds is the best. I’m over the moon and ecstatic.”
Beschizza, buoyed by eight stakes wins, led all jockeys in purses earned with $3,115,764, edging Graham, who checked in with $2,996,153. Brian Hernandez Jr. and Florent Geroux also enjoyed strong meets with seven stakes wins apiece.
The owners’ race went down to the wire as well, with Godolphin edging Chester Thomas’ Allied Racing Stable 13-12, with End Zone Athletics checking in third with 11. Maggi Moss (9) was fourth, with Evelyn Benoit’s Brittlyn Stable, Wayne T. Davis (8), Whispering Oaks Farm, and Winalot Racing rounding out the top-5 with eight wins apiece.
Godolphin led in purses won with $767,440, with the heavy lifting coming from Maxfield, who scored stakes wins in the Tenacious in December and Louisiana (G3) in January for trainer Brendan Walsh. In addition, their Proxy was second in the in the Lecomte and Risen Star, and fourth in the Derby, for trainer Mike Stidham.
Twelve horses won at least three races at the meet, with All Fact and Treys Midnight Moon leading the way with four each. Big Time, Dalika (Ger), Elle Z, Logical Myth, Maxfield all won two stakes at the meet.
On Saturday, February 27, Fair Grounds hosted “New Vocations Day at the Races”. Hosted on the simulcast show by retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, a four-time local champion, and Fair Grounds personality Joe Kristufek, the event was created in order to raise the awareness of all aspects of racehorse aftercare. In addition to on-line donations, several jockeys, trainers and owners contributed a percentage of that day’s earnings, and over $8,000 was raised to help support the Louisiana division of New Vocations.
Both Handle and betting support were strong from Opening Day to Closing Day, no doubt helped by the elimination of the Black Gold 5, a jackpot Pk5 bet which was replaced by a traditional early and late Pk5, which were welcomed by handicappers. As a result, from the strong simulcast handle, management was able to raise purses 10% across the board three separate times at the meet, which only strengthened an already sterling local product. And while the often-unpredictable local weather made turf racing a challenge, racing secretary Scott Jones was more than happy with the end result, while eagerly looking ahead to a milestone 150th season next November.
“We would like to thank all the horsemen for their continued support which makes Fair Grounds one of the premier winter destinations and I’m looking forward to our 150th season,” Jones said. “Considering it was one of the wettest winters in New Orleans and all the other challenges, handle was very strong and we were able to raise purses three times at the meet.”
Landry Star Wins Third Stakes in Last Five Starts
As they like to say, ‘The waiting is the hardest part.’ Loaded entering the far turn with nowhere to go in the $75,000 Shantel Lanerie Memorial for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares, Mitchell Murrill and Rodney Verret’s Saints N Muskets bided their time, found a seam in midstretch, and kicked clear for a convincing 2-length win over Snowball in the penultimate 2020-21 stakes race at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Saints N Muskets ($10.20) alternated between third and fourth while on the rail early in the Lanerie, as longshot Crescentcitypretty set an honest pace of 24.71 and 48.19, in what was a tight-knit field of six. The field bunched that much more entering the far turn as Murrill and Saint N Muskets drafted into contention while behind a wall of horses, with little to do but wait and hope for an opening. Said opening emerged in midstretch between a tiring Crescentcitypretty and Quikfast N Ahurry and Murrill produced Saints N Muskets, who burst through and pulled clear over a wide rallying Snowball. She’s Gone d’Wild finished a nose behind Snowball for the place, while 1.80-1 favorite Net a Bear, stablemate to the winner, finished fourth. Saints N Muskets covered the 1-mile and 70 yards over a fast main track in 1:42.81.
“It worked out perfect,” Murrill said. “The horse broke sharp, I was able to save ground in the pocket and wait for my time to go. Things opened up for me at the head of the lane and I was able to squeeze though.”
Saints N Muskets has morphed from an allowance/fringe stakes contender early in her career to a proven Louisiana-bred star over the past several for trainer Allen Landry. The 6-year-old daughter of Musket Man ended 2020 with a win in the Lookout at Delta Downs in November and started 2021 with a win there in January in the Magnolia. After running second to Quikfast N Ahurry at Delta in the Premier Distaff in February Landry brought her to Fair Grounds where she tuned up for the Lanerie running seventh in her turf debut in the March 6 Red Camelia. Needless to say, Saints N Muskets, who is now 6-for-19 lifetime, won’t be heading back to the lawn any time soon.
“She’s a much better horse on the dirt, she didn’t seem to like the turf at all,” Landry said. “I expected Saints N Muskets would be a little closer but Mitchell said he just sat there and waited for his time until it opened up.”
The Shantel Lanerie is named for the late wife of longtime jockey Corey Lanerie, who passed away in June of 2018 due to complications from breast cancer. Information on her foundation can be found here https://shantellaneriefoundation.com.
Veteran Gamely Holds Off Favored Jus Lively in a Thriller
New Orleans (March 27, 2021) – Bruised foot be damned, Aubrie Green wasn’t going to miss a chance to ride Pound for Pound. Shaking off a Friday afternoon trip to the hospital after her foot was stepped on, Green climbed aboard her beloved Pound for Perfect and delivered a perfectly timed ride to hold off a hard-charging Jus Lively by a length in the $75,000 Star Guitar for Louisiana breds, which closed down the stakes action at the 2020-21 Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meet.
Green won for the fourth time in a row on Israel Flores Horses’ Pound for Pound, a 6-year-old son of Redding Colliery, though the streak was in serious jeopardy some 24 hours before. Green was tossed from a mount on the Friday card and had her foot stepped on, which prompted her to take off her remaining mounts. X-rays proved negative, the bandages went on, and Green pronounced herself fit to ride. Not that there was ever any doubt in her mind.
“I said if it’s broken, we are just going to wrap that thing up and I’m going to ride this race,” Green said. “This horse is my whole world. I love him. He is my best friend. I’ve never been so in sync with a horse before. He just does everything for me. He gives me all of his heart every single time. It doesn’t matter what the odds are.”
Pound for Pound ($16.40) has done his best running setting or pressing the early pace but Green got him to settle a bit more in the Star Guitar, as they tracked loose leader Maga Man in second through pedestrian fractions of 25.12 and 49.95, which 3-2 favorite Just Lively was just a length back in third. The cadence, if not the order, quickened entering the far turn and Pound for Pound wrestled a short lead from Maga Man approaching midstretch, with Jus Lively in hot pursuit. Pound for Pound drifted off his line slightly while Jus Lively took second but had plenty left in reserve to score for the eighth time in 25 career starts for trainer Andrea Ali.
Pound for Pound won for the fourth straight time with Green aboard, dating back to a Delta Downs allowance in December 2019, along with the Louisiana Champions Day Classic here in December 2019 and an optional-claiming win here in January. The Star Guitar played out exactly as Green had it mapped out in her mind.
“I knew Maga Man was going to try to go,” Green said. “I figured if I get the lead easy, I’ll take it, but if he goes, I’m going to sit right off of him. We were going pretty slow right off the bat so I just held him right on his hip. Down the backstretch I asked him just a little bit just to make sure he knew we were still in the race because he gets a little lackadaisical.”
Ali, based primarily at Delta, shipped in Pound for Pound earlier in the meet and his stable star continued his affinity for the Fair Grounds oval, as that made it 8-3-3-0 locally. One of those second-place finishes was by a neck in the 2019 Star Guitar, when Green and Pound for Pound led every step but the last few. The pair made amends Saturday, in what was undoubtedly a team effort.
“This is the best horse Mr. Flores has had so far,” Ali said. “The whole team, from the grooms to the riders, have done a good job with this horse. Aubrie wins with him all the time. I don’t give her any instructions. She knows the horse.”
The Star Guitar is named in honor of the richest Louisiana-bred ever, a Brittlyn Stable homebred who earned $1.749 million in a distinguished 30-24-0-2 career that included 22 stakes wins for trainer Al Stall Jr.
State-bred Star Gets Loose Pre-Race, Still Holds Off Stablemate
To say trainer Bret Calhoun had some anxious moments prior to the $100,000 Crescent City Derby would be like saying Saints fans won’t miss Drew Brees.
Allied Racing Stable’s homebred Who Took the Money, the overwhelming .40-1 favorite, decided to give his 11 3-year-old rivals a fighting chance when he flipped over in the post parade, tossed jockey Gabe Saez, and briefly ran off. Once corralled and deemed fit to run by a state veterinarian, he was all business, rallying along the rail and holding off his game stablemate Highland Creek by a nose.
“He’s a big strong horse and he’s still learning is lessons,” Calhoun said. “Both the horse and jockey were very game in their performances.”
Who Took the Money settled in sixth early on behind longshot leaders Wise Verdict and Wrongwayhighway, while Highland Creek settled in third. The field bunched entering the far turn when Adam Beschizza and Highland Creek opted to tip out wide, while Saez and Who Took the Money held the rail, and scooted through the large opening inside when the leaders fanned off the turn. Who Took the Money kicked clear but Highland Creek was resolute, though he ultimate came up short, with the winner traveling the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.73. It was a length back to Unanimously in third.
Saez was been aboard Who Took the Money in both of his prior two starts and chalked up the pre-race incident to bad luck. But once the gates opened, it was business as usual.
“It was just one of those things that happens every so often,” Saez said. “I was able to save ground on the inside and got through and he kicked on from there.”
Who Took the Money has come a long way in a short period of time for Calhoun, as he was an unraced maiden on the morning of February 5 and is now 3-for-3 and a stakes winner. Wild and hard to handle early on, Calhoun opted to geld the son of Street Boss prior to his career debut and Who Took the Money won by 4 ½ lengths. He entered off another easy win in a March 6 two-turn state-bred allowance, and is now 3-for-3.
Calhoun and Allied’s owner Chester Thomas teamed to win the Louisiana Derby (G2) in 2019 with By My Standards, and while Who Took the Money isn’t in that class, the latter still had plenty of reason to celebrate.
“We’re having a lot of fun with these Louisiana breds,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to give it to Gabe, what a heart, he rode a wonderful race. What can you say, Bret and everyone has done a great job.”