LOUISIANA DOWNS ANNOUNCES THE RETURN OF THE SUPER DERBY IN 2023

Bossier City, LA – With support of our horsemen the return of Super Derby is being postponed until 2023. This move will allow us to realize the benefit of adding revenue from the Historical Horse Racing machines, the additional Off Track Betting locations, and sportsbook that will contribute to the purse structure. Additionally, we are adding over one hundred new slot machines to the casino floor which will increase our slot revenue therefore enhancing our future purse structure. We truly want to position this special race to be nationally recognized and better support our local horsemen who support our track by choosing to race here. We want to highlight Louisiana Downs in the best way possible and ensure we can provide a unique experience to guests whether it be for the first time or for a return visit. We invite you out to experience the track if you haven’t joined us recently and we look forward to the remainder of the season. With construction beginning next week on our restaurant offerings and additional improvements continuing at the racetrack, we are working to put Louisiana Downs back on the map. While we have already announced some exciting changes, there is more to come! We want to make sure we are putting Louisiana Downs in the best possible position for growth, which is why postponing this event is the best decision at this time.

 

“All the horsemen here are for the postponing of the Super Derby. With the current purse cuts for the remainder of the season we feel giving $300,000 to one day of racing doesn’t support the local horsemen who are here every week. Let’s give the new slots, the HHR machines, and the OTB locations time to produce purse revenue which supports hosting a large race like Super Derby. Postponing the event until next year is what is in the best interest of the horsemen and the property.”  -Shane Wilson, current Louisiana Downs meet Leading Trainer

 

“I think this is definitely the right decision to postpone the event given the current purse structure. With the different forms of gaming, which will increase purses in the future, this is a great long-term event to have, just definitely not this year. Bottom line is I am excited about the future at Louisiana Downs with Kevin and Matt and better Louisiana racing overall. This is very exciting from a horsemen’s standpoint.”  -Ron Faucheux, Thoroughbred Horse trainer and LAHBPA Board Member

 

“I came to Louisiana Downs in the middle of July and with figures from accounting we decided to lower the overnight purse distribution for our 5th condition book with all intentions of getting back up for the last condition book in September. That being said, my recommendation was to not run Super Derby this season. We have serious plans to bring back our premier race in 2023 with hopes of attracting an outstanding field for the race.” – Matt Crawford, Louisiana Downs Racing Secretary

 

“While we were excited to potentially bring the Super Derby back this year we simply feel it’s not in the best interest of the property or horseman at this time.  We value our relationship with the horseman and have been working hard to bring this property back to its iconic status.  Ultimately, the closing of our acquisition simply did not allow us enough time to truly set Louisiana Downs apart and put us on the map from a timing perspective with the Super Derby.  Over the course of the last 7 months, we’ve been able to make significant improvements to our infrastructure as well as improve various areas on both the backside and frontside of our property.  We are gearing up to open our Mound OTB with new HHR machines on August 18th and have submitted locations to the Racing Commission for additional locations.  Additionally, we’ve added new slot machines to our gaming floor which will significantly help with slot revenues and we continue to add games weekly.  Finally, we will begin construction on new restaurant offerings next week that will enhance our customer experiences.  With all those things said, we feel the property will be in a much better situation next year when the HHR, Sportsbook, and OTB revenues truly kick in which will significantly add to our purse structure not to mention our restaurant offerings and continued improvements to the property which will truly put Louisiana Downs in the spotlight and in a much better position for great things ahead.” – Kevin Preston, Louisiana Downs President

 

 

About Louisiana Downs

Located near Shreveport in Bossier City, Louisiana, Louisiana Downs opened in 1974 and is now owned by Rubico Acquisition Corporation. With annual Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing seasons, the track is committed to presenting the highest quality racing programs paired with its 150,000 square foot entertainment complex offering casino gambling, dining and plasma screen televisions for sports and simulcast racing.

 

Faucheux, Graham, Brittlyn Stables Take Home Meet Titles as Fair Grounds Closes Out 150th Season of Racing

Top Kentucky Derby contender Epicenter puts on a season-long show

 

(New Orleans, Louisiana – Tuesday, March 29, 2022) – Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots wrapped up its sesquicentennial (150th) season of racing on Sunday, March 27, and although the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida (late August/early September) offered plenty of challenges, fans were welcomed back to the facility as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed and business was solid 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 80 racing days and it was highlighted, as always, by the 109thrunning of the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2).

“The damage to the barn area, parts of the facility and the loss of the infield tote board due to Hurricane Ida leading into our meet caused some challenges, but we are New Orleans, and we are resilient,” Fair Grounds senior director of racing Jason Boulet said. “We are extremely proud of everyone who came together to put out a great product on a day-in, day-out basis and as always, we are extremely grateful to the horseman for their continued support throughout the meet. The return of the fans after a difficult, prolonged stretch with the COVID-19 pandemic brought renewed energy to the racetrack, and we look forward to what should be a very special 2022-23 season.”

As the calendar turned over to 2022, Fair Grounds announced a 15% across the board purse increase and the meet reached its zenith on March 26, when the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) highlighted a robust 12-race card that included eight stakes. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter, who earlier in the meet won the inaugural Gun Runner Stakes and the Risen Star (G2) presented by Lamarque Ford, captured Fair Grounds’ signature event over Zozos and Pioneer of Medina, establishing a new track record for 1 3/16ths miles in the process. The Not This Time colt now storms into Louisville as one of the favorites for the 148th Run for the Roses for trainer Steve Asmussen, who hopes to add a first Kentucky Derby win to his amazing resume.

The co-featured TwinSires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) marked the sophomore debut of 2021 Two-Year-Old Filly Champion Echo Zulu, and the Eclipse Award winner did not disappoint, scoring a gate-to-wire victory over a hard-charging Hidden Connection to remain undefeated from five starts for owners L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds and trainer Steve Asmussen. It was a banner Louisiana Derby Day for Asmussen and jockey Joel Rosario, who teamed up to win five races on the card.

On the Louisiana Derby Day undercard, Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stable and LNJ Foxwoods’ Olympiad won the New Orleans Classic (G2) as the odds-on favorite under Junior Alvarado, nearly breaking the nine furlong track record in the process for trainer Bill Mott. Earlier in the meet, the son of Speightstown shaved .01 off the 1 1/16 mile track record when winning the Mineshaft (G3). In the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) presented by Horse Racing Nation, Two Emmys took the field gate to wire for Wolfe Racing, owner/trainer Hugh Robertson and the meet’s leading rider James Graham.

Louisiana native Ron Faucheux won his second consecutive training title with 43 wins, ten more than four-time champion and Brad Cox (33), who was named the Eclipse Award winner for the second consecutive year in 2021. 11-time local titlist Tom Amoss, Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Chris Hartman and Bret Calhoun tied for third with 29 wins apiece, and Jose Camejo, who trains for the meet’s leading owner Brittlyn Stables, was next with 27.

Faucheux won three stakes at the meet, including a repeat score with fan favorite Monte Man in the Louisiana Champions’ Day Sprint. The meet highlights for Cox were his upset win with Turnerloose in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) presented by Fasig-Tipton and a victory by Mandaloun in the Louisiana (G3), a race in which he defeated arch rival Midnight Bourbon in the process. Amoss bagged a pair of turf stakes for 3-year-olds, winning the Black Gold with Dowagiac Chief and the Lacombe Memorial with Kneesnhips. Calhoun won four stakes with four different horses – Lovely Ride (Pago Hop), Who Took the Money (Louisiana Champions’ Day Turf), Excess Magic (Woodchopper) and Winning Romance (Shantel Lanerie Memorial). Hartman scored the 1,500th win of his career on February 4 with Ekati’s Verve, and his turf sprint mare Elle Z won three stakes at the meet – the Menard Memorial, the Aime Memorial and the Mardi Gras. Camejo took down a pair of stakes with Ova Charged (Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint and the Page Cortex) and added another with Behemah Star (Star Guitar).

With 72 wins, James Graham captured his fourth Fair Grounds riding title and third in a row. His top moment came when Call Me Midnight posted a 27-1 upset over eventual Risen Star and Louisiana Derby winner Epicenter in the Lecomte (G3) for trainer Keith Desormeaux. With a late surge, Mitchell Murrill, who won his 1,000th career race on February 6 aboard Yin Yang in what was his first ever mount for trainer Brad Cox, surged late for second with 62 wins. Colby Hernandez, who led the way most of the meet, wound up third with 60 scores. Brian Hernandez, Jr., who led all local riders in percentage with 22% and Reylu Gutierrez, in his first season at Fair Grounds, rounded out the top five with 53 and 51 wins respectively.

Adam Beschizza, who finished sixth in the standings, scored his 500th career win in North America on January 29 aboard the Joe Sharp-trained Holy Emperor. Graham and Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. were the only two riders to win as many as five races on a single card. Jack Gilligan and Gabriel Saez both returned from extended injury rehabs to score victories at the meet.

The owners’ race was dominated from start to finish by Evelyn Benoit’s Brittlyn Stable, who won 22 races at an amazing 33% clip, all with horses sired by her Clear Creek Farm’s stallion and Louisiana legend Star Guitar. It was the first local title for Brittlyn Stables, who nearly tripled their eight-win total from the 2020-21 meet. Allied Racing Stable of Chester Thomas finished second with 14 wins, and last year’s champ Godolphin checked in third with ten.

Following a break for the Christmas Holiday, Fair Grounds returned with a newly anointed “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” card on December 26. The program offered six stakes and featured a pair of brand-new added money events for the late season 2-year-olds, each offering 10-4-2-1 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks respectively – the Gun Runner (won by Epicenter) and the Untapable (won by North County).

On Saturday, February 12, Fair Grounds hosted the second annual “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 raised over $5,000 and awareness for all aspects of racehorse aftercare. In addition to on-line donations, several jockeys, trainers and owners contributed a percentage of that day’s earnings to help support the Louisiana division of New Vocations.

Buoyed by a track record handle recorded on a spectacular 14-race “Louisiana Derby Preview Day” card on February 19, handle and betting support were strong from opening day to closing day, no doubt helped by the increased popularity of the traditional Pick Five, following the elimination of the Black Gold 5 “jackpot” wager last season.

“We would like to thank all the horsemen for their continued support which makes Fair Grounds one of the premier winter destinations,” Fair Grounds racing secretary Scott Jones said. “With daily purses expected to noticeably increase and a strong stakes schedule, we are looking extremely forward to the 2022-23 Thoroughbred racing season.”

Special Win for Faucheux as Mangelsen Wires Johnston Memorial

Mangelsen with jockey Jareth Loveberry aboard get a head in front of Treys Midnight Moon to win the 42nd running of the Edward J. Johnston Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favored Who Took the Money scratched after flipping in the gate

New Orleans, LA (March 5, 2022) — All stakes victories are sweet, but this one touched trainer Ron Faucheux deeply. Though this is the 42nd running of the $60,000 Edward J. Johnston Memorial Stakes, 2022 is the first year it was run under its current title. Named for the recently departed, longtime beloved Louisiana horsemen, Eddie Johnston, a dear friend of and mentor to Faucheux, the race took on added significance.

You wouldn’t be the only one wondering if Johnston had a divine hand in setting the stage for Allen Cassedy’s Mangelsen to succeed as the race was over for the initial post-time favorite before it even began.

Loading into the gate, fans and connections alike had one question – could the chalk Who Took the Money run down the front-running Mangelsen before the wire and win his third race in a row? On this day, that question would not be answered.

The Bret Calhoun-trained colt, who was recently named 3-year-old colt of the year by the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, flipped, broke through the gate, and ran off before being caught and scratched. It was the perfect situation for Mangelsen to capitalize on, and following a slight delay, the betting public knew just that, with money shifting heavily to make Mangelsen the eventual .50-1 favorite.

“It was unfortunate the 6 horse (Who Took the Money) scratching,” jockey Jareth Loveberry said. “But our plan was still the same. Go to the front, get him to relax on his own, and carry him home.”

Relaxed and leading through all the 25.11, 49.44, and 1:27.52 calls by as many as four lengths, Mangelsen didn’t feel pressure until the homestretch when 4.00-1 closer Treys Midnite Moon made a move on the rail that put him in front in the deep stretch, but only for a handful of strides. After taking a bad step near the rail earlier on, jockey Jareth Loveberry made sure to finish down the center of the turf course which separated him from his rail-rallying pursuer, but that didn’t stop Mangelsen from seeing the threat, responding, and fighting forward to come home in 1:40.61 for the mile (about) over a firm course with the rail eight feet out.

In the winner’s circle, the emotions came through for Fair Grounds’ 2020-21 leading trainer Faucheux, who with this win regained a one-win lead on four-time Brad Cox for this meet’s crown.

“Today was all about Eddie Johnston and his family coming out,” Faucheux said. “Eddie was one of the greatest friends I have ever had. A true mentor, he taught me so much. I just can’t be happier to win this race. This goes down as maybe the best win of my life. That’s how much Eddie meant to me. This is definitely one I’ll never forget.”

One dimensional and one away from his tenth win, Mangelsen’s career record is now 28-9-4-2, sitting pretty with earnings of $194,800 and ready for his next front-running score.

 

Fan Favorite, Barn Favorite Monte Man Retires

Monte Man with Adam Beschizza aboard wins the 30th running of the Louisiana Champions Day Sprint at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

 

New Orleans (January 4, 2022) – Over the last four years, one horse has been at the center of Louisiana racing and fans of the local sport – Ivery Sisters Racing’s Monte Man. His trainer and Fair Grounds’ 2021 title-winner, Ron Faucheux has announced that it is time for this 9-year old gelding to step away from the race track and to spend his retirement at Clear Creek Stud, where his sire Custom for Carlos stands.

“Val Murrel who owns Clear Creek, he bred Monte Man and is happy to take him in,” Faucheux said. “Clear Creek is the nicest farm in Louisiana–at this point, being a 9-year old, he’s been so great to us, we’d rather see him have a happy life from this point forward.”

Know that Monte Man is doing fine, but he did not come back from his Friday workout as hoped, giving connections pause about pursuing the plan of running in the Costa Rising Stakes, a race Monte Man won twice and finished 2nd in by a nose.

“He’s sound as can be,” Faucheux said. “Looks great, walks great, legs look good. He just has something a little feint. Something that some trainers would push through, but I’m not going to take any chances.”

Claimed for $25,000 by Ivery Sisters Racing in October of 2017, in his first start for trainer Ron Faucheux Monte Man won a local optional-claimer that December, which was the start of a seven-race winning streak. Monte Man went out in stakes-winning fashion, scoring the ninth and final stakes win of his career in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint on December 11, 2021.

“I was looking at the win pictures last night,” Faucheux said. “He’s beaten some great horses. He hasn’t run worse than fourth since the end of his 4-year old career. Goes to show you how much heart that horse has. He might not run the best numbers as some of the Kentucky sprinters floating around the country, but he has been so consistent throughout the process. That’s all you can ask–they run to their ability.”

All told, Monte Man finishes his career 50-18-8-9 with earnings of $794,223.

“I feel honored to have trained him throughout that process,” Faucheux said. “He’s been a barn favorite, a fan favorite, a special horse–you could hear it in John Dooley’s emotional call of his last race.”

“Here comes the gladiator, Monte Man with that battler’s heart for Adam Beschizza. Monte Man now an 18-time winner–well done Monte Man!” — John G. Dooley, Fair Grounds Track Announcer

LOUISIANA LEGENDS NIGHT EXCITEMENT THRILLS FANS AT EVANGELINE DOWNS

CILLA BECOMES FIRST BLACK-TYPE WINNER FOR CALIFORNIA CHROME

 

OPELOUSAS, LA –Evangeline Downs hosted the annual celebration of the Louisiana-bred Thoroughbreds with Louisiana Legends Night on Saturday.  The exciting card featured six stakes races, each with a purse of $70,000 highlighted the card.

 

Persistent rains throughout the week forced all the races to be run on the main track.  The Soiree was contested over a muddy track, but a downpour after that race left the card sloppy for the remaining races.

 

Cilla wins Louisiana Legends Mademoiselle. Coady Photography

The $70,000 Mademoiselle featured what may have been the most impressive performance of the evening as Cilla powered away to victory.  The 3-year-old Brett Brinkman trainee scratched out of the one-mile Soiree to face older fillies and mares in the Mademoiselle.  That decision proved fruitful with the sensational turn of foot produced on the far turn.  Traveling in mid-pack as Strong Beauty and Southern Beauty battled through fractions of 21.64 and 45.05, jockey Joel Dominguez sent Cilla up to challenge with a four-wide move at the top of the lane.  While racing six wide, Cilla stormed away from her rivals to win by 4-1/4 lengths, stopping the timer in 1:03.74.   Evangeline Downs Distaff winner Snowball rallied up the rail to finish second and Strong Beauty held on well for third.

 

Campaigned by P. Dale Ladner, and was bred by the partnership of Brinkman and Ladner.  Sired by California Chrome, she is out of the Into Mischief mare Sittin at the Bar.  The Mademoiselle victory was the second impressive win over a sloppy track, along with a win at Delaware Park last August.

 

Cilla returned $19.60 as the winner, $6.20 to place and $4.20 to show.  Snowball paid $4.20 to place and $2.60 to show.  Strong Beauty paid $4.40 to show.  With the $42,000 winner’s prize, Cilla pushed her career earnings to $143,500.

 

Winning Romance. Coady Photography.

The $70,000 Soiree, for 3-year-old fillies, was contested by a field of just four runners over the one-mile distance.  Winning Romance, trained by W. Bret Calhoun, broke alertly and traveled comfortably in tandem with Half Koo Koo for the first half-mile.  Jockey Diego Saenz asked his runner for more on the far turn, and she quickly responded.  Winning Romance’s lead widened throughout the lane with the winning margin an incredible 20-3/4 lengths.  Inawic, who tracked the leaders down the backside, finished second and Tecate Time was along for third.  The final time was a hand-timed 1:38.75.

 

Winning Romance, sired by First Samurai, and out of the Flatter mare Lipstick Junky, returned $2.60 to win and $2.10 to place.  Inawic returned $4.00 to place.  There was no show wagering in the short field.  The Allied Racing Stables, LLC (Chester Thomas) runner pushed her career earnings to $135,441.

 

Chu Chu’s Legacy. Coady Photography.

The $70,000 Cheval was contested in a torrential rainstorm that arrived shortly before post-time.  Chu Chu’s Legacy was quickly away in the one-mile affair, and was never headed, scoring a front-running six-length victory.  The winner owned and trained by Allen Landry is a son of Bind, out of the Johannesburg mare Bond’s Babe.  Jockey Joe Stokes urged his runner along in splits of 23.59, 47.41 and 1:12.36, before stopping the timer in 1:39.18 for the eight furlongs.

 

Runner-up Wise Verdict made a move inside of rivals on the turn to get in position turning for home, while third-place finisher Beauregard was well placed throughout, but unable to threaten the leader.

 

The winner returned $10.60 to win, $6.40 to place and $4.80 to show.  Wise Verdict rewarded backers with $9.60 to place and $6.00 to show.  Longshot Beauregard paid $13.80 to show.  Chu Chu’s Legacy ran his total earnings to $176,350 with the triumph.

 

Bertie’s Galaxy. Coady Photography

The $70,000 Sprint, over a distance of 5-1/2 furlongs, was a family affair as half-siblings Bertie’s Galaxy and Wild Bert battled from the start and finished one-two.  Both runners are out of the Wild Rush dam, Wild Bertie, with the winner being the younger brother and sired by Greeley’s Galaxy.

 

Wild Bert sped through early fractions of 21.86 and 45.04, with Bertie’s Galaxy in close attendance to the outside of the leader.  Moving to challenge on the far turn, jockey Diego Saenz swept up with the Ron Faucheux runner to take the lead approaching the quarter pole.  The pair steadily drew away through the lane to win by 3-1/4 lengths in a time of 1:03.53.  Wild Bertie was well clear as the runner-up, with Laughingsaintssong another 3-1/2 lengths back in third.

Bertie’s Galaxy’s pushed his career earnings to $225,750.  Owned by Allen Cassedy and trained by Ron Faucheux, Bertie’s Galaxy was sent off as the second choice at 2-1 and paid $6.00 to win, $3.60 to place and $2.80 to show. Wild Bert returned $7.20 to place and $4.60 to show.  Laughingsaintssong returned $5.00 to show.

 

 

Offspring. Coady Photography.

The $70,000 Turf Distaff was the second straight stakes victory for Offspring.  The 5-year-old mare by Into Mischief, out of the Pioneering mare Pioneer Gal, had previously won a stakes at the Fair Grounds.  Away in good order under jockey Roberto Morales, Offspring was allowed to settle off the moderate fractions being set by Distractor Factor, traveling just off the leader through splits of 25.06 and 49.68.  Saber Cut was up to put pressure on Distractor Factor as Offspring moved alongside, while Quikfast N Ahurry ranged up four-wide past 6-furlongs in 1:14.55.  As they straightened away, Offspring surged between rivals to poke her head in front at the top of the lane and fought off her rivals for a 1-3/4 length victory in 1:39.57.  Quikfast N Ahurry battled on for second, 1-1/4 lengths in front of favored Net a Bear in third.

 

Owned by Oak Tree Stable (Bennett E. Powel) and trained by Edward J. Johnston, Offspring rewarded backers with a win price of $7.80, $4.80 to place and $2.60 to show.  Quikfast N Ahurry paid $5.60 to place and $3.20 to show, with Net a Bear at $2.40 to show.  The career bankroll increased to $219,478 with the winning share of the purse.

 

Maga Man. Coady Photography.

The $70,000 Turf was the final stakes race of the night and was won in wire-to-wire fashion by Maga Man.  A quick start from the inside post allowed Maga Man, with jockey Kevin Smith, to set reasonable fractions of 48.17 for a half-mile and 1:12.74 for the six-furlong split.  With Grand Luwegee in close attendance throughout, Maga Man repelled that challenge at the top of the lane and held sway in the final yards to hold off a late rally up the rail from Jax Man in a time of 1:38.36.  The rider of Jax Man, Casey Fusilier, lodged an objection and the stewards also posted the inquiry sign regarding the final yards of the one-mile race.  After reviewing the videotapes, the stewards found there was insufficient evidence to change the order of finish.

 

The 6-year-old son of Musket Man, and out of the Pulling Punches mare Lew’s Gray, runs for the Whispering Oaks Farm, LLC of Carrol Castille.  Trained by Steven B. Flint, the winner returned $11.80 to win, $5.20 to place and $3.20 to show.  Runner-up Jax Man paid $6.20 to place and $2.80 to show.  Grand Luwegee paid $3.20 to show.  With the victory, Maga Man increased his career bankroll to $233,960.

 

For more information on racing at Evangeline Downs, visit the track’s website atwww.evdracing.com and on Twitter @evdracing.  Racing continues on a Wednesday thru Saturday schedule until the end of the meet on September 18.

 

Evangeline Downs Racetrack Casino and Hotel, a property of Boyd Gaming Corporation (NYSE:BYD), features exciting casino action, live horse racing and fun dining experiences. Evangeline Downs is located in Opelousas, Louisiana, off I-49 on Cresswell Lane at Exit 18.

 

Faucheux, Graham, Godolphin Take Home Meet Titles as Fair Grounds Closes Out 149th Season of Racing

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.”

FAUCHEUX IS HAPPY TO CONTINUE TO BUILD HIS LOUISIANA EMPIRE

Faucheux battling with Brad Cox for the Fair Grounds training title

 

New Orleans (March 4, 2020) – Ron Faucheux, a 37-year-old Louisiana native with over 500 career training wins to his name, has made a name for himself in his home state of Louisiana with the ability to train both graded stakes caliber horses and also play the Louisiana bred claiming game to perfection.

 

Now over 10 years into his training career, Faucheux has 513 wins from 2,076 starts (as of March 4, 2020) and career purse earnings of over $11.9 million.

 

I had the chance to sit down with Faucheux Friday morning and get to know more about the early stages of his career, as well as where he’s aiming to be.

 

 

How did you get involved in racing? Was it something you have always been around?

 

“I wasn’t raised around horses from an early age,” Faucheux said Friday morning near the Fair Grounds paddock. “I was about 11 or 12-years-old and I went with my step-dad Louie Roussel to the track for the first time and just the surroundings and the people involved is what got me hooked. Right away I knew I wanted to do something with racehorses.”

 

“I started to go work over the summer for Billy Badgett in Saratoga and Belmont when I was about 16-years-old,” Faucheux continued. “Around high-school I knew that I wanted to be a trainer and that was the path I was going to take. I transferred high schools my sophomore year and wasn’t eligible to play sports until my senior year and by that time all I wanted to do was be around the racetrack.

 

What were the early days of your career like? When did you go out on your own and start to build your stable?

 

“In 2009 is when I went out on my own,” Faucheux said. “I started off with two horses. We won three races with the two horses. One of them I thought we had no shot with; he had run like seventh the past two starts and I thought we just didn’t have a chance. I was entering in a state-bred non-winners of three lifetime race and the race didn’t go. The racing office convinced me to run the horse in an open company $5,000 claimer and my horse (Built to Precision) won by like three of four lengths. I don’t remember what it paid but it was a nice price and that was my first career win.”

 

“After that I was able to get Frank Calabrese to send me some money to start claiming,” Faucheux continued. “I claimed three horses in Louisiana and Frank invited me to go to Chicago so I went up there and that’s where I really started my stable. We had anywhere between 10 and 15 horses that meet at Arlington. After the Chicago meet we went down to Florida and were running at Calder and the start of Gulfstream Park.

 

After your time in Chicago and Florida, did you ever have any thoughts to come back to Louisiana and train?

 

“I always wanted to get back to New Orleans,” Faucheux said. “I convinced Frank Calabrese to let me bring about four horses down and we started our first horse at Evangeline Downs. The horse was like 3-5, completely missed the break and got beat so Frank calls me and tells me he wants the horses out of there and back to him. I knew if I lost those horses I would be in trouble so I talked Frank into letting me keep the horses to try to sell them to some owners down here that were looking to run in Louisiana so he wouldn’t have to pay for them to be shipped around the country. I was able to sell three of the horses and I ended up buying one of them for $15,000 for myself. Her name was Paper Shredder and she did well for me winning some races, she helped pay for some of the tack and just helped me get my barn started.”

 

Gantry was your first graded stakes winner, what was that experience like and how did you get the opportunity to train a horse like that at the beginning of your career?

 

“Over the summer of 2010 I started training for Evelyn Benoit at Evangeline Downs,” Faucheux said. “Thanksgiving Day at Fair Grounds is obviously a big day and she kept mentioning that she had never won a race on that day. I was looking at my condition book and saw a $17,500 claimer on the turf and thought we could claim one and be aggressive in that spot, but she got back to me and said she was eyeing the Thanksgiving Handicap. I only had some nickel claimers in my barn and I’m thinking wow, okay let’s do it. We went look at Gantry and got him in October from Belmont. He was 8-1 on the morning line in the Thanksgiving and I had some doubts but he of course ended up winning that race and sweeping the sprint series at Fair Grounds that year. He gave me my first career graded stakes win in the Smile Sprint Handicap (G2) at Calder and we got to run in Breeders’ Cup so it was a fun journey with him.”

 

Guys like Brad Cox, Steve Asmussen, Al Stall Jr., etc.. come to Fair Grounds every winter, and you always find a way to stamp yourself near the top of the leaderboard. You’re sitting just behind Brad Cox on the leaderboard right now, what’s it like getting to compete against these guys and more than hold your own?

 

“It’s special to be able to hold my own against these trainers that come here for the winter,” Faucheux said. “The goal and the dream for most trainers is to win a Kentucky Derby, but for me my dream was always that I wanted to win and be competitive at the Fair Grounds. If those big horses and a Derby or races like that happen its great and I would love it, but I like being in Louisiana and training here and winning races at the Fair Grounds.”

 

“We treat each horse as an individual and try to spot them where they are competitive,” Faucheux continued. Obviously if it were to happen and I was leading trainer for the meet that would be a dream come true but at the same time we’re just trying to spot our horses in the right places here and take our time with them.”

 

 

 

You have obviously made a name for yourself in the claiming game, what goes into claiming a horse and what do you credit your claiming success too?

 

“There is defiantly a skill to claiming horses,” Faucheux said. “I was never around much either early on. Working for Todd Pletcher in my early days that’s obviously not what he does. When I started out on my own I figured out how important claiming was when you’re trying to build a stable. Working for Frank Calabrese that’s really all you do so I was able to sharpen my skills with him. I realized as I started doing it more that I had a pretty good idea of how to play the claiming game and sort of found my niche. It’s all about fitting conditions.”

 

 

10 years from now, where do you hope to be in your training career?

 

“I have two kids and we live here in Louisiana,” Faucheux said. “I take pride in being here with them and getting to be around them. I know a lot of trainers don’t get to be with their kids as much with all the travelling. Being able to train nice horses and be here with my kids in Louisiana is big for me. If we eventually branch out and go around the country I wouldn’t completely be against it, but I’d like to stay here continue building what I have. To be honest, I like being the trainer that stays here year around and can still compete with these bigger names when they come down here over the winter.”