08/26/2012 3:50PM

Fair Grounds cancels racing, orders backstretch evacuated as prelude to hurricane

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In the wake of Tropical Storm Isaac, Fair Grounds in New Orleans has canceled Quarter Horse racing this coming Wednesday through Saturday and called for a mandatory evacuation of its backstretch. Forecasters expect the storm, which could develop into a hurricane, to roll into New Orleans on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. The track expects to make up the lost four days of racing next week, with the races that have been set to be redrawn. Fair Grounds had about 700 horses on its backstretch when it announced the mandatory evacuation on Sunday.

“Given the time and effort required to transport horses, we could not afford to wait any longer,” said Eric Halstrom, vice president and general manager for racing for Fair Grounds. “Our first priority is safety and this decision ensures that all humans and horses participating in our meet can get out of harm’s way.

“By canceling all four days this week, everyone will have time to return and settle back in before we resume racing. Logistically, it would be difficult to run this weekend even if the worst of the storm were to miss us.”

The storm could also force the cancellation of a two-day meeting of the Louisiana Racing Commission on Wednesday and Thursday. Charles Gardiner, executive director of the commission, said a decision on the meeting’s status is to be made by noon on Monday. The meeting was to address race dates as well as the Dermorphin cases in Louisiana.

Fair Grounds announced Sunday that the Evangeline Training Center near Lafayette, La., has several hundred stalls available. Fair Grounds, which was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was to close out its Quarter Horse meet Saturday with the $150,000 Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders’ Association Sales Futurity.

* A storm that hit Charles Town in mid-afternoon forced the West Virginia track to cancel the remainder of its live racing Sunday after five races.

* Racing at the Maryland State Fair at Timonium was halted after the third race because of the threat of severe wind and rain, which soon after whipped through Baltimore County and across the fairgrounds for the better part of an hour.

-additional reporting by Jeff Taylor