08/31/2012 1:39PM

Fair Grounds cancels rest of Quarter Horse meet following hurricane


Fair Grounds in New Orleans has canceled the remainder of its Quarter Horse meet in the wake of the “trying circumstances” Hurricane Isaac has created in southeastern Louisiana, track official Eric Halstrom said. The decision was made Friday after Fair Grounds management consulted with the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Louisiana Racing Commission. It is pending final approval from the commission.

Fair Grounds called for a mandatory evacuation of the 700 horses on its backstretch last Sunday, and at the same time announced it was canceling racing this week due to the pending storm. The track had hoped to resume racing Wednesday, but many in the region are without electricity and suffering from catastrophic flooding.

“With southeast Louisiana in a state of emergency, we could not expect our horsemen to ship in again for just one more start,” said Halstrom, vice president and general manager for racing for Fair Grounds. “Instead of forcing the issue under trying circumstances, everyone agreed it made sense to let these days go and run the lost races under better conditions.”

The remaining purse funds will be used for Quarter Horse races at a later date, while decisions are still being made as to the running of the $264,480 Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association Sales Futurity, which was to be held Saturday. The horses qualified during trials at Fair Grounds on Aug. 15.

Fair Grounds sustained minimal damage in the storm, which hit Tuesday night. Although the main track was washed out after taking 20 inches of rain in 48 hours, crews were on the scene Thursday reclaiming surface material. In addition, two of the track’s barns lost portions of their roofs, while the high winds tore down guard shacks and fencing.

But the damage Isaac inflicted on Fair Grounds paled in comparison to those left by Katrina, a much more powerful storm that took out a large segment of the track’s grandstand roof in 2005. The meet that year was run at Louisiana Downs.

Fair Grounds on Friday was able to open for simulcasting and gaming and also had three of its 10 offtrack betting sites operational the same afternoon, at Gretna, Houma, and Metairie. The track expects to open its backstretch for the Thoroughbred meet as scheduled on Oct. 22. The season opens Thanksgiving Day.