08/14/2013 7:56PM

Fair Grounds cancels start of Quarter Horse meet, evacuates backstretch as storm approaches


Fair Grounds in New Orleans has canceled the first two dates of its Quarter Horse meet that was to open Friday and called for a mandatory evacuation of its stable area because of a storm system approaching the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters are projecting tropical weather could hit the New Orleans area by the end of the week. The track now plans to open its meet on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

Fair Grounds has about 1,000 horses in its stable area. The evacuation also applies to all stable workers. The decision to evacuate was announced at 5:30 p.m. Central on Wednesday.

“Given the time and effort required to transport horses, we could not afford to wait any longer,” Eric Halstrom, vice president and general manager of racing for Fair Grounds, said in a release. “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.”

Fair Grounds officials said plans are to redraw the races that were canceled over the course of the meet. The card Friday had nine trials for the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association Sale Futurity. The finale is scheduled for the meet’s closing-day program, Sept. 7.

“By canceling racing now, everyone will have time to depart in an orderly and safe manner, as well as to return before we resume racing next week, weather-permitting,” Halstrom said.

A weather “disturbance” has developed in the Caribbean and is moving towards the Gulf of Mexico, according to a report on weather.com on Wednesday. If the system develops into a tropical storm, heavy rains are forecast to hit the Gulf region in the next several days. 

This is the second year in a row the Fair Grounds meet for Quarter Horses has been disrupted by inclement weather. Last year, Hurricane Isaac forced Fair Grounds to cancel the final portion of the meet. Fair Grounds was scheduled to race 14 dates for Quarter Horses. The track’s meet for Thoroughbreds opens in November.