01/10/2014 3:04PM

Fair Grounds cuts four stakes, reduces purses of 12 others

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Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans announced Friday it was eliminating four stakes races and reducing the purses of 12 others this meet because of a sharp decline in betting handle in November and December.

The canceled races are the $100,000 Tiffany Lass on Feb. 8, the $150,000 New Orleans Ladies on March 8, the $75,000 Allen Lacombe on March 1, and the $75,000 Black Gold on March 1.

The purse of the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 29 was trimmed from $500,000 to $400,000, while the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz on the same day was cut from $400,000 to $300,000. The purse of the March 8 Duncan Kenner was reduced from $150,000 to $100,000. Nine other $75,000 stakes had their purses trimmed to $60,000.

The cuts save the Fair Grounds purse account $785,000 and allow the track to avoid cutting overnight purses, at least for the time being. Management at Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., said the stakes cuts were made after consultation with some horsemen. Purses at the track are subsidized by betting at video poker machines and slot machines.

“We’re hoping that the handle will bring itself back toward the tail of this meet and we don’t have to touch the overnights,” Fair Grounds president Tim Bryant said when announcing the cuts to horsemen late Friday morning.

Average daily handle at Fair Grounds during 25 race days in November and December fell 17 percent from the same period in 2012, according to the Louisiana State Racing Commission. All-sources average daily handle was $2,261,991 through Dec. 31 compared to $2,726,909 during 27 racing days in November and December 2012.

Betting probably has been negatively impacted by problems with the turf course. The course was renovated during the offseason but has recently failed to dry sufficiently after taking rain. On Jan. 5 and again Thursday, turf racing was abandoned mid-card because of concern over soft, slippery conditions. Between Nov. 22 and Jan. 5, the track conducted only 37 turf races, down from 58 during the same span last season.

The cancellation of the Tiffany Lass and the New Orleans Ladies leaves Fair Grounds with a void in the older filly and mare dirt-route stakes division, though that has long been a soft spot on the local schedule. The New Orleans Ladies was created in 2010 to lure Rachel Alexandra and since has drawn short fields.

It has been a rough several weeks for Fair Grounds, which saw its general manager for racing, Eric Halstrom, leave somewhat unexpectedly this fall, filling his position with Howard Withers, who never has worked as a high-level racing executive. The starting gate has malfunctioned just before a race twice this meet, and the track’s longtime starter recently was fired. On Tuesday, track maintenance workers watered the dirt surface before a freeze that night, which contributed to the cancellation of training Wednesday.

– additional reporting by Bob Fortus

schexnola More than 1 year ago
Pools & Fields are terrible. OAKLAWN'S late pick 4 POOL for the opening weekend DOUBLED the FG late pick 4 everyday
Biff Kress More than 1 year ago
Let's see, Calder losing money, getting killed with horse shortages this Fall by openings at both Tampa Bay and Gulfstream Parks, Arlington Park's GM had a meltdown, claiming they're tired of supporting Hawthorne (huh?) meanwhile they charge you $8-$10 Admission and now $11 if you bring a picnic basket onto their oh-so-precious concrete jungle grounds, charge $7 for a beer, and their food is ABSOLUTELY PUTRID; the great Millionaire Room menu hasn't changed in 15 years. 2010 to January 2011 Stock waffled around $38-$41; it's now $91 with a paltry 1% dividend-WHY and HOW? No good fundamentals to see ANYWHERE obviously-Arlington Park TRULY could conceivably close this year. If the Markets correct 20% this year, this stock should go down 40%. After the Derby, Churchill Downs is the King of the $10K Claimers-just like AP is. Sad-very sad...Oh, yeah, and by the way, the best food we ever had at AP this Summer past was when they opened the Northeast Corner of their park to Local, Mobile, Meals-On-Wheels Restaurants, who saved our day with some decent food to eat.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
In 2015 CDI will give us the ARLINGTON HALF MILLION
Mark D More than 1 year ago
I think every track should cut days. I would rather see less racing with bigger field sizes.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Me to, so many people argue with me about this, I guess they like 7 horses or less Allowance races.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Forgot to say this has to further help OAKLAWN and TAMPA BAY DOWN who have raised purses this season.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Guess the question is - How long can they keep Rosie ?.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Churchill downs Inc is so cheap. Why would top older horses tron Ny and Cali ever shipped there.
EDWARD B More than 1 year ago
there are no rules or regulations being enforced to protect the betting public from being fleeced. so, you have to be very cautious and play high probability wagers;that means less money spent. Izzy Hecht of the Flagler dog track threatened to own all the dogs and kennels and set up an internal competitive system under his control. that idea would have worked if the dog men had not caved in to settle the dispute. even they knew that would put a lot of thieves out of work! in horse racing you have a few strong horse owners that will not tolerate the every day abuse but there is not enough of them. even they get hoodwinked some of the time!
AzPokerPlayer More than 1 year ago
Maybe your numbers are down because the racing fan is tired of the way you (Churchill Downs Inc.) treat us...you turned youbet into a mockery...you sold out Hollywood Park to real estate developers...your Kentucky Derby point system is a complete joke...keep selling those mint juleps at one grand apiece though, hope that continues to work out for you:(
AzPokerPlayer More than 1 year ago
To be fair...Frank Stronach isn't much better....by eliminating the rolling doubles (was the only good bet in California because field sizes are a joke) he continues to try and stay on par with CDI...California should be racing Friday through Monday and have 10 race cards on these days...this will make for a better product and bring up attendance some..and Frank I think it's time to check your ego at the door and admit you were wrong and bring back the rolling doubles:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Youbet was owned by Frank Stronach and he turned it into a subscription service when he started Xpressbet. The Fair Griunds has full fields even wit h many races coming off the turf. The weather has been rainier than normal and that has hurt turf racing also along with the course not drying properly. If anything CDI maybe did turn youbet into a monkey when they started Twinspires. The Fair Grounds is a great place for winter racing, normally. As AzPokerPlayer states, Frank Stronach isn't much better and he has California racing in his naer total control. He has two major California tracks racing simultaniously for the majority of the year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And one other thing, CDI bought Hollywood from Bay Meadows Land management an sold it back to them at a profit through an agreement hinging on slots at the track. Hollywood has been doomed since befire either owned that track and they were doomed by the CHRB.
AzPokerPlayer More than 1 year ago
That is simply not true...CDI bought Hollywood Park in 1999 from R.D. Hubbard
Craig Mathews More than 1 year ago
coorect AZ....R.D. Hubbard started the downhill slide at Hollywood. If they had sold Hollwood to the Indians.....what do you think it would be now....slots and racing...helloo......C.D.I. sold out to the highest bidder, it got the ceo Tom Meeker a big fat bonus and he retired.....