04/24/2006 12:00AM

Fair Grounds dates OK'd


The Louisiana State Racing Commission approved Monday the 2006-2007 racing dates request submitted by Fair Grounds Race Course, returning racing to New Orleans after a year's absence.

With the track damaged and New Orleans evacuated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in September, Fair Grounds held an abbreviated 2005-2006 meet at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City.

The Fair Grounds meet will as usual begin on Thanksgiving - Nov. 23 this year - and run through March 25.

Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Fair Grounds, committed only last week to a New Orleans race meet this year, but momentum had been building for months. Repairs to the facility have quickened - a new roof on the grandstand is in place, and power to the grandstand finally was restored - but much work remains to be done both on the front side and the backstretch, as well as to the turf and dirt courses.