04/26/2009 11:00PM

Fair Grounds to open earlier


Fair Grounds in New Orleans will have its earliest start ever this coming meet, when it opens on Nov. 6 in a 2009-2010 schedule that was approved by the Louisiana Racing Commission on Monday. The 85-date season will run through March 28, 2010.

The start is one week earlier than this past season, when Fair Grounds made changes to its traditional Thanksgiving Day start. The even earlier opening for 2009-2010 was made for a couple of reasons, according to Eric Halstrom, vice president and general manager of racing for Fair Grounds.

"The additional week of racing allows us to open our season on the same weekend as the Breeders' Cup World Championships," he said in a statement. "By spreading out our schedule, we will also reduce the number of five-day racing weeks, which should enable us to enhance our day-to-day product."

Fair Grounds will race Friday to Sunday through Nov. 22, then add Thursdays on Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, and pick up Mondays beginning Dec. 7. In the new year, Fair Grounds will shift to a Friday-through-Monday schedule for most of January, February, and March.

Delta Downs in Vinton, La., also received approval for its dates Monday, with the track's 90-night Thoroughbred season to open two weeks earlier than usual, on Oct. 14. The meet will close a week earlier, on March 20, 2010.

"It helps horsemen transition from one meet to the next," said Chris Warren, director of racing for Delta.

Delta will race mostly Wednesday through Saturday nights. Louisiana awards Thoroughbred dates to Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs at a meeting in the fall.