09/05/2009 12:00AM

Fair Grounds QH meet starts fast


NEW ORLEANS The Fair Grounds Quarter Horse meeting begins on Tuesday, and the two richest stakes will be run the first two days of the meet. Tuesday's card features the $60,000 New Orleans Ladies, and the Wednesday feature is the $60,000 Big Easy. Both are for Louisiana-bred juveniles.

With more purse money from slot revenue to distribute, the Fair Grounds has doubled the length of its Quarter Horse meet, from five days to 10. Fair Grounds will distribute $1.8 million, running two weeks of Tuesday through Saturday racing. The cards will consist of 10 races per day, with first post at 12:30. Eight stakes races will be run during the meet.

"People are going to be very happy with the purses," said Eric Halstrom, vice-president and general manager in charge of racing. "And as time goes by we hope to improve, work toward getting the stakes graded."

The Quarter Horse meet is a direct function of the arrival of slot machines at the Fair Grounds in 2007, with 4.5 percent of the gross gaming revenue dedicated to purses for the breed. Sixty percent of that money is earmarked for Louisiana-bred horses.

Last year the track paid out $810,000 in purses, having only had slots for part of a year in a temporary facility. With the slots now installed in a permanent parlor and more than 600 machines in operation, the Fair Grounds has more money to allocate, and is eyeing a 12-day meet in 2010.

The meet has attracted some of the bigger names from around the region, including trainers Kenneth Roberts Sr., Heath Taylor, and Janet Van Bebber.

After the Quarter Horse meet, the Fair Grounds will have less than three weeks until stalls open for its 138th year of Thoroughbred racing, scheduled to begin earlier than ever, on Nov. 6.