09/11/2008 12:00AM

Fair Grounds raises purses 20 percent


Fair Grounds Race Course will boost overnight purses by some 20 percent for its 2008-2009 meet, the New Orleans track has announced.

In a press release, Fair Grounds said daily overnight purses will average about $300,000, significantly more than the $249,000 average during the 2007-2008 meet. At $300,000 a day, the overnight purse structure will be the highest ever offered in New Orleans.

Donnie Richardson, senior vice president for racing at Churchill Downs Inc., Fair Grounds's owner, said in the release that the purse increase "is an important step in our efforts to elevate Fair Grounds to the top of the nation's winter racing options."

Fair Grounds began operating an ontrack slot-machine parlor last year, and while still housed in a temporary facility, the slots obviously are doing solid business, judging by the purse increase.

Fair Grounds will begin an 87-day meet on Nov. 14, a move up on the calendar from the track's traditional Thanksgiving opening. Racing weeks will start at three days, increase to four days in December, and expand to five days in January and February.