03/08/2010 12:00AM

Fair Grounds trims stakes purses again

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Purses for the Fair Grounds Oaks, the Mervin Muniz, and the New Orleans Handicap, all Grade 2 races, have been reduced by $100,000 each, Fair Grounds announced on Monday. All three races now are worth $300,000.

The Muniz and the New Orleans Handicap now have suffered two purse cuts this winter, having been offered as $500,000 races at the start of this meet. In late January, those two stakes were trimmed by $100,000 as part of a broader-based round of purse cuts that included a reduction in overnight purses.

"This move, painful as it is, ensures that we will not have to cut overnight purses for our final month of racing," Fair Grounds' vice president and general manager, Eric Halstrom, said in a track release. "Looking at this from a long-term perspective, we have to get closer to a balanced purse account if we are to offer the highest possible purses for our horsemen next season."

While showing improvement in January, Fair Grounds handle has declined significantly this season compared even with last year, a down year itself. Through January, handle had declined more than 26 percent from the same period during the 2008-2009 meet, according to figures provided by the Louisiana State Racing Commission.