01/24/2013 4:43PM

Fair Grounds: Turf racing canceled Thursday, jockeys concerned about course


Fair Grounds cancelled turf racing Thursday after one grass race, an indication that issues with the course might be deeper-rooted than thought.

The turf race Thursday was only the second held at Fair Grounds since Jan. 1. The first part of January was unusually wet, and between heavy storms and intermittent showery days, the course never dried enough to be put back into use. The track went so far last week as to move two turf stakes, the Bradley and the Krantz, from Jan. 19 to Jan. 26 in an attempt to wait out the wet conditions.

Eric Halstrom, Fair Grounds general manager and vice president of racing, said on Jan. 21 that extra drying and recovery time Fair Grounds gave the grass had created circumstances “almost like starting with a brand new course.”

No measureable rain had fallen in New Orleans since Jan. 16, but the turf was rated only “good” for Thursday’s races. The day’s first turf contest, race 2, went off as scheduled, with favored Sheer Speed setting the pace before giving way to inside closers Maggie Simon and Original Kitten. The winning time for 5 1/2 furlongs was 1:06.60, a typical clocking with the portable rail 25 feet out in the course.

Not long after the race, though, riders expressed concerns to Fair Grounds officials about the way horses were handling the course, Fair Grounds stewards said. Shortly after the fourth race had been completed, stewards announced that the day’s remaining turf races, beginning with race 5, had been moved to the main track.