08/10/2010 2:19PM

Louisiana Derby purse raised to $1 million

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The Louisiana Derby will become the first $1 million race in the history of the Fair Grounds for its 2011 running, the track announced when releasing its stakes schedule on Tuesday.

The Louisiana Derby, at 1 1/8 miles, was worth $750,000 this year, when it was won by Mission Impazible. The field also included A Little Warm, Drosselmeyer, and Discreetly Mine, all of whom went on to be among the leaders of the division. The race’s enrichment puts it on a par with the Arkansas Derby, which this year was the only Kentucky Derby prep race worth $1 million.

Fair Grounds this past year moved the Louisiana Derby to five weeks out from the Kentucky Derby, but, owing to the calendar, the race will be six weeks in front of the Kentucky Derby this upcoming season. The Kentucky Derby in 2011 will be run on May 7. Since Fair Grounds must close its meet by the end of March, the upcoming Louisiana Derby will be run on March 26, six weeks before the Derby.

Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs, Inc., home of the Kentucky Derby.

“Our goal is to make the Louisiana Derby the number one Kentucky Derby prep race, and a $1 million purse puts us on a par with any of them,” Eric Halstrom, the vice president and general manager of Fair Grounds, said in a press release.

Fair Grounds will have 63 stakes worth $6.7 million this upcoming season. The Fair Grounds Oaks will again be part of the Louisiana Derby card. This past year, it was run one day before the Louisiana Derby.

The meet begins on Thanksgiving Day.