08/11/2010 3:23PM

Louisiana Derby tops 63 stakes at Fair Grounds


Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans will host 63 stakes worth almost $6.7 million during its 2010-2011 race meet, a schedule topped by the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 26, the Churchill Downs Inc.-owned property announced Tuesday. Fair Grounds raised the purse of the Louisiana Derby $250,000 for next year's running.

Five stakes were eliminated from the 2009-2010 schedule, including the $100,000 Daily Racing Form Distaff for older female route horses. Another race in the same division, the New Orleans Ladies, had its purse trimmed from $200,000 last year to $100,000 in 2010-2011. The Ladies was created this past season in great part to lure Rachel Alexandra for her 2010 debut.

Fair Grounds also will keep the purse of the New Orleans Handicap and Mervin Muniz at $300,000 in 2011. Those races had been worth $500,000 in recent seasons and were supposed to be run at that level in 2010 before a sharp decline in handle last season forced $200,000 cuts. Fair Grounds’ announced 2009-2010 stakes schedule was to have been worth some $7.2 million before being trimmed early in 2010.

The $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks will return to the Louisiana Derby Day card in 2011 after anchoring the racing program the Friday before Louisiana Derby Day (a Saturday) last year. The 2011 Derby Day card also includes the Muniz and the New Orleans Handicap as well as the $125,000 Bayou Handicap and the $125,000 Duncan Kenner.

The first of 10 graded stakes during the meet, the Colonel Bradley and the Lecomte, come on Road to the Derby Kickoff Day, scheduled for Jan. 22. Louisiana Derby Preview Day, anchored by the $300,000 Risen Star, will be Feb. 19.

The Fair Grounds racing season begins Nov. 25.