09/19/2007 11:00PM

Meet increases 'event day' strategy

EmailThe Fair Grounds stakes schedule continues its evolution during the upcoming 2006-2007 meet, but the changes to this season's schedules are more superficial than fundamental.

Fair Grounds, in keeping with Churchill Downs Inc. practice, continues to focus on multi-stakes "event" days, and has added another to the schedule, while increasing the number of stakes on its three major graded stakes days from five to six.

The meet hits its peak on March 8, Louisiana Derby Day, with four Grade 2 races; the Louisiana Derby, the Fair Grounds Oaks, the Mervin Muniz, and the New Orleans Handicap. Not long ago, those races each anchored a separate program, and the Muniz, formerly the Explosive Bid, was held near meet’s end.

Preceding Louisiana Derby Day is - appropriately - Louisiana Derby Preview Day, another six-stakes day on Feb. 9, with the third graded-stakes card the Jan. 12 Road to the Derby Kickoff Day.

New to the stakes schedule are the Dec. 22 Santa Sprint program, which features $100,000 sprint races in four divisions, and the March 15 Allen Lacombe. Back after an absence is the Jan. 12 Gaudin, while conditions for the Colonel Power (moved from dirt to turf) and the Mardi Gras (older males to 3-year-old fillies) have been altered.

Fair Grounds also expanded the meet-ending Louisiana Lagniappe Weekend to encompass a third racing day.

All told, the Fair Grounds season, which begins Nov. 22, has 64 stakes worth $7.3 million.