02/05/2011 4:59PM

Purses get another 5 percent hike at Fair Grounds


Fair Grounds on Saturday announced a second round of purse increases for the 2010-11 meet, with both overnight races and three stakes on Louisiana Derby Day given a bump.

Beginning Thursday, overnight purses will be increased across the board by 5 percent. A previous 5 percent increase went into effect Jan. 6. Additionally, the purse of the Duncan Kenner, a dirt sprint for older males, will be boosted to $150,000 from $100,000; the Mervin Muniz will be raised from $300,000 to $350,000; and the New Orleans Handicap will be worth $400,000 instead of the originally scheduled $300,000. The three stakes all will be contested March 26, the day of the $1 million Louisiana Derby. It should be noted that both the Muniz and the New Orleans Handicap offered a purse of $500,000 several years before 2010, when the purses for the two races were slashed to $300,000 mid-meet because of poor business. Fair Grounds, as per Churchill Downs Inc. policy, does not release handle figures, but numbers disseminated by the Louisiana State Racing Commission early this year showed marked average daily handle improvement through the first two months of the current meeting. Fair Grounds purses also are subsidized by revenue from an ontrack slot-machine parlor.

Sprint features evenly matched field

Six 3-year-olds are entered in a first-level sprint allowance race also open to $50,000 claimers, the featured sixth race on Monday’s 10-race program in New Orleans. The field is evenly matched enough that merely determining the likely post-time favorite looks daunting. But the pick to win is Moonbie, who had a somewhat difficult journey from post 1 in his dirt debut on Jan. 15. A first-out winner over the summer at Arlington, Moonbie, from the Tom Amoss barn, will race with blinkers added on Monday, an equipment change that may help him hold his position better than he did last month. Moonbie has worked back twice since his race, most recently posting what looks like a solid six furlongs in 1:14.40.

Twice-started Gonna Tell Mama beat 11 foes in a Churchill maiden race when last seen Nov. 21 and makes his first start for trainer Jeff Thornbury. Gonna Tell Mama suggested his readiness for Monday’s race with a bullet five-furlong drill Jan. 24.

Pulgarcito, who shows a $40,000 purchase price, races under the $50,000 claiming option and has been posting strong works at the Evangeline training center for the Steve Asmussen barn. Mobeetie turns back in distance and drops in class after finishing fourth of five in the Lecomte Stakes.