Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots has boosted the purses of 19 open-company races on its 2011-2012 stakes schedule released today. The 84-day Thoroughbred Racing Season – running Nov. 24, 2011 to April 1, 2012 – will feature 60 stakes cumulatively worth $7.54 million, including six Claiming Crown stakes worth $500,000 to be hosted in New Orleans for the first time Dec. 3.
The 99th renewal of the Grade II, $1 million Louisiana Derby will be held on April 1, 2012, the season’s final day. Fair Grounds’ signature race will not only be held on a Sunday for the first time since 2004 but its new positioning also puts it five weeks out from the Kentucky Derby. This year’s Louisiana Derby, won by Pants On Fire, was held on March 26 six weeks out from the first Saturday in May.
The 1 1/8-miles Louisiana Derby will take place the day between Saturday nigh’ts NCAA Men’s Basketball Semifinals and Monday night’s finals at the Louisiana Superdome.
Louisiana Derby week will also feature another major day of racing on March 31 with four stakes for fillies and mares, anchored by the Grade II, $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.
In addition to changes to Louisiana Derby weekend, every open-company stakes will be worth at least $75,000 and four six-figure stakes also received bumps in purse money. Seven stakes conditions that have been run with “unacceptable field sizes” in recent years have been eliminated.
The races to receive the largest purse hikes from last season are the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, the first in a three-race series of two-turn graded stakes for 3-year-olds ($100,000 to $175,000); the Silverbulletday, the first of three major two-turn stakes for 3-year-old fillies ($100,000 to $125,000); the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes ($150,000 to $200,000); and the Louisiana Handicap for older horses ($60,000 to $100,000).
“The adjustments to this stakes schedule have been made to reward the best horses in our strongest divisions,” said Racing Secretary Jason Boulet. “We’re out to attract the highest quality horses we can and the most straightforward way to do that is to offer them more money.”
The 15 open-company stakes that went from $60,000 last season to $75,000 this season are the Thanksgiving Handicap, the Woodchopper Stakes, the Pago Hop Stakes, the Blushing K.D. Handicap, the Tenacious Handicap, the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap, the Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap, the Pan Zareta Stakes, the F.W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes, the Tiffany Lass Stakes, the Mardi Gras Handicap, the Colonel Power Stakes, the Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicap, the Black Gold Stakes and the Happy Ticket Stakes.
The discontinued stakes names are the Bienville Stakes, the Grindstone Stakes, the John E. Jackson Memorial Stakes, the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Stakes, the Letellier Memorial Stakes, the Pelleteri Stakes and the Sugar Bowl Stakes.
Stakes named that have been assigned more appropriate conditions are the Black Gold Stakes (now for 3-year-olds at 7 ½ furlongs on turf), the Happy Ticket Stakes (older females at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf), the Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicap (3-year-old fillies at 7 ½ furlongs), the Mardi Gras Stakes (older females at 1 1/16 miles on turf), the Pan Zareta Stakes (older females at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf) and the Tiffany Lass Stakes (older females at 1 1/16 miles).