Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Racecourse
The Louisiana Derby, or what was to become the Louisiana Derby, was inaugurated in 1898, with the first winner of this spectacular race being Presbyterian. As with the race itself, the racecourse has a rich and colorful history, and remains one of the oldest racecourse sites still operating in the horse racing industry today. The winning combination between the Fair Grounds Racecourse and the Louisiana Derby has made this event a premier gathering of the horse racing community and an important race in the Fair Grounds Racecourse racing season.
The site on which the Fair Grounds Racecourse is built was known as the Union Race Course when racing first took place here in 1852. In 1857 racing ceased at the racecourse until 1859, when the Metairie Trotting and Pacing Club started leasing the racecourse and renamed it the Creole Race Course. During the war, limited racing took place here, as the best horses were confiscated by the military as cavalry horses. Racing resumed after the war, after the reconstruction of the course. Over the years, the course welcomed many changes, such as different owners, electric lighting in the grandstand, the addition of a steeplechase course and mechanical starting gates. The course will also be forever linked to magnificent racing legends such as Black Gold, Pan Zareta and John Henry.
This year, as with every previous year, the racing community is gearing up for the Louisiana Derby. In 2006 the race was cancelled due to the devastating Hurricane Katrina that left only destruction in her path, but racing resumed in 2007 with the race winner being Circular Quay. The 2008 Louisiana Derby Day will take place on the 8th of March 2008, with the Louisiana Derby Preview Day taking place on the 9th of February 2008. Both the Derby Day and Preview Day have increased from five to six stakes.
The Louisiana Derby Day is a Grade II three year old thoroughbred racing event that is run over a distance of 8.5 furlongs and has a purse of $600 000. The six stakes Derby Day consists of the Fair Ground Oaks, the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap, the New Orleans Handicap, the Bienville Stakes, the Duncan F. Kenner Stake and last but not least, the Louisiana Derby. Winners of the 2008 Louisiana Derby will be recorded in the annals of history together with legendary names such as Henry Clay Rye, Bagenbaggage, Jack Higgins, El Baba, Golden Act, Prince Valiant, King of the Castle, Leo’s Pisces, Sellout and Northfields.
At the Louisiana Derby memories are made, heroes are born and respect is paid to some of the greatest horses that have ever lived. It is a race that is attended and supported by the horse racing industry, and spectators faithfully fill the stands in their thousands on race days. And it is likely that the Fair Grounds Racecourse will continue to add to its colorful history for many years to come.