When the Fair Grounds made $200,000 worth of improvements to its much-maligned turf course in May, track officials expected those improvements to slowly affect the race course fiscally over the coming years.
At a scheduled progress report with the Louisiana Racing Commission on Monday, Fair Grounds president Tim Bryant said the improved turf course already has made a major impact.
“The turf course has been great this year — maybe even a little better than we expected,” he said. “To see it bounce back the day after we’ve had some rough weather, which is what really matters, the way it has all year has been really promising. We’re extremely pleased with how it has gone.”
Bryant told the LRC that the new turf course allowed the Fair Grounds to exceed its number of turf races from the previous racing season in just 65 days and reach a total of 173 turf-course races during the current racing year. He also said the fields have grown throughout the year, which will lead to a 10 percent raise in purses soon.
Bryant said the Fair Grounds has run 77 percent of the scheduled turf-course races this year — after nearly half of the scheduled turf races last year were canceled because of poor track conditions.
“The track has consistently bounced back after rainy days, and most of the time we’ve been able to go back out there the very next day,” he said. “Last year, a couple of rainy days would have had a much bigger impact on the turf course.”
Members of the committee expressed their pleasure with the Fair Grounds’ improvements.
“We are in a premium place, because people don’t always want to take their horses all the way to California,” LRC executive director Charlie Gardiner said. “But on the other side of that is people don’t want to bring their horses all the way here just to have the race canceled because of the turf.
“If we can show people that this is the No. 1 destination for turf races in the winter, it can be major for the Fair Grounds going forward.”