A hot rivalry may exist between Alabama and Louisiana when it comes to football; but among the horsemen of both states, an amicable relationship prevails.
On Saturday, two specially designated Stakes races will be run at the Fair Grounds highlighting Alabama bred horses - the Magic City Classic for three-year olds and upward and the Kudzu Stakes for Juveniles, thanks to a partnership developed between the Louisiana Racing Commission, Birmingham Racing Commission and the Alabama Horsemen’s Benevolent Association.
When Alabama’s live thoroughbred racing came to a halt in 1995 with the closing of the Birmingham Race Course, breeders were left without a racing venue in which to showcase their state-bred horses. So, Alabama horsemen began a nationwide search for race tracks willing to write races and set aside racing dates to run their horses. Out of that need, a partnership developed between Alabama horsemen and active tracks nationwide, including the Fair Grounds.
“We began racing our thoroughbreds in Shreveport at Louisiana Downs in their inaugural year,” Alabama HBPA president and equine vet, Dr. David Harrington said of the alliance.
“We liked the new facility and they were happy to accommodate us. The first stakes winner we ran out-of-state was a two-year-old named was Milladgeville in a Juvenile stakes written for us at Louisiana Downs.”
The Alabama HBPA and the Birmingham Racing Commission initiated its partnership with the Fair Grounds nine years ago.
“A lot of our breeders are in south Alabama, so therefore, the Fair Grounds is an ideal location to race,” Birmingham Racing Commission Executive Director, Kip Keefer said of the Fair Grounds location.
Louisiana tracks, Delta Downs in Vinton and Evangeline Downs in Lafayette partner with Alabama as do Oaklawn Racetrack in Hot Springs and River Downs Racetrack in Cincinnati.
The Fair Grounds partnership business is conducted through Racing Secretary Jason Boulet and Birmingham Racing Commission stakes coordinator, Leda Dimpirio.
“We have a great working relationship with Jason Boulet establishing the stake races for our thoroughbreds,” Dimpirio said.
“It’s a good thing,” Boulet said of the arrangement. “Since the Birmingham race track closed, we’ve been a place for the Alabama horsemen to run their horses. They bring in a lot of people who enjoy spending their day here.”
The purse distributions awarded to the Alabama stake-winning horses is derived solely through revenue gained from Alabama’s dog racing para-mutuels and thoroughbred simulcast racing.
“The criteria for allocating purse distributions was established by legislative action when our track closed,” Harrington said.
He added that no supplemental purse money is added to the Alabama races by the Fair Grounds and the racing day’s handle remains within the Fairgrounds coffers, making the partnership highly productive for the Fairgrounds.
“We’re glad they’ve chosen us to partnership with,” Fairgrounds President Tim Bryant said.
This week, the Birmingham Racing Commission opens negotiations with three companies to conduct a study on the feasibility of returning live thoroughbred and quarter horse racing to Birmingham.
“Our partnerships have been extremely productive, but It’s our greatest hope that in three years, live racing will resume at Birmingham Racecourse.”