The New Orleans Fair Grounds opens its 2015-16 racing season amid much anticipation for a successful campaign.
After a new drainage system was added, the track had its best season since before Hurricane Katrina, its handle easily surpassing that of the 2013-14 season, new senior director of racing Jason Boulet said.
“When we experienced heavy rains, we were able to get back on the turf track in a day or two last year,” said Boulet, who was promoted after nine years as racing secretary. “I’m waiting to see how it goes after the rain (Wednesday).
“The word has gotten around that the Fair Grounds is a great place for winter racing and practicing for horses.”
The meet will run from Thursday until March 27. Thursday’s first post begins at 1:25 p.m.
Many of the highlights are back. The Thanksgiving Day card, featuring the Thanksgiving Handicap at 11 a.m., has been popular among local racing fans and horsemen for a long time.
Louisiana Champions Day on Dec. 12 will feature 11 stakes races worth a combined $1.1 million in purses. The Santa Super Sunday on Dec. 19, will have six races worth $330,000.
On Jan. 16, it will be the Road to the Kentucky Derby with five races, including the LeCompte Stakes and the Grade III Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes.
The popular Mardi Gras Stakes will be Feb. 9. The Louisiana Derby Preview, six races totalling $970,000, will be Feb. 20. It features the Risen Star Stakes, the Rachel Alexandra for fillies, the Fair Grounds Handicap and the Mineshaft Handicap.
Family Day is March 19, followed by the Louisiana Derby on March 26.
“We’ll have the same old stakes back that have been enjoyed for years plus some new stakes,” Boulet said.
Those include the Battle of New Orleans on Nov. 28 and the Big Easy on March 12, both for older fillies and mares. The Fair Grounds is bringing back the Colonel Power Stakes, which will run March 19.
The track also will offer an added feature: five Starlight racing dates in which there will be a 5 p.m. post time as well as DJs in the Miller Time Beer Garden and bands in the clubhouse. The first Starlight racing date is Friday, followed by Dec. 18, Jan. 22, Feb. 26 and March 11.
The races are aimed at attracting a younger, more social crowd of patrons who might not otherwise attend horse races.