Fair Grounds opens its 132nd season of live Thoroughbred racing on Thursday November 27th, its
traditional Thanksgiving Day opening. The 2003-04 racing season will span 80 days from November 27th
to March 28th and will feature 51 stakes races worth more $6 million. Louisiana Champions day will be
held this year on Saturday December 13th. This day will feature 10 stakes races for Louisiana breds including
three races for quarter horses.
The first graded stakes of the meeting will not come until January 24th, 2004 when the Grade III
Lecomte Stakes for three year olds at one mile with a purse of $100,000. With a total of eight graded stakes
there should be some quality horses passing through this winter. Along with some stakes for older horses, the
Fair Grounds plays host to the Grade II Louisiana Derby for three year olds, run at 1 and 1/16th miles and carries
a guaranteed purse of $600,000. Last year’s winner was PEACE RULES, who went on to finish third in the
Kentucky Derby and then
went on to win the Haskell and finish second in the Travers. Last year’s third place finisher in the Louisiana
Derby was FUNNY CIDE, who went on to win the run for the roses. Many of the nations top three year olds will
make a stop at the New Orleans track before going on to the Kentucky Derby.
Last year also saw Horse of the Year candidate MINESHAFT run over the Fair Grounds and just shows
that the quality of horse flesh is very high here over the winter. He won the New Orleans Handicap last year, a
Grade II event and that race will be held on February 29th.
Another Grade II event is the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap, formerly known as the Explosive
Bid Handicap, it will be run on March 21st. This race is run at about 1 and 1/8th miles on the turf for four year
olds and up and carries a purse of $500,000. This race will serve as the final event in the Fair Grounds’ Spring
Festival of Racing.
Let us now take a look at some of the human connections and who had a good meeting last year and
who should be followed back for some value this year.
Last year’s leading jockey was Robby Albarado who had 102 victories. He finished the meeting with a
very solid winning percentage of 20.3%. Corey Lanerie finished second with 92 victories and look for him to
have another strong meeting as he rides for Steve Asmussen. Shane Sellers, who finished third with 88 wins
had a very solid win percentage of 20.9%.
Some jockeys who had rough meetings that you might want to steer clear of when heading to the windows
were, V. L. Smith, who only had 5 wins from 146 mounts, a winning percentage of 3.4%. Casey Fuselier is another
who had a rough meeting finishing with 1 for 31 and a win percentage of 3.2%. These are just a few jockeys that you
may want to think twice about before betting.
On the trainer’s side of things the leading conditioner for last year’s meeting was Steve Asmussen who
visited the winner’s circle 63 times with a win percentage of 25.7%. His in the money percentage was also very
solid at 60%. His closest pursuer was Thomas Amoss who won 50 races, however with 63 less starters. His win
percentage of 27.5% was tops amongst those trainer with at least 50 starters. His in the money percentage was
also very good at 63.7%.
Some trainers to look for when playing the races at the Fair Grounds and you don’t want to bet the widely
underlayed Asmussen and Amoss barns there are a few options. Edward Johnston and Harold Hahn III are two trainers
that enjoyed very good meetings last year percentage wise. Johnston had seven wins from 20 starters for a winning
percentage of 35%. His in the money percentage as also solid at 60%. Hahn also had seven winners but he needed
only 18 starts to reach that feet and his winning percentage was 38.9%. His in the money percentage however was
slightly lower at 55.6%.
There were multiple trainers that took the ofer last year, way too many to name but here are two that
didn’t win a race and both of them had at least 30 starters. Robert H. Bone was 0 for 30 and Donald J. Cormier
Sr. was 0 for 33. It is a rough meeting when you can’t crack the winner enclosure with 30 starters. These statistics are
only what the individual did last year and may not effect what they do this year. However, there is a reason why the top
trainers and jockeys are top trainers and jockeys and a reason why there some trainers and jockeys don’t win very
often. Good Luck at the Fair Grounds!