Fair Grounds Race Course
New Orleans, Louisiana 70119
Fair Grounds Race Course, often known as New Orleans Fair Grounds, is a thoroughbred racetrack and racino in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is operated by Churchill Downs Louisiana Horseracing Company, LLC.
In 1852 Union Race Course, which today is the site of Fair Grounds, was laid out on Gentilly Road in New Orleans, thus making it the oldest site of racing in America still in operation.
In 2009, the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system for 65 Thoroughbred racetracks in North America. Of the top Fifteen, New Orleans Fair Grounds was ranked #12, behind Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana, which was ranked #6.
Sometimes referred to as the "New Orleans Fair Grounds", the track was initially opened as the "Union Race Course" in 1852. The track closed in 1857 due to competition from the Metairie Course. In 1859 the track was renamed the "Creole Race Course." In 1863, the name was changed again to the "Fair Grounds" and racing was conducted during the Civil War.
The track then closed when the Metairie Course reopened after the war. In 1871, the younger members of the Metairie Jockey Club broke away to form the Louisiana Jockey Club and begin holding meets at the Fair Grounds. In 1872 the first race card is held at the Fair Grounds under the auspices of the Louisiana Jockey Club.
In 1907, Colonel Matt Winn arrived in New Orleans to establish racing dates and deal with other matters in the Louisiana horse industry. In 1908, racing was banned in New Orleans but returned in 1915. In 1919 a fire burned down the grandstand but the track was still able to conduct a race meeting.
In 1940, legislative sanction was given to racing in Louisiana.The track was then sold to developers for construction of a subdivision. In 1941, a group of investors saved Fair Grounds from destruction. The track resumed racing after World War II.
The Fair Grounds Racing Hall of Fame was established in 1971.
In 1981 a turf course was installed. In 1990 the track was sold to the Krantz family. In 1993, the grandstand was completely destroyed by a seven alarm fire and racing continued with temporary facilities in place for a couple of years. A new $27 million dollar construction project began in 1994 and the completed grandstand/clubhouse was opened to the public on Thanksgiving Day 1997. The track was purchased by Churchill Downs Incorporated in 2004. Fair Grounds was heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina, and was closed for over a year, until re-opening on Thanksgiving Day 2006. The track conducted a 37-day meet at Louisiana Downs in replacement of the scheduled 2005-2006 meet.
Both the great race mare Pan Zareta and the winner of the 1924 Kentucky Derby, Black Gold are buried in the infield. It's also here that Tippity Witchet, the beloved son of Broomstick, ran many of his 266 races.
Fair Grounds is the 3rd oldest thoroughbred race meet in the United States, behind Saratoga and Pimlico.
The track consists of a one mile (1.6 km) dirt track and a seven furlong turf oval. In addition to the grandstand and clubhouse, an adjacent building, formerly used for simulcasting, opened on September 21, 2007 as a temporary slot-machine gaming facility. On November 14, 2008, the new slot-machine facility opened for operation.