Fair Grounds Opens August 15

New Orleans track opens with LQHBA Sale Futurity trials.

August 9, 2012

Fair Grounds

Foal papers for more than 1,800 potential starters are expected to be on file with the Fair Grounds Racing Office before the 12-day Summer Quarter Horse Meet opens next Wednesday, August 15, according to Racing Secretary Jason Boulet. With 10 races scheduled to be run most days and about 120 total, the massive horse population that Fair Grounds can draw from virtually guarantees large and competitive fields throughout the season.

“This is by far the most horses we’ve had on our backside for a Quarter Horse meet and by far the most interest we’ve had overall,” Boulet said. “It’s a great position to be in. We’ll be able to offer cards of consistent quality and depth, which is what we all know our customers want.”

This will be the fifth annual Summer Quarter Horse Meet at Fair Grounds. First post is 12:40 p.m. CDT daily, except Aug. 18, when first post is 4 p.m. for an evening that includes camel, ostrich and mascot racing, as well as the inaugural Tails & Ales Presented by Abita Beer tasting in the Clubhouse. General admission is free every day, except Aug. 18, when it is $10 (free for kids 12 and under).

A full card of trial races for the $150,000-estimated Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association Sales Futurity will comprise the Aug. 15 Opening Day card. Entries for Opening Day close later this morning.

Among those expected to enter is Double A. Partnerships’ Ms Jingles, winner of two major futurities this year at Delta Downs for trainer Frank Cavazos. The Bigtime Favorite filly is five-for-six overall with earnings of $452,848.

The LQHBA Sales Futurity final will be the feature race on Closing Day, Sept. 1.

Most of the top conditioners from the last Summer Quarter Horse Meet are back again this summer, led by Fair Grounds’ all-time leading Quarter Horse trainer and two-time defending champion, Kenny Roberts Sr. Also returning from the 2012 top five are Bobby Martinez, who won at a 46 percent clip last season; Frank Cavazos, who applied for and received more stalls, 40, than any other horseman; and Miguel Rodriguez, who had a breakthrough 2011 meet, winning at 35 percent.

Conspicuous in her absence will be Janet Van Bebber, who announced her retirement earlier this year. Van Bebber, of Sulphur, La., was the leading trainer at Fair Grounds’ inaugural Quarter Horse meet in 2008 and finished fifth last season. Earlier in 2011, she became the first female Quarter Horse trainer to hit the 1,000-win mark.

All of last season’s top ten jockeys are expected to return, including Fair Grounds’ all-time leading Quarter Horse rider and 2011 champion Danny Lavergne, based on information compiled from agents. The list also includes, in order of last season’s standings, Alfonso Lujan (2010 leader), David Alvarez, Gilbert Ortiz, J.R. Ramirez, Raul Ramirez Jr., Ray Mayo, Jarrod Deschamp, Lucas Constantin and John Hamilton, who dominated the recent Delta Downs meet.

Kenny Roberts Sr. managed to lead last year’s trainer standings by simply overwhelming the competition with sheer numbers. He had 12 wins from 50 starters over the 12 days of racing while only one other trainer, Janet Van Bebber, had more than 30 starts (she won with seven of 38 runners). This year it could be more competitive at the top, though, as Frank Cavazos is coming to New Orleans with the most firepower, having filled 40 stalls at his Fair Grounds barn compared to 38 for Roberts.

“I don’t have any superhorses but I’ve got a lot of contenders,” Roberts said. “It’s going to be tough. If you just walk around [the backside] you can tell we’ve got more horses here than usual.”

Roberts may have one advantage, though, with the number of fresh horses he’ll be running. While most of the local population has shipped in straight from the recently concluded Delta Downs meet, Roberts has enough horses in training that the he was able to bring several that are working themselves back to peak fitness after time off at his farm.

“These are the two meets everyone points for – Delta and Fair Grounds – because of the purses,” Roberts said.

Roberts offered one useful tip for handicappers that are more accustomed to betting Thoroughbreds.

“The big difference that I see is that the lower-level Quarter Horses run truer to form,” Roberts said. “With Thoroughbreds you can count on the top-class horses running to form, but with the cheaper horses you don’t always know what they’ll do from one race to the next. With most Quarter Horses, though, they’ll run true to form no matter where you run them. You just have to figure out which level they belong at.”

Following are additional details on the previously announced Aug. 18 festivities, which include camel, ostrich and mascot races, as well as the inaugural Tails & Ales Presented by Abita beer tasting in the Clubhouse.

•    Confirmed participants in “Tails & Ales” include Abita, Bayou Teche, Blue Moon, Covington Brewhouse, Duvel, La Chouffe, Lazy Magnolia, Liefmans, Ommegang, Parish, Saint Arnold and Tin Roof. Exclusive to the VIP area will be brews by Angry Orchard and Samuel Adams. Most breweries will have at least four varieties to sample and the total number of beers to taste will top 75.

•    Doors will open at 2 p.m., at which time the $10 general admission will go into effect. Guests already present at the Fair Grounds OTB on the west side of the Grandstand before 2 p.m. will receive a hand stamp confirming their General Admission. That afternoon the 30th Arlington Million featuring the top turf horses in North America will be run at Arlington Park outside Chicago.

•    Valet Parking will be available Aug. 18. General valet is $20 and VIP Valet is $30.

•    Hotel Montelone’s Monty the Lion is now considered probable for the Mascot Race, bringing the prospective field of fuzzy characters to seven.

•    Martha Claussen of the American Quarter Horse Association’s select group of expert handicappers known as the Q-Racing Aces will be on hand Aug. 18 to provide selections and betting advice. Claussen will greet fans at a Q-Racing Aces table adjacent to the paddock throughout the evening and will appear on the simulcast with Fair Grounds Racing Analyst Jim Mulvihill to make picks prior to each race. In her last Fair Grounds appearance, Claussen gave out seven winners on Closing Day of the 2011 meet.