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News and Notes

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.


Fair Grounds continues its exciting growth pattern when the 137th live Thoroughbred race meeting at the nation’s third-oldest track gets underway Friday. The 2008-2009 meet at the historic New Orleans facility will get underway in advance of its traditional Thanksgiving Day debut for the first time since 1979. The earlier start has allowed for six more days to be added to the schedule.
Fair Grounds will offer a record $300,000 in daily overnight purses, in addition to a $6.6 million stakes schedule headlined as always by the Grade II, $600,000 Louisiana Derby on March 14.
First post for Friday’s Opening Day is 12:30 p.m. CST. The day begins at 8:30 a.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the track’s new slots facility.
Fair Grounds fans will again see a strong cast of trainers and jockeys in New Orleans for the 2008-09 season.
Steve Asmussen, who led Fair Grounds trainers in wins for the seventh time in eight years last season, will be in local residence once again this winter. Asmussen, who has won 533 races in 2008 through Monday, is closing in on his own national record of 555 wins in a calendar year.
Tom Amoss, with nine local training titles to his credit, will also be back at Fair Grounds with a full barn once again, and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who stabled at Fair Grounds last winter after an absence of almost two decades, will have a local contingent once again.
New Orleans-born Al Stall Jr., a two-time local champion, is back again this season, along with local stalwarts Dallas Stewart, Mike Stidham, Neil Howard, and Patrick Mouton.West Coast-based conditioner Doug O’Neill, who captured two graded stakes at Fair Grounds in 2007, will have a local contingent for the first time and heads the list of new outfits in New Orleans this winter.
Heading the jockey colony, Louisiana native Jamie Theriot will pursue his second consecutive local title. Another Louisiana native, Robby Albarado, will be seeking to become the first jockey in modern Fair Grounds history to win seven local titles.Theriot will arrive in New Orleans in time to ride on opening day, while Albarado will join the colony at the conclusion of Churchill Downs’ Fall Meet on Nov. 29.
Highlighting the stakes schedule of Fair Grounds’ major events are “Road to the Derby” Kickoff Day on Jan. 10, Louisiana Derby Preview Day on Feb. 7 and Louisiana Derby Day on March 14, each of which will again feature six stakes. All 10 graded stakes on Fair Grounds’ schedule will be offered on one of these three days.
The Turf Publicists of America (TPA) announced this week that Larry Jones, trainer of the brilliant three-year-old fillies Proud Spell and Eight Belles, has been chosen as the 2008 winner of the organization’s Big Sport of Turfdom award. The award, voted on by TPA members, is presented annually to a person or group of people who enhances coverage of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with the media and Thoroughbred racing publicists. “Larry has always been generous and gracious with publicists and reporters, but never was this clearer than in the aftermath of the tragic accident involving Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby,” said TPA president Eric Wing. “Larry met with reporters on Derby Day and numerous times thereafter under the most difficult of circumstances. With his heartfelt words, Larry was an embodiment of the love that horsemen have for their animals. The entire Thoroughbred industry owes Larry a great debt of thanks for his cooperation with the media this year, and the Turf Publicists of America is exceedingly proud to honor him as our 2008 Big Sport of Turfdom.”
“This award is wonderful,” Jones said. “I think it’s my highest achievement in the sport. I’ve always felt that we, as trainers and horsemen, have an obligation to keep the fans well informed, and hopefully we’ve done that.”
Jones will receive the 43rd annual Big Sport of Turfdom award on Tuesday, December 9 in Tucson during the keynote luncheon of the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program Symposium on Racing & Gaming. The Symposium will be held at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson from December 8-11.
In addition to the multiple Grade I winner Proud Spell and the Derby runner-up Eight Belles, Jones enjoyed graded stakes success in 2008 with Kodiak Kowboy, Honest Man, Sweet Hope, Maren’s Meadow and Buy the Barrel. His 2007 campaign was highlighted by Hard Spun, who won the Kentucky Cup Classic and placed in the in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic. The TPA is an organization consisting of approximately 200 publicity and marketing personnel from racetracks and racing organizations around the country and the Big Sport of Turfdom award has been presented every year since 1966. Previous winners of the Big Sport of Turfdom include Joe Hirsch, Penny Chenery, Jack Klugman, Jim McKay, Tim Conway, Chris McCarron, Sackatoga Stable, John Servis, Pat Day, Dr. Dean Richardson and Carl Nafzger.
Jockey Julien Leparoux rode seven winners on the Veterans Day card Tuesday at Churchill Downs to match the single-day Churchill Downs record of Hall of Famer Pat Day who initially set the mark on June 20, 1984, when he rode all eight races on that day’s card.Leparoux, a 25-year-old native of Senlis, France, won the first seven of his nine months on the Tuesday card.
He also rode six winners from nine mounts at Churchill Downs on June 27, 2007.Leparoux’s winning mounts were Diva’s Gold ($6.40) in the first, Yikes ($7.80) in the second, Troutdale ($8.40) in the third, Gerivello ($10.40) in the fourth, Variant ($11) in the fifth, Majestic Feline ($4.40) in the seventh and Runway West ($12) in the eighth. He finished eighth aboard Rocketinthegate, an 8-1 shot, in the ninth race and came home second aboard 3-1 second choice Sinister in the 10th.
“To win seven is a bit surprising,” said Leparoux. “Pat Day is the only one who has done it here. I had won five races a few times and six in one day last year, but seven is the best…This is a dream come true for me.”