Three key Kentucky Derby prep races headline Fair Grounds Race Course’s 51 stakes schedule for the 2020-21 season, which begins Thanksgiving Day.

Fair Grounds Season
Fair Grounds offers 51 stakes races on its 76-day winter/spring card. Three Kentucky Derby preps — the Louisiana Derby, Risen Star, and Lecomte — headline the meet. (Image: NOLA)

Those stakes on the Louisiana track carry a combined purse of more than $7 million over the 76-day meet, which runs through March 28. What’s interesting about the Derby prep stakes is all three, the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes, and the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, continue at their lengthened distances.

Fair Grounds’ marquee race – the Louisiana Derby – stretched to 1 3/16 miles last season. Continuing with its extra half-furlong, the Louisiana Derby headlines an eight-stakes card on March 20. Joining that card is the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old Kentucky Oaks hopefuls.

Older horses get their turns that day in the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic on dirt, and the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Stakes on turf. Both take their contenders 1 1/8 miles.

The Louisiana Derby and Fair Grounds Oaks offers 100-40-20-10 Derby/Oaks qualifying points to its top four finishers.

Risen Star Ran in Stereo Last Season

The prep for that prep is the Feb. 13 Risen Star, which stretched to 1 1/8 miles from 1 1/16 miles last year. The distance wasn’t the only thing stretched out. Last year’s Risen Star field stretched into two divisions because the oversubscribed race attracted 23 entries.

The Risen Star and its 50-20-10-5 Derby qualifying points headline a five-stakes day that also features the Rachel Alexandra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. This race produced two of the last three Kentucky Oaks winners in Monomoy Girl and Serengeti Empress. It offers the same points breakdown for the Kentucky Oaks as the Risen Star does for the Derby.

This year’s race also produced the 2020 Preakness Stakes champion in Swiss Skydiver, who finished third in the Rachel Alexandra.

Fair Grounds 2020-21 Key Stakes Schedule

Date Race Grade Distance Field
January 16 Lecomte Stakes 3 1 1/16 miles 3-year-old males
January 16 Silverbulletday Stakes Listed 1 mile, 70 yards 3-year-old fillies
January 16 Louisiana Stakes 3 1 1/16 miles 4-year-olds and up
February 13 Risen Star Stakes 2 1 1/8 miles 3-year-old males
February 13 Rachel Alexandra Stakes 2 1 1/16 miles 3-year-old fillies
March 20 Louisiana Derby 2 1 3/16 miles 3-year-old males
March 20 Fair Grounds Oaks 2 1 1/16 miles 3-year-old fillies
March 20 New Orleans Classic 2 1 1/8 miles 4-year-olds and up
March 20 Muniz Memorial Stakes (turf) 2 1 1/8 miles 4-year-olds and up

Opening the Fair Grounds Derby preps is the Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 16. It went from a mile to 1 1/16 miles this past season, while giving Derby futures bettors an early glimpse of hopefuls. The Lecomte and its 3-year-old filly counterpart – the Silverbulletday Stakes – offer 10-4-2-1 qualifying points for the Derby and Oaks, respectively.

Those two headline a six-stakes day offering four stakes for older horses.

Longer Equals Better for Fair Grounds Derby Preps

“Lengthening the distances of all three of our Road to the Derby races proved to be quite popular with the horsemen,” Fair Grounds racing secretary Scott Jones said in a statement. “The Lecomte drew 14 entries, the Risen Star had 23 entries and was split into two divisions and the Louisiana Derby had an overflow field.”

Fair Grounds’ first big stakes day is Dec. 14, which offers 10 stakes limited to Louisiana-bred horses. Nine of the 10 races offer a $100,000 purse, with the Louisiana Champions Day Classic carrying a $150,000 purse.

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