Record crowd turns out for Fair Grounds opener (1 Viewer)

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"I entered this horse with the intention of winning the first race back at the Fair Grounds. This helps bring New Orleans back to life. Winning here today, and I've raced at tracks around the country, means more to me than all of those wins. Winning here today is the best, it's great."
74-year-old Larry Robideaux, trainer of Clouds on the Walk, winner of the first race.


THOROUGHBRED TIMES
Posted: 11/23/2006 7:38:38 PM
Record crowd turns out for Fair Grounds opener


New Orleans welcomed back racing in a big way on Thursday as a record crowd of 8,732 fans poured into the historic local track which opened its gates for live racing for the first time since the end of the 2004-'05 meeting.

Hurricane Katrina forced the cancellation of last year's meeting at the New Orleans track, although a special shortened "Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs" meet was held in Northern Louisiana. Thursday's traditional Thanksgiving Day opener ended a 607-day drought for live racing in New Orleans as last year marked the first winter without racing in New Orleans since 1915.

"I know there are people throughout our city who are still trying to get back to their homes or finish rebuilding, and many of them have enjoyed coming to the Fair Grounds," said Fair Grounds President Randy Soth. "Things are far from being back to normal, but I hope by live racing coming back to the Fair Grounds this season, we can help New Orleans take one more small step back toward
normalcy."

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http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/todaysnews/newsview.asp?recno=67927&subsec=1
 
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Kermit Ruffins, the legendary New Orleans jazz trumpeter, joined bugler Les Colonello for the call to the post, then threw in a rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In.

ESPN
Fair Grounds: A cause for celebration
By Marcus Hersh
Daily Racing Form


NEW ORLEANS -- Fair Grounds, for those who haven't had the pleasure, is not by any means a large racetrack. It is tucked into a very residential section of New Orleans, stuck between Gentilly Boulevard, an old cemetery, and modest-housed small streets. And Thursday, open for business for the first time in 20 months, the place was absolutely jammed.

Thursday's was not an especially loud or boisterous group - but there were more people here than ever before. The attendance of 8,732 set a record for this building, topping the 8,107 that came out on Thanksgiving Day in 1997, the first meet after the new Fair Grounds grandstand was built following a catastrophic fire.

And the crowd that packed the place on a gorgeous Thanksgiving Day was, well, happy. Concession lines snaked through clubhouse and grandstand open spaces. Fans stacked up four deep to catch a glimpse of horseflesh in the paddock. And every parimutuel teller in the building could expect to look up to a line of 10 or more gamblers from 10 minutes to post onward.

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http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/horse/news/story?id=2673787
 
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TIMES PICAYUNE
'Once it gets you, that's it'
The Fair Grounds remains the centerpiece in the lives of many people who make their living in the sport of horse racing
Thursday, November 23, 2006
By Jeff Duncan


Ron Adames was one of seven Fair Grounds employees who hunkered down and rode out Hurricane Katrina at the facility.

The storm blew the roof off the grandstand and caused water damage inside the facility, but none of the seven-member storm team was harmed.

"I can't say that we were terrified for our lives, but there was deep concern," Adames said. "We did a lot of praying."

Churchill Downs, Inc., management chartered a helicopter to airlift the team from the facility five days later. Adames spent the 2005-2006 racing season in Lafayette, waiting and wondering when the Fair Grounds would re-open.

Adames, 61, is in his third year at the Fair Grounds. Before joining the staff, he was a regular at the track. He's lived in the neighborhood since 1976 and can see the track from the living room of his home across the street.

"I can't tell you the good, positive feeling I had when I saw live horses at the track again," Adames said.

"There's something about the track. It's a big part of this community and there's no place like it. It's phenomenal how you can miss something so much when it's gone."

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http://www.nola.com/sports/t-p/index.ssf?/base/sports-27/116426586399340.xml&coll=1
 

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