If you are into horse racing, you'll be in for a treat March 30. Even if it's not your thing, you may not want to miss the festivities surrounding the 100th running of the Louisiana Derby. To go along with an iconic race that will qualify at least one horse for the Kentucky Derby, the event will hold its inaugural Louisiana Derby Infi eld Festival. The race may be old, but this year it's providing something new. That experience will include a concert by New Orleans rockers Cowboy Mouth and other performers. Also, one of the city's largest food truck gatherings will showcase the variety of tasty cuisines that have become popular in recent years. The $1 million race will return to a Saturday after being run on Sunday in 2012. Last year, Hero of Order, a 109-1 long shot, won. "The centennial Louisiana Derby will be one to remember," said Fair Grounds President Tim Bryant. As usual, the annual activities will take place at the Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots in New Orleans.
"It's become huge as not only a sporting event, but also as a social event, and that's the part that we are trying to grow and that we are specifi cally targeting with the Infi eld Festival," track spokesman Jim Mulvihill said. "You can know nothing about horse racing, but if you love music and food, this is an event that you would want to be at," he added.
It's been a while since the infi eld has been open.
In fact, you have to go back to the 1930s to date the last time it happened. In recent years, roughly 10,000 fans stood shoulder to shoulder in the stands. "If we are going to grow our event, we had to take it to the infi eld," Mulvihill said. "It's the last frontier for us where we can put patrons." The goal is to not only provide a great race, but to provide the same experience that other festivals around the state give.
Food truck vendors from around the area are expected to pack the infi eld. The relationship between the vendors and the track started mostly because of the truck's involvement at some of the night events at the course. All of them are expected back for Louisiana Derby Day. "As far as we know, it will be the largest gathering of food trucks that the city has ever seen," Mulvihill said. For people who love the street food in the city, it will be a special day for them. The milestone event will be held the same day as the popular Crescent City Classic 10K foot race. But the two historic New Orleans races aren't working against each other. Offi cials from both races say they've worked in conjunction to make March 30 a special day in New Orleans. "We think it will be a great day of racing for horses and humans," Eric Stuart, director of the Crescent City Classic, said. The derby will have a later-than-usual fi rst post time of 2 p.m.
This year's race will be nationally televised by the NBC Sports Network. It will be part of a broadcast that includes coverage of Gulfstream Park's Florida Derby. It's all part of the network's "Road to the Kentucky Derby" coverage. "We are proud to be part of that. I think it's a refl ection to how important our race has become in recent years," Mulvihill said. The event will air from 6-7 p.m. E.T. The race is a total of 1 1/8 miles (9 furlongs) on the dirt.
Several of the top fi nishers from last month's Risen Star Stakes are expected back, led by the shocking long shot 135-1 winner, I've Struck a Nerve. The second- and third-place fi nishers, Code West and Palace Malice, are also under consideration, and even if they don't return, their Hall of Fame trainers, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher, will almost certainly have their deep stables represented in some way. Eleven-time Fair Grounds leading trainer and two-time Louisiana Derby winner Steve Asmussen has said he will give Proud Strike another shot, too.
Only two winners of the Louisiana Derby have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby: Black Gold in 1924, and Grindstone in 1996. Risen Star, the winner in 1988, won both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year. General admission will be unlimited on Louisiana Derby Day and does not require advance purchase. Grandstand General Admission will be $10 and Clubhouse General Admission will be $15. Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots is the nation's third oldest racetrack and has been in operation since 1872.