On Thanksgiving Day, the 141st racing season begins at the New Orleans’ Fair Grounds Race Course. Although the gates open to the public on Thursday, the nearly 2,000 equestrian athletes who compete on the track have a year-round routine that keeps them in top shape. Get to know the inner workings to keep in mind the next time you’re at a race!
Almost every horse on the grounds is taken on the track daily, but training regimens vary depending on whether a horse has an upcoming race.
Gallop: The slowest pace of a horse ride on the track. Almost every horse on the grounds is taken out daily for a gallop.
Jog: A faster pace than galloping. Horses at the Fair Grounds are taken on a jog about once a week.
Breeze: A timed work out. A jockey generally breezes the horse, while an exercise rider takes out a horse for galloping or jogging.
Wrong Way: The clockwise direction on the track, since horses run counterclockwise during races. During training hours, the horses enter the track at a gate a half-mile from the starting line, near their stables. The riders steer the horses the wrong way on the outside fence, so they can each take their turns at galloping, jogging or breezing near the inner fence.
Horse and Track Maintenance
The track is open for training from 6-10 a.m., with a renovation break from 8-8:30 a.m. During this half hour, tractors come out to harrow the track, smoothing it out for the next round of horses.
Following their track workouts, most horses are bathed or groomed and spend time walking around their barn. During racing season, the grounds staff can encompass up to 700 people (including temporary employees) to care for the animals. Generally there is one stable hand for every two to three horses.
Call to Post
Racing season lasts through March 30, when the horses at Fair Grounds race in Louisiana Derby Day. The top horses at Louisiana Derby Day have a chance to compete in the Kentucky Derby. And like their human counterparts, these horse athletes don’t have an off season. Most travel to racetracks in other parts of the country, including tracks in Shreveport, Louisville and Chicago.
Check out these fine athletes this Thanksgiving, when gates open at 10:00 a.m. Posting for the first race is at 11:00 a.m. On a normal day, the Fair Grounds hosts 10 races, with two or three on the green, the grass course on the inside of the dirt track. Place your bets and good luck!