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Thanksgiving at the Track

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  Thanksgiving is opening day for the thoroughbred racing season at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots (1751 Gentilly Blvd., 944-5515; www.fairgroundsracecourse.com), and a holiday outing to the historic track has long been a tradition in New Orleans. Some make a day of it, others simply pass through for a race or two en route to their grandparents' home, but altogether some 7,000 people typically visit the track on Thanksgiving.

  This being New Orleans, food is an important part of the visit and it's offered in a few different ways. At the top, literally, is the Thanksgiving dinner buffet in the track's upscale Clubhouse Dining Room, but this service is already sold out this year. Go down a level to the Grandstand and you'll find a come-one, come-all Thanksgiving buffet available for $25.99 per person.

  The third option, and probably the best for those saving room for a sit-down Thanksgiving meal somewhere else, is simply a snack from the Fair Grounds' many concession stands. Railbirds know that this food is famously superior to the typical arena and stadium fare of other sporting venues, and that reputation is earned on the quality of the Fair Grounds' treatment of New Orleans comfort food. The red beans or white beans and rice, the gumbo, the oyster and artichoke soup and especially the corned beef po-boys are reasonably priced and reliably satisfying.

  Grandstand general admission is free and races begin at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

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