Thanksgiving Day at the Fair Grounds Race Course has been a festive tradition, usually selling out the clubhouse and drawing a diverse crowd to the rails, since the 1920s. In recent years, track owner Churchill Downs moved opening day up a couple weeks, but Turkey Day is again the first day of thoroughbred racing this year.
In another nod to local custom, the first post time has been moved up to 11 a.m. so as not to conflict with the broadcast of the New Orleans Saints at 3:15 p.m. All racing will be completed by 3 p.m., but the game will be broadcast on TVs at the Fair Grounds.
Thanksgiving racing opens the 139th season at the third oldest racetrack in the U.S. The 84-day season includes major events like the Louisiana Derby at the end of March, a prelude to the Kentucky Derby for some horses. It will be the first race in the state worth more than $1 million. The monthly Starlight Series starts with 5 p.m. post times and features live music and food and drink specials. The season's average daily purse is $320,000, and the 63 stakes races are worth a total of $6.7 million. Grandstand admission is free, club level admission $7. — Jamie Carroll
Opening Day at the Fair Grounds
11 a.m. Thursday
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, 1751 Gentilly Blvd., 944-5515; www.fairgroundsracecourse.com