Fair Grounds meet horseplayer preview: Louisiana circuit insights
With the takeout on Pick 5s lowered to 15% and a new non-jackpot, 15% takeout Pick 6, the price is right to allocate more of your capital toward Fair Grounds this meet. Here are some things to know about the track and the Louisiana circuit to help sharpen your edge.
The Louisiana circuit
The 1,380-foot straight at Fair Grounds is a roller coaster of emotions for bettors — one minute you’re sure the frontrunner has the field put away, the next you’re clenching your teeth and palm-sweating your program. Still, speed holds. Though, this will shift, and when it’s not holding, you better shift your handicapping with it.
Like every track, if you want to tap in, you need to watch, take notes, fall into the rhythms of the meet, and gain that intuitive feel for the runners and connections. But if you’re not following the Louisiana circuit throughout the year, you’ll be left guessing about a lot of entries.
The Louisiana-bred program is strong. There’s money for many horsemen to be able to make a living staying in state, racing at Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs, and Louisiana Downs. There are many stakes for Louisiana-breds and therefore many types of stakes runners. It’s essential to know the difference between those that are reaching and those that belong.
Delta Downs runs concurrently with Fair Grounds through the end of February. If you don’t follow, one night with Don Stevens and you’ll be hooked — he’s sharp, witty, and calls one hell of a race. A bullring track with a shoot for longer routes, it’s essential to know that all races run at 6 1/2 furlongs or longer are two-turn races. Horses will go back and forth between Delta and Fair Grounds, so you can't rely on your auto-generated past performances for the sprint-route trainer stats.
Louisiana Downs and Evangeline Downs overlap in the summer. Both offer turf racing. Both courses are cut short and play similar to dirt. Keep that in mind as we see entries with turf form from either track step over to the dirt track at Fair Gounds. It often translates.
Throughout the circuit, some trainers have their jockeys, and that’s that. Others will ride one of the low-scoring or younger jocks when they aren’t trying to win the race, but secure a top jock when their horse is live. Keep an eye on the jockey changes. However, trainers like Jose Camejo, Ron Faucheux, and Wayne Catalano will use who’s been exercising the horse, less successful jockeys they are loyal to, or whoever is in the room when entries are drawn.
Many of these levels in the Louisiana-bred circuit look like cheap company, but there are classy, talented horses in these fields that the race conditions are written for. You’ll see stakes-caliber horses circle in and out of lower-level races, and vice versa with connections taking a swing. It’s worth it to peek your head into past running lines to get a sense for some of these runners.
There are exceptions, but for the most part it’s the same cast of characters rotating through the circuit. Some gear up for Fair Grounds, some could not care less. Let’s talk who points to this meet.
Fair Grounds trainers and jockeys to know
Trainer of the 1997 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Blushing K.D., Sam David Jr. does most of his work with homebreds from father-son-and-friend team Earl and Keith Hernandez and John Duvieilh. They’ve been breeding to race for over 20 years and always produce statebed stakes winners. David doesn't need a race with most of his runners — they are live even when fresh off the bench. He runs at the other tracks and wins at a very high rate, but the Fair Grounds is the target for his barn.
Same goes with two-time meet-leading trainer Ron Faucheux. Fair Grounds is the goal. Trainers like this will keep a horse fresh in between meets. For the most part, Faucheux’s runners are sharp on the front end. Jareth Loveberry (rode Larry Rivelli’s horses in Chicago) became his go-to jock for that reason, but he’ll spread the wealth.
A trainer like Bret Calhoun will use the Delta Downs races as preps for Fair Grounds, so keep that in mind if you see a poor performance from one of his runners there in a race prior. He’s a trainer you want to trust and lean on, though his runners get bet.
As do Tom Amoss’ runners. He’s said it again and again — he tries to be transparent with the public about how his horses will fare. When they’re chilly on the board, that means something.
Justin Jeansonne does excellent work with two-year-olds and maidens. Trust his runners.
Sarah Delany’s barn has been red-hot. She rounds her runners into form, so horses third off the layoff are must-includes in your multi-race wagers, and they will likely offer value.
Steve Asmussen's barn has won more than 1,000 races at Fair Grounds over the years. Still, don’t second-guess yourself if your read is to fade one of his runners at the lower levels — so many of the wins come on the biggest days and in the stakes.
Chris Hartman won 31% last meet. When his horses find their form, they hold it. Trust your Hartman luck when singling his horses in multi-race wagers.
Shane Wilson won the trainer’s title at Evangeline Downs this summer. He’s got classy runners, and he’s got a big barn he cycles through. Last year, his runners had little success at Fair Grounds, but often due to bad racing luck. This year, I believe it will be different.
Emile Schwandt has been playing the claiming game well. A small barn, but one you want to have faith in if you like the runner.
Tune into Fair Grounds this meet, and Joe Kristufek and I will keep you in the know.