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Louisiana Derby History

One of the oldest races in the country restricted to three-year-olds, the Louisiana Derby was inaugurated in 1894, although it did not celebrate its centennial edition until 2013.

The race was previously held at Crescent City and Jefferson Park, two now-defunct tracks in New Orleans, before finding a permanent home at Fair Grounds in 1932. It has been held every year since except for a three-year span from 1940-42, 1945, and 2006 after the track was partially destroyed the previous summer by Hurricane Katrina.

The Louisiana Derby was run at 1 1/16 miles from 1988 through 2009, but reverted back to 1 1/8 miles for the 2010 edition. It had been run at nine furlongs from 1898-1987.

Black Gold (1924) was the first winner of the Louisiana Derby to go on and win the Kentucky Derby. A local hero whose career started and ended at Fair Grounds, his remains are buried in the Fair Grounds infield.

Only one other horse – Grindstone (1996) – has pulled off the Louisiana Derby/Kentucky Derby double. Louisiana Derby winners No Le Hace (1972) and Woodchopper (1981) both went on to finish second in the Run for the Roses.

Master Derby (1975) and Risen Star (1988) both went on to win other Triple Crown races. Master Derby took the Preakness, while Risen Star won both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Arguably the best Louisiana Derby winner of modern times, Risen Star was co-owned and trained by Louis Roussel, who at one time operated Fair Grounds. The most accomplished son of Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Risen Star captured the 1988 Belmont by 14 lengths in his final start and was named champion three-year-old colt.

Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day is the most successful rider in Louisiana Derby history, having piloted Country Light (1986), J. T.’s Pet (1987), Richman (1991), Line in the Sand (1992), and Crypto Star (1997) to victory.

The 2011 edition of the Louisiana Derby was the first race in Fair Grounds history to carry a $1 million purse.

Hero of Order paid $220.80 to win when scoring a massive upset in the 2012 renewal.

The premiere 3-year-old race in Louisiana is a major stepping stone towards the Kentucky Derby.