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  The Legend of John Henry Begins Here  !     

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The second and final version of Jefferson Downs was located on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, in Kenner, about fifteen minutes from downtown New Orleans. Built in 1971 to replace the old track in nearby Metairie, it was a six furlong dirt oval, that featured a glass enclosed grandstand, that seated 7,000. The stable area could accommodate 1,150 horses. The majority of race dates were under the lights and along with The Fair Grounds, provided year round racing in the New Orleans area. 

Originally named Magnolia Park, Jefferson Downs opened on September 23, 1954 as a harness racing track. Standerdbreds never caught on and in 1959 the track was renamed Jefferson Downs and converted to flat racing.

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 On September 9, 1965 the track was devastated by Hurricane Betsy and remained closed till local youths set it on fire and burned it to the ground.

 In 1971 the track was rebuilt in Kenner, Louisiana a suburb of New Orleans on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Due to competition from a casino less than a mile away it closed for good in November of 1992. It is now the site of a condo development. At the time it closed it's purse value was a 6.

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 On May 20, 1977 in a 4f Maiden Special Weight contest a horse named John Henry broke his maiden at Jefferson Downs! 

Right from the start Magnolia Park, looked like it was going to have a hard life. Starting out as a harness track, the standardbreds never caught on in Louisiana. Converted within two years to thoroughbreds, the track fell deeper into arrears and was sold in 1959 ending Magnolia Park. The new owners Jefferson Downs lasted longer but didn't fare any better.

In March of 1959, Jefferson Downs opened in Metairie. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy rendered the track unusable and plans were laid to relocate the track to nearby Kenner. The new track opening was delayed as the owners were being investigated by the state. Finally in 1971 the new Jefferson Downs opened. In 1977 a nineteen year old jockey, James Sibille was found murdered after receiving a threat to not win a certain race. That crime has never been solved. Another fun night for jockeys occurred during a race in 1977, when the lights on the track went out. After thirty seconds the lights came back on to find five of the ten jockeys strewn on the ground, as half the field collided in the darkness. After a few years of competing against a nearby casino Jefferson Downs went out of business in 1992.

Today there is no indication that a racetrack existed at either site. The Magnolia Park site in Metairie became Lafreniere Park, the premier recreation area in Jefferson Parish, as for the Kenner site, it is now a gated community called Gabriel touted as the Crown Jewel of New Orleans real estate, where for a mere three and a quarter million you can own a house on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Ironically that is less than it cost to build Magnolia Park.

I never made it to Jefferson Downs, but there still is an OTB near the site of the track, so I guess there would still be a reason to go, if I got the chance.