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2018 Update

Racing in Louisiana goes way back to the roots of racing in this country. The first races in Louisiana predate racing at Saratoga by ten years. The first race there was a race for pacers in 1852, all gray geldings. This race was held at the Union Course, which is the present day site of The Fair Grounds. The next year thoroughbreds were run for the first time. The Union Course was closed in 1857 when it couldn't compete with rival tracks in New Orleans. The track re-opened as Creole Downs in 1859, eventually changing it's name to The Fair Grounds in 1863. Soon after the track was closed because of the Civil War. The Fair Grounds finally returned in 1872, the official date of it's existence.

The new era of racing begin in 1940 when pari-mutual wagering was legalized in Louisiana. In 1954 Magnolia Park opened for standardbred racing. The pacers never took hold and the track was converted to thoroughbreds and renamed Jefferson Downs. Other tracks begin to spring up in the sixties and seventies.

Today Louisiana has our tracks, The Fair Grounds, Evangeline Downs, Delta Downs and Louisiana Downs. Jefferson Downs was devastated by Hurricane Betsy and eventually burnt down. It was relocated and rebuilt but went out of business. In 2002 Delta Downs was granted a racino license the first in Louisiana. Today all Louisiana tracks operate as racinos. All tracks share dates during the year, each track also hosts a quarter horse meet. The Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs race during the day, while Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs feature racing under the lights.

Louisiana presents a unique opportunity if you're interested in visiting all the tracks that exist or existed in the state. Not only is it possible to visit them all in a day, but because of there scheduling it is also possible to attend live racing at three of the four existing tracks, depending on the right time of year.

Each track in the state, runs both a thoroughbred and quarter horse meet, while The Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs, run during the day, Delta and Evangeline Downs run in the evening. Actually there probably is a time when all four are running at the same time, but the five hours required between Louisiana Downs and The Fair Grounds would make it impossible to do every one for live racing in a day, unless you could fly.

So lets just say you were coming from Oaklawn Park, your logical first stop in Louisiana is Louisiana Downs, in Shreveport, you need to get here early, but that's O.K. it's open 24 hours a day. For live racing Louisiana is the odd man out, from here it's on to New Orleans and the site of Jefferson Downs, where an OTB still remains. On the way from Louisiana Downs, you will pass right by Evangeline Downs, so if you just want to say you were there here's your chance. When you leave the Jefferson Downs site your ready for live racing.

Your first stop is at nearby Fair Grounds, depending on the time of year it's either quarter horses or thoroughbreds. You'll only have time for a race or two before you have to backtrack to Opelousas, the home of Evangeline Downs, about a two and a half hour drive. After one race (the first) it's back in the car and off to Vinton, a little less than two hours away, where you can probably catch a race or two at Delta Downs. After that check in to the hotel, unwind with some slots and get ready for Texas.

2018 Update

Not to say things are rosy in the Pelican State, but at least they are stable. All the tracks in the original writing are still in existence, you can even visit Evangeline Downs, twice, once in it's current location in Opelousas and a few miles down the road in Carencro, where the original oval is still in use for training. Casino wagering has helped the other tracks, Fair Grounds, Delta Downs and Louisiana Downs remain in business. Each of these tracks run both thoroughbred and quarter horse meets throughout the year.

Magnolia Park, the states only venture into harness racing opened in Metairie in the fifties and was renamed to Jefferson Downs and  converted to thoroughbreds, the facility was damaged in a hurricane and later burnt down, it is now the site of Lafreniere Park. You can visit there, but will find no sign a racetrack existed there. The second version of Jefferson Downs was moved to Kenner in 1971, it lasted about twenty years before it too went out of business. The track and oval are gone, but you can still visit a small OTB near the original site.