By T. D. Thornton
A temporary restraining order issued Sep. 4 has blocked a Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) mandate from taking effect that seeks to force the Fair Grounds to open its backstretch stabling to as many as 500 Thoroughbreds displaced by Hurricane Laura in the last week of August. An Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge is now expected to rule on the injunction after a Sep. 11 hearing.
The news site Crescent City Sports first reported on the 57-page request for injunction filed by attorneys for the Fair Grounds, which is owned by the gaming corporation Churchill Downs, Inc. The filing stated that the LSRC “does not have the legal authority to issue the mandatory injunction” and that “issuing such an order constitutes an unconstitutional taking and violates Fair Grounds’ constitutional rights to due process.”
After the Aug. 27 hurricane wrecked infrastructure at Delta Downs, the racino announced that its property would close to assess and repair damage. The Oct. 6-Feb. 27 meet could be delayed or abbreviated.
On Sep. 2 the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA) made a written plea to the LSRC asking for an emergency order to be handed down that would mandate “immediate access to stalls to stable at both Louisiana Downs and Fair Grounds.”
The request for stabling is complicated by meets for both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds just now ending and starting within the same rough time frame at Louisiana’s four tracks. Additionally, the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic is making movement of people and horses difficult.
On Sep. 3 the LSRC voted 9-1 to mandate that Fair Grounds take in Thoroughbreds from Evangeline Downs to make way for a Quarter Horse meet scheduled to begin at Evangeline Sep. 17.
Crescent City Sports reported that the first 10 days of that Evangeline meet are dates that were originally assigned to Fair Grounds, but the Quarter Horse dates were moved to Evangeline earlier this summer “because of the local impacts of COVID-19 and the risks associated with conducting a meet in the peak of hurricane season.”