Photo by Alexander Barkoff

Photo by Alexander Barkoff

WYES-TV’s newest documentary focuses on the third-oldest
racecourse in the country!

Before it became officially known as the Fair Grounds in 1872, it was used not only as an early race track but also for exhibitions, boxing and baseball games.

During the Civil and Spanish-American War the site was used as a campground. Union Gen. George Armstrong Custer raced horses there, and one of the more notable visitors through the years was President Ulysses S. Grant.

Among the many celebrated horses that will be remembered is Risen Star, a Louisiana thoroughbred that won the 1988 Louisiana Derby and went on to capture the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Risen Star

Risen Star

NEW ORLEANS FAIR GROUNDS MEMORIES looks at some of the owners, trainers and jockeys that have contributed to the track’s rich history, including Allen “Blackcat” LaCombe, the legendary handicapper and publicist for the Fair Grounds Race Course for over thirty years. Also profiled are Joe Brown and his wife, Dorothy Dorsett Brown, who had a stable of over forty horses at the Fair Grounds. After Mr. Brown’s death, Mrs. Brown continued breeding and running her horses locally and at tracks around the United States for over twenty years.

Along with rare films and photos, the show will feature interviews with Bryan Krantz, former Fair Grounds owner; Tom Amoss, one of the leading trainers at the Fair Grounds; and Evelyn Benoit, thoroughbred owner and breeder, who has one of the largest stables at the racecourse.

Additional interviews are with former jockeys, Ronnie Lamarque, co-owner of Risen Star; journalists Angus Lind and Ronnie Virgets; and New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Executive Director Quint Davis, to name just a few. 

Mrs. Brown

Mrs. Brown

With a season that opens officially around Thanksgiving and ends close to Easter, going to the Fair Grounds has been a tradition for many local families.  During such hallmark days as Thanksgiving and the Louisiana Derby, many female track patrons wear hats. 

Also explored are the hurricanes, fire and bankruptcy that the Fair Grounds withstood.  According to Angus Lind, “I think the Fair Grounds historically has meant a lot to the city of New Orleans. The Fair Grounds was racing horses before Churchill Downs was built, before the first Kentucky Derby was run. So we’re talking about a lot of history here. It’s in a completely urban setting, and now for many years we’ve had the Jazz Fest there, which has become a big part of this city too. So between the racing and the Jazz Fest, I’d say the Fair Grounds is a very valuable asset to the city.”

NEW ORLEANS FAIR GROUNDS MEMORIES is produced and narrated by Peggy Scott Laborde. Editor is Larry Roussarie. Associate producers are Ashli Richard and Kelsi Schreiber. Photographers are Paul Combel and Lenny Delbert. Original music by Kevin George. 

View of the Fair Grounds from the LSU Dental School Alexander Barkoff Photo

The program is made possible by The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation and the WYES Producers Circle, a group of generous contributors dedicated to the support of WYES’ local productions. BrownFoundationLogo-01-color

Want the DVD?

Call the WYES Membership department at (504) 486-5511 or email Marion at

Interviewed in the documentary...

Tom Amoss

Evelyn Benoit

Angelo Brocato, III

Bonnie Boyd

Martin Brown

Chris Champagne

Quint Davis

Eddie Delahoussaye

Bob Fortus

James Gill

Lou Hodges

Mike Kerrigan

Bryan Krantz

Ronnie Lamarque

Angus Lind

June Melancon

Ed Muniz

Sandra Salmen

George Schmidt

Paul Spencer

Cherell Edwina Smith

Mario Torres

Ronnie Virgets

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