Cats, Cards fans boost attendance at Louisiana Derby


Posted on April 2, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS -- On a day off from basketball, Final Four fans boosted attendance at another big sporting event - the Louisiana Derby.

Officials said it may have been the biggest day of racing in the history of the fair grounds, making the fair grounds the real winner on the last day of Louisiana's racing season.

Among the traditional hats for Louisiana Derby Day, the crowd was peppered with fans in blue.

For months, race course officials hoped a team from Kentucky would make it to the Final Four, betting that would give the race course a shot in the arm after a slow start to the season.

"That's why we positioned the Louisiana Derby on Sunday this year instead of Saturday, knowing it would be the off day between the games but we never dreamed we would end up with both Kentucky and Louisville," said Jim Mulvihill, fair grounds communications manager.

Mulvihill didn't have exact attendance numbers, but estimated this year's derby day would easily draw at least 8,000 people, compared with the usual 6,000 to 7,000.

He said fans from Kentucky made all the difference.
"It's Kentucky - there's horse racing and basketball," said Tom Moore, a Kentucky fan who spent the day at the fair grounds.
"If you're from Kentucky, you've got to like the horse," said Jason Darnell, of Marshall County, KY.

Even one of the horses sported Kentucky colors. Mission Impazible came in second in a stakes race.

"We were hoping we would be in the Final Four, and I started getting the idea, wouldn't it be nice to run him in the UK blue and white silks, in front of all the UK fans," said Kim Gullatt, a Kentucky fan and part owner of Mission Impazible.

Of course, others in town for the NCAA basketball spent a day at the races.

"You can't beat the weather out here, and I love the horses, so I always bet the ponies," said Greg Walters, a Kansas fan.

Race course officials said high attendance can help attract better horses next year, because the more money bet at the track, the bigger the purse next season.