Time is approaching fast for what will be the first official futurity of the year and the very first Mardi Gras Futurity at Louisiana Downs under the historic track’s new owners, Rubico Acquisition Corp.
Ten horses will run in the annual race on Sunday, Mar. 27 in Shreveport.
Humorously mirroring the Oscars (coincidentally taking place that night), which have more nominations these days, this year’s Mardi Gras Futurity nominations have reached a higher number than ever before.
And because of what Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association president Bruce Salard has called “record interest,” this year’s winning horse will ride off with a purse of just under $350,000.
A large number of nominated horses also now requires an extended, two-day period for qualifying races. The qualifying races will be held on Saturday, Mar. 6 and Sunday, Mar. 7.
The drawings to determine who runs in those will happen on Saturday, Feb. 26.
The growing field of horses has also resulted in the Louisiana Racing Commission shortening Louisiana Downs’ quarter horse racing season this year.
Do you know how some parents get their kids into tony preschools even before they’re born? A horse race “futurity” is like that. Horses can be nominated when they’re foals, or even when they’re still in utero.
Futurities exist to identify and promote the most promising young horses in various disciplines, like racing, jumping, dressage, cutting, and barrel racing. So in that way, they’re like Miss Teen America.
These races can be seen as a sort of precursor for horses who continue to excel and later compete in world-renowned races such as the Pegasus World Cup.
Generally, horses participate at about two years old. Critics have suggested that preparation stresses the young horses too much and that they should be given another year to mature.
Back to the Futurity: a brief history
The year 1988 saw the first running of the Mardi Gras Futurity. The race has launched the careers of numerous great quarter horse champions, including:
- Vals Fortune, 2003, inducted into the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association Hall of Fame in 2022. “He always found a way to win,” said his trainer, M. Heath Taylor.
- Jet Black Patriot, 2008, 2-time Grade 1 winner. The 300-yard track record at Louisiana Downs still belongs to him, and as a “leading sire” now, he’s probably pretty happy.
- Magic Black Jack, 2015. The first Louisiana-bred quarter horse to set a world record.
Rubico takes the reins
In a deal more than a year in the works, and with the approval of both the Louisiana Racing Commission and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, Rubico purchased Harrah’s Louisiana Downs from Caesars Entertainment in late October. The company proceeded to drop the “Harrah’s” from the track’s name.
Kevin Preston, the president of Rubico, had indicated at the time that the company hoped to return the historic track to its iconic status. The upcoming Mardi Gras Futurity might just prove an early step in that direction.
There are other upcoming horse races at Louisiana Downs as well including:
- Those at Fair Grounds in New Orleans
- Delta Downs in Vinton
- And Evangeline Downs in Opelousas
All four Louisiana horse race tracks function as racinos.