The Louisiana Derby during the 1918–1919 Spanish Flu pandemic: The 108th Louisiana Derby will be run on Saturday, March 20, 2021, at the Fair Grounds, which has been closed to general spectators during the 2020–2021 race meet; last year’s Louisiana Derby was also run without spectators as the city confirmed its earliest cases of COVID-19 at the beginning of March. Let’s revisit the Times’ piece written last year, The Louisiana Derby in History: Did the Spanish Flu impact the race in 1918–1919? You may be surprised to learn that this Kentucky Derby prep race has endured far more than two pandemics!
A visit to the old Louisiana Jockey Club clubhouse: The Times recently paid a visit to the Luling Mansion, built in New Orleans in 1866. It was once part of a grand estate located adjacent to the Fair Grounds race track as well as the park that would later be known as City Park. The Louisiana Jockey Club bought the property in 1871, prior to its first race meeting at the Fair Grounds that was held in the spring of 1872. The mansion was the central figure of the Jockey Club’s grounds and served as a clubhouse for its membership.
As of 2019, the mansion was serving as an apartment complex, but appeared abandoned on our visit to the gated property. We’ve since learned that the building was purchased in 2020 by an owner called the Jockey Club of New Orleans, Inc., and we hope this Club will restore it to its former grandeur. Look for a cat in the photos—the ghost of a 19th-century barn cat from the nearby track, perhaps?
Yelverton Oliver (and Turf History Times) gets some 21st-century press: If you’ve read the Turf History Times’ series about New Orleans’ Eclipse Course, then you’re familiar with Yelverton Oliver, the influential Virginia turfman who sparked the revival of racing in New Orleans and helped make the city a contender in the national sport with his launch of the Eclipse track in 1837. Ray Cox, a journalist for The Roanoke Times, recently reached out to us to talk about Oliver, and wrote three pieces about the horseman while referencing some of our research on this fascinating gentleman.
Read Cox’s three-part series here: 1) “Historic Roanoke home, golf course linked with mid-1800s horse race entrepreneur;” 2) Column evokes more history, lore on 19th century Roanoke gambling man;” and 3) “Roanoke Valley’s Yelverton Oliver saw opportunity across state lines.”
Wishing to all of our readers a healthy March and a very Happy Louisiana Derby Day!
Editor, Turf History Times