The jockey's can't wait to ride the striped trotters. "Actually we've got more that are interested in riding the zebras than we have animals to go around," so Jim Mulvihill, the Communications Manager at the Fair Grounds says they'll have to draw names to see who gets to ride.
They're not actually wild animals Mulvihill explains, as these are zebra's bred with donkey's, which some have dubbed "ze-donks." "These are trained zebras, and they're actually bred for this purpose. They have bodies that are akin to a donkey, but they've got the black and white stripes like a zebra and a face like a zebra."
And then there is the return of ostrich racing, which helped to pack the grandstand with its largest post-Katrina crowd in August. "The amazing thing about the ostriches is that the jockeys don't have a saddle or reins or anything," Mulvihill says. "They'll just jump on the back, grab a handful of feathers and takeoff."
And don't forget the mascot racing, which involves big furry characters running the track. This race will pit Fair Grounds mascot Gentilly Billy and sister racetrack Churchill Downs mascot Churchill Charlie against the likes of Bones (New Orleans Voodoo), Boudreaux (New Orleans Zephyrs), Havoc ( Loyola University ), Mo jo (Voodoo) and Riptide ( Tulane University ).
First post (the first race) for the twilight thoroughbred program will be 2 p.m., with mascots, ostriches and zebras scheduled to race under the lights in the evening hours, after 6 p.m.
General Admission will be $10 at the door. Clubhouse and Miller Time Beer Garden admission will be $15. Children 12 and under will be admitted free.
The Miller Time Beer Garden will serve as a premium viewing area with a stellar vantage point near the starting gate, plus DJ Rob Nice and access to some of the area's best food trucks and pop-up food vendors including BBQ and Some, Fry Bar NOLA, La Cocinita and Woody's Fish Tacos.
Here's a look at the last ostrich race at the Fairgrounds:
(Photo and Video Credit: Churchill Downs Simulcast Productions)