A late-summer outing to the racetrack just wouldn’t be the same the without the ostriches and the zebras.
The Fair Grounds Race Course in Gentilly hosted its third exotic-animal race on Saturday, a kid-friendly outing that’s less a race than a campy lark.
After a day of horse-racing at the track, a late-afternoon zebra race featured three of the striped animals (which are smaller than horses) that raced to the shrieks and laughs of the family-heavy crowd drawn to the event.
A zebra named Three Stripes You’re Out delayed the run by misbehaving in the starting gate. Another zebra lost its rider almost immediately out of the gate. By the time it was over, the trio of zebras was lunging off in all directions.
The racetrack announcer spoke of “an exciting stretch run” over the public-address system, which was indeed a stretch.
Spectators declared this year’s event a more subdued and less-well-attended event than the summer 2012 exotic-racing debut at the track, and noted that the ticket price for the novelty event spiked from $5 in 2012 to $15 this year.
“When it was $5 last year you couldn’t move in here,” declared New Orleans costume designer Dana Embree.
Still, Embree enjoyed a racetrack cocktail and took in the pleasant racetrack surroundings, lush and muddy in the glimmering afterglow of a rainy weekend afternoon.
Wearing a green- and cream-colored beaded-silk Indian salwar chemise, Embree said that part of what drew her, and others, to the track’s unusual offering last year was the chance to see and be seen at the track.
And, “the spectacle of the children doing handstands and running amok is always amusing,” Embree said. She darted off to group of well-dressed friends spotted outside the grandstand, awaiting the evening ostrich races.
Ostrich racing has been traced back to ancient Egypt, and it’s a popular attraction in parts of South Africa. It has a limited but lively history in the United States.
Jacksonsville, Fla., might be called the historical capital city of all things ostrich-related in the nation. It was known in the last century for ostrich racing and farms.
One well-traveled postcard available on the Internet is from Jacksonsville in the early 20th century and depicts a dandified man in a cart pulled by an ostrich.
Alas, results from the Saturday-night ostrich race at the Fair Grounds reached the New Orleans Advocate too late for the newspaper’s deadline.