Natchez Classic horse race set for Saturday

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; As a horse enthusiast from Kentucky, the heart of horse racing, Terry Trovato has been to some of the more prestigious events around.

But ask him where he goes to have a fun time, and he’ll tell you &045; it’s the annual City of Natchez Classic, to be held for the sixth time on Saturday at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans.

As of Thursday afternoon, 25 tickets for the race were still available at the Mayor’s Office, with more than 65 tickets already sold. Tickets are $22.50 and include lunch. &uot;The service, the food, Š everything is absolutely first-rate,&uot; Trovato said. &uot;This is fun in the New Orleans tradition. And when you consider the Natchez horse racing tradition, this is a wonderful way to experience in modern setting.&uot;

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In the mid-19th century, Natchez was the site of several horse racing tracks, including the most famous establishment, the quarter-mile Pharsalia Course at Natchez Under-the-Hill. The winner of the Natchez Classic is given a trophy by Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith himself.

Many of those in the contingent that travels each year to the Natchez Classic stay for several other Derby races on Saturday and Sunday.

A race lasts about a couple of minutes, &uot;and the rest of the time, you’re talking with your friends and seeing who you want to bet on,&uot; Trovato said.

A Dixieland band will usually be playing in the clubhouse where the Natchez group is headquartered. Women at the races can also shop on site for the same types of hats they see worn at the Kentucky Derby.

Such activities are as much a part of Natchez race weekend at the race itself, say perennial Derby-goers.

&uot;There’s good service, good food, good drinks Š and good hospitality. It’s just a festive time,&uot; said Joe Ring of Natchez, who has traveled to the Natchez Classic every year since it began.

&uot;You don’t have to bet the farm &045; bet two dollars. Either way, you get to cheer for the horses,&uot; he said. &uot;And if you’re lucky, you might get to take something out of there.&uot;