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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Tulane students flock to see exotic animal derby

Tulane students flocked to the exotic animal races in New Orleans in January 2024. (Lindsay Ruhl)

What better way to spend your Saturday than putting on a pair of cowboy boots and a blazer to go see exotic animals run around a track? Last weekend, Tulane University students took over the New Orleans Fair Grounds Exotic Animal racing in style. While most people who go to this event see it as a family fun outing, Tulanians saw it as the next-best Kentucky Derby. 

The Fair Grounds welcomed back the fan-favorite event of Exotic Animal racing this year, which has been a staple since 2012. Every year it has brought in a bigger crowd. Due to popular demand, there were two exotic animal race days, one focused on families and one for college students. 

The nation’s third-oldest racetrack, the Fair Grounds has been in operation since 1872. The many different events the venue offers brings together people from all around New Orleans; it is, for instance, the site of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The annual racing season begins Thanksgiving Day and continues through early spring and ends with the Louisiana Derby

With lines that stretched out to the parking lot, everyone gathered around to see not only the horse races, but also the zebras, ostriches and camels. Everyone could feel the excitement and energy from the very first race to the last. Those that wanted to immerse themselves even more in the event placed bets hoping that they chose their lucky animal.

I found my way to the front of the crowd and stood up against the railing to see the first race: the horse race. All of a sudden, before I could even get my camera out, they were off. Without even knowing which horse I wanted to win, myself and everyone around me began cheering. The race didn’t last long, so I was eager to see the next. 

What no one could prepare me for was seeing zebras race. They prepared to line up and then quickly they were released from the gates. In horse racing, there is something to hold onto. But jockeys in the zebra race slowly began to fall off, one by one. Everyone was laughing, including them.

The Fair Grounds racing day also included a wide variety of food and drink options, which fueled everyone throughout the day. With a pretzel in hand and a nice viewing spot up on the stands, I enjoyed watching the jockeys race the ostriches and camels in the following races — though I think they spent more time on the ground from falling off the animals rather than actually racing them.

Part of me questioned why I stayed for four hours; on the other hand, I’ve never laughed so much in my life. So I will leave you with two recommendations. One, wear comfortable shoes; I promise the boots will start to hurt. Secondly, don’t listen to your friend when they tell you which animal to bet on — they will be wrong. Next year, be sure to get your tickets early, as this unique experience will only become more popular and sell out quicker. Get out the gates early!

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