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Delaunay Wins Thanksgiving Handicap on Opening Day; String King Takes Mr. Sulu Stakes

NEW ORLEANS(Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012) – Allowed to settle just off the early pace, Maggi Moss’s Delaunay took command in upper stretch and drew off for a 2 1/2-length tally in the 87th running of Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap – the New Orleans oval’s tradition-rich annual Opening Day highlight, giving nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss the first winner of his career in the Turkey Day feature attraction.

“It was a long time coming, but it’s still pretty sweet,” said Amoss, a native New Orleanian who is second all-time with 928 Fair Grounds winners to his credit in 25 seasons. “It will be a happy night. Great crowd, great weather and Delaunay showed up, so I can’t ask for any more than that.”

Ridden by two-time defending Fair Grounds jockey champion Rosie Napravnik, Delaunay stalked the pace of Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Cash Refund, who weakened to finish third at the wire, 4 1/4-lengths behind last year’s Thanksgiving Handicap winner Gantry, racing in the silks of Brittlyn Stable.

“He’s a really nice horse to ride,” said Napravnik of her third winner on the card. “He was all ‘push-button’.”

As the choice of the estimated crowd of 8,500 on hand for opening day, Delaunay paid $4.80, $2.80 and $2.40, while Gantry returned $3 and $2.60 for finishing second and Cash Refund paid $3.60 in the third spot.

With his third straight win and 11th victory in 36 lifetime starts, Delaunay increased his career earnings to $404,455 and toured the six-furlong distance in 1:08.94 after Cash Refund posted early splits of 21.24 and 44.96.

In the race following the Thanksgiving Handicap, Charles Craig Smith’s String King captured the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes in the afternoon’s supporting feature, restricted to Louisiana-breds and contested at about one mile over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course. 

Thanksgiving Handicap Quotes

Jockey Rosie Napravnik (Delaunay, winner):“He’s is just a really really nice horse to ride.  Tom told me that he was pretty versatile and just asking him to do whatever that you want him to do.  He was all push button and the best horse today.  Thankful to Tom and Maggi for having me on him today and it is great to be back at Fair Grounds and first time won the Thanksgiving Handicap so all it was a great day.

Trainer Tom Amoss (Delaunay, winner):“Rosie said it was her first Thanksgiving Handicap; it was mine, too, and I have had plenty of tries at it and just never won it. It will be a happy night. Look, great crowd, great weather and Delaunay showed up, so I can’t ask for more than that.”

Where does he go now? “Leave him here. I think he is a horse that suits the track and there is a great schedule for sprinters so he is a horse you will see again.”

Trainer Ron Faucheaux (Gantry, second):“We couldn’t make up much ground. Our horse ran a good race but the horse that won it ran an exceptional race. He’s got two on us; hopefully next time it’ll be a different story.

“It set up pretty good. I got no complaints on the ride, no complaints on anything. We just got beat. Delaunay was better than us today.”

Mr. Sulu Stakes Quotes

Trainer Charles King (String King, winner): “Next is Champions Day. He’s nominated to the Turf and the Classic and I don’t know which one I want to go in. Star Guitar outran him a length-and-a-half last year and that was his first try on dirt and he’s had some good numbers at Louisiana Downs on the main track, so that’s still an option. He’ll have to carry 122 in the Turf and 120 in the Classic.

"I really don’t care who’s in there. He’s got two Arc de Triomphe winners on his dam side so he should have plenty of stamina, and he’s got speed to boot.”