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Opening Day: Gantry Aims for Repeat in Thanksgiving Handicap

NEW ORLEANS (Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012) – Brittlyn Stable’s Gantry’s nose victory in last year’s running of Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap – the New Orleans oval’s tradition-rich annual opening day highlight – came as somewhat of a surprise to the festive fans on hand for the holiday program, but the Ron Faucheux-trained son of Pulpit has been installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite for Thursday’s 87th running of the six-furlong sprint.

To be ridden once again by jockey Richard Eramia, aboard for last year’s win, Gantry comes into Thursday’s highlight off an overmatched effort in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, but previously posted an impressive runner-up finish in Louisiana Downs’ Temperance Hill Stakes on Sept. 8 and easily won Calder’s Grade II Smile Sprint Handicap before that July 7. Following last season’s Thanksgiving Handicap, Gantry also captured Fair Grounds’ $75,000 Gaudin Memorial as well as its $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes on Louisiana Derby Day, en route to being named the meet’s Champion Sprinter.

Maggi Moss’s Delaunay, the Tom Amoss trainee who beat Gantry by two lengths in the Temperance Hill, is expected to be Gantry’s chief competition once again and has been pegged at 9-5 in the early line. Following his Louisiana Downs win, Delaunay captured Churchill Downs’ $65,000 Bet On Sunshine Stakes in his last start Nov. 3. Rosie Napravnik, Fair Grounds jockey champion the last two seasons, will be in the saddle astride Delaunay.

Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein’s Cash Refund, the 2009-2010 Fair Grounds Champion Sprinter, appears best of the others. Trained by Steve Margolis, Cash Refund finished second by a nose to Gantry in both last season’s Thanksgiving ’Cap and the Gaudin Memorial and will be ridden by Miguel Mena Thursday.

William Heffner’s Black Rhino, James Graham aboard; Claiborne Farms and Adele Dilschneider’s Shrill, Mark Guidry up; H & H Ranch’s Solar Charge, Leondro Goncalves,and Black Sheep Racing’s China, John Jacinto astride, complete the Thanksgiving Handicap field.

STRING KING FAVORED IN $60,000 MR. SULU STAKES ON OPENING DAY – Charles Craig Smith’s String King, who boasts a string of seven on-the-board finishes, heads a field of 10 in Thursday’s $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes, Fair Grounds’ supporting stakes on its opening day program. Trained by his owner, who also bred the gelding, String King won the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf at Fair Grounds last December and will be ridden by James Graham.

Red Oak Stable’s Kissimmee Kyle, runner-up by a nose to String King in last season’s Louisiana Champions Day Turf, appears the one to beat in the Mr. Sulu, a race restricted to accredited Louisiana-breds that will be contested at about one-mile over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson Turf Course. Jockey Mark Guidry, a recent inductee to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, is named to handle the reins on the Al Stall Jr. trainee.