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Barn Notes: Thursday, November 21
In Today's Notes: Amoss Readies For Another Thanksgiving Handicap; Gantry to Try Again in Thanksgiving Handicap
Fresh off his 10th training title at Fair Grounds Racecourse & Slots last spring, New Orleans-born conditioner Tom Amoss is eagerly anticipating another Thanksgiving Day at his hometown oval.
“I’ve been coming to Fair Grounds on Thanksgiving Day since I was a little kid,” Amoss recalled some time ago. “My earliest memories of Thanksgiving involve coming out here to the old clubhouse to celebrate the day with my family. I would always order either the corned beef or the lamb chops for dinner.”
However, surely the most satisfying Turkey Day of Amoss’s long, local conditioning career came a year ago when he finally saddled a winner of a Thanksgiving Handicap, the traditional feature race of the holiday that had previously eluded him.
Maggi Moss’s Delaunay was the horse that filled that hole in Amoss’s resume, and it was Delaunay who parlayed that $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap win to another in the $75,000 F. W. Gaudin Memorial and then a third straight stakes score in the $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner. Those three straight sprint stakes victories prompted Delaunay’s eventual election for Horse of the Meeting honors.
Now, Delaunay, Amoss, owner Moss and Fair Grounds’ defending rider champion Rosie Napravnik are set to fuse their talents once again in the upcoming $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on November 28.
Delaunay has been freshened. Following his Duncan Kenner score, the 6-year-old altered son of Smoke Glacken won the Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day last spring, traveled to Prairie Meadows to finish second in the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap June 28 despite a bumping incident and was then given a breather following a fourth-place finish in Saratoga’s Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on August 4. He has been given three half-mile breezes since that time, the most recent coming last Saturday at Fair Grounds when he went the four furlongs in 48.40.
“We’re not concerned about his fitness,” said Amoss. “He’s going to run in the Thanksgiving Handicap and Rosie will be back on him. He’s always loved this racetrack and we expect him to run well. The only concern I have is that you have to wonder how long a horse can keep improving with each start the way he has.”
Incidentally, Amoss nominated three horses to Saturday’s $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes at about one mile over the local lawn, but has updated that plan.
“The only one I entered is (Maggi Moss’s) Pioneering Native,” Amoss said, “and he’ll only run if they take the race off the grass.”
GANTRY TO TRY AGAIN IN THANKSGIVING HANDICAP —Brittlyn Stable’s Gantry won the Thanksgiving Handicap two years ago and also that season’s Duncan F. Kenner Stakes, but was second to Maggi Moss’s Delaunay in both of those sprint stakes last season.
Nevertheless, trainer Ron Faucheux remains undaunted by the prospect of another rematch of Gantry against last season’s undefeated sprint stakes hero and was surely encouraged by Gantry’s last start which resulted in a 4 ½-length tally in the $50,000 Temperance Hill Stakes at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 7.
In his only other start since his runner-up finish to Delaunay in the Duncan Kenner Gantry was a respectable second, beaten by a length and a quarter in Keeneland’s Grade III Commonwealth in his first and only start over Polytrack.
“That last race (the Temperance Hill) was a really good comeback race – as good as he ever runs,” said Faucheux, “but then again he always gives you his best effort. He has always been a very consistent, solid horse since I’ve had him. We’ll just have to see how Delaunay comes back. He seems to run a good race every time as well.
Faucheux, who took over the training of Evelyn Benoit’s Louisiana Futurity and Gentilly Stakes winner Sunbean last summer, nominated that Grade II Louisiana Derby contestant to Saturday’s $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes, but updated on Sunbean’s planned sophomore swansong.
“We’re going to pass on the Mr. Sulu and take him directly into Louisiana Champions Day and the ($150,000) Louisiana Champions Day Classic (to be run Dec. 14),” Faucheux said.