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Stakes Advance: Thanksgiving Handicap

FOUR GRADED STAKES WINNERS HUNGRY FOR THANKSGIVING GLORY

The $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap served up a salty lineup of nine competitors with rich credentials looking to take a bite out of the first stakes race of the 2014-15 Fair Grounds season.  Led by two previous victors – Brittlyn Stable’s Gantry and Maggi Moss’ Delaunay – the 89th running of the event attracted seven stakes winners, four of them graded. 

Expected to be narrowed to an eight-horse field with the anticipated scratch of Rowell Enterprises’ Heitai – who ran in an allowance Sunday afternoon – the Thanksgiving is led by Brittlyn Stable’s defending champ Gantry.  A 10-time winner, the Ron Faucheux trainee seeks to become the first horse to win three editions of the Thanksgiving.  Seven other horses have won the event twice in its 88-year history.

Never worse than second in eight previous Fair Grounds starts, the 7-year-old son of Pulpit comes off a five-month break and seeks to return to the winner’s circle for the first time since the Colonel Power Stakes over the Fair Grounds turf in March.  The Kentucky-bred breaks from post three and gets regular rider Richard Eramia.       

Gantry’s main competition looks to be Maggi Moss’ multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire morning line favorite Delaunay.  Trained by Tom Amoss, the son of sprint champion Smoke Glacken has overpowered Gantry the last four times they faced one another, including a win in the 2012 Thanksgiving.  Delaunay comes into this year’s edition off two losses, including a tough battle with eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Work All Week in the Iowa Sprint Handicap in June.  Delaunay drew post eight and has James Graham in the irons.          

Perhaps the most intriguing entrant is Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft, who breaks from the rail under Antioco Murgia for trainer Anne Smith.  An immaculate five-for-five at the Fair Grounds, the son of Mineshaft has done his best running at two turns – including wins in the 2012 New Orleans and Mineshaft Handicaps.  Recently returned to racing after an extensive layoff, the bay ridgling has raced twice in sprints – winning an allowance/optional claiming event at Remington Park in September and then finishing a game second to Sharp Sensation in the Bet On Sunshine Stakes at Churchill Downs last out on Nov. 1 over six furlongs.       

Another graded stakes winner with a penchant for the Pelican State is Mike McCarty’s Lemon Drop Dream, who is three-for-four at the Fair Grounds.  Trained by Steve Asmussen and to be ridden from the six-hole by Jamie Theriot, the grandson of two-time champion turf mare Flawlessly earned his biggest win earlier this year in the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

Completing the field for the Thanksgiving Handicap are Ragnar Korthase’s Rugged (Kerwin Clark); Craig Drago’s Rhetorical (Abel Lezcano); Roger Braugh, Jr.’s Take It Like A Man (Miguel Mena); and The Farm on 4’s Mighty Brown (Willie Martinez).