Mambo Galliano Waltzes in 85th Thanksgiving Handicap on Opening Day

Former Fair Grounds owner Louie Roussel III was not present for the 85th running of the featured $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on Fair Grounds’ traditional opening day, but it was still a rousing hometown victory for the New Orleans native because he owns and trains the winner, Mambo Galliano.

Scoring his second straight victory and his fifth in 16 lifetime starts, Mambo Galliano responded when roused by jockey James Graham for the stretch run and drew off late for a four-length score to increase his career earnings to $167,192 in front of the festive opening day crowd – most of whom were native New Orleanians enjoying their traditional Turkey Day holiday.

The winner, who was saddled by fellow trainer Neil Pessin and accomplished the six-furlong distance in 1:09.56, returned $11.20, $5.80 and $4 while finishing four lengths in front of Oliver Pierce’s Sweetsouthernmoon, who paid $9 and $4.60 and was a nose to the good of Winmore LLC and Robert and Lawana Low’s Cool Bullet, who returned $5.20.

“He’s been working up to this one, and we got some lovely little splits to set off of before he took off,” said the Irish-born jockey Graham. “Hopefully, he’ll keep improving off of this one.”

Pessin, a stable neighbor of Roussel’s, updated Mambo Galliano’s recent days.

“He’s been here for about a week or 10 days,” said Pessin. “Louie sent him down and we just galloped him into the race today.”

Favored Foreign Production, owned by Foxwood Plantation, set the early fractions of 21.95 and 45.22 before weakening to fourth in the late stages.

Racing returns Friday at Fair Grounds with a 12:40 p.m. post time that will feature the third running of the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes.