Tradition Rules With Opening Day Thanksgiving Handicap

The nation’s third-oldest racetrack will reignite one of its historic traditions when Fair Grounds Race Course opens the 2010-2011 Thoroughbred Racing Season in New Orleans with the 85th running of the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap.

For many years Thanksgiving Day coincided with opening day at Fair Grounds, and now, following a two-year hiatus of earlier openings, the Crescent City oval returns to its more treasured schedule of hosting the six-furlong Thanksgiving Handicap as its opening day highlight.

Once again New Orleanians will pack Fair Grounds Clubhouse and the Grandstand to celebrate Turkey Day with a special 11:05 a.m. first post time for a nine-race program that will allow guests to be home in time to watch their beloved Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints play the Dallas Cowboys later in the afternoon.

Foxwood Plantation’s Foreign Production, who finished second by a half-length in the $50,000 Temperence Hill Stakes at last asking Sep. 25 at Louisiana Downs, has been installed as the 5-2 morning line choice in the Thanksgiving Handicap, but is expected to face strong competition from Savorthetime Stables’ Sok Sok, who won this race two years ago.

As a Louisiana-bred, Foreign Production won Evangeline’s restricted $100,000 Louisiana Showcase Sprint on July 3 and Louisiana Downs’ restricted $60,000 Louisiana Cup Sprint May 22. The 4-year-old gelding is trained by James “Sweet” Hodges and will be ridden by Carlos Gonzalez.

Sok Sok, who is conditioned by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen and will have Corey Lanerie aboard, finished fourth in last year’s Thanksgiving Handicap and is the 7-2 second choice in the morning line. In his last trip to the post on Oct. 25 at Delaware Park he finished a fast-closing third in an optional claiming five-furlong sprint and also boasts a runner-up finish in Fair Grounds’ $75,000 F. W. Gaudin Memorial last January 23.  

Foreign Production must shoulder the top impost of 118 pounds, while Sok Sok is assigned the second high weight of 117.

Not to be easily dismissed in the Thanksgiving Handicap is Louie Roussel III’s Mambo Galliano, who finished fifth in last summer’s $125,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap behind Carl Moore Management’s Chamberlain Bridge. That rival went on to win the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.

Also worthy of consideration is Winmore LLC and Robert and Lawana Low’s Cool Bullet, who captured last year’s $60,000 Super Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds.

From the rail out, the Thanksgiving Handicap field, with weights and jockeys, is: Sequoia Racing’s Strikewhileitshot, 113, Anna Napravnik; Mambo Galliano, 117, James Graham; Sok Sok, 117, Corey Lanerie; Cool Bullet, 116, Jamie Theriot; Foreign Production, 118, Carlos Gonzalez; April McCurry’s Normandy Shore, 113, Richard Eramia; Oliver Pierce’s Sweetsouthern Moon, 115, Eddie Martin Jr.; and Maynard Chatters’ Southern Style, 115, Kerwin Clark.