Home of the Louisiana Derby

Yockey's Warrior Stuffs 'Em in the Thanksgiving Handicap

Yockey’s Warrior let the frontrunners cook the early fractions on a warm New Orleans afternoon before roasting his rivals in the final quarter of a mile and proving a popular victor in the 92nd running of the $75,000 Thanksgiving Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Trained by Al Stall, Jr., and owned by Stall, Stewart Madison, et al., the son of Warrior’s Reward made his stakes debut a winning one and extended the opening week hot streak of his conditioner, who has won five races and finished second twice from his first eight starts, including two stakes tallies.

Breaking from the outside post seven, jockey Miguel Mena had Kentucky-bred Yockey’s Warrior in prime position in third, just over a length off the dueling duo of Brad Grady’s Bret Calhoun-trained Supermason and Stonestreet Stables’ Steve Asmussen-trained morning-line favorite and post-time second choice Union Jackson. After fractions of 22.07 and 45.44, the dark bay launched a bold bid and struck the front at the eighth-pole, before closing his final eighth in 12.06 and finishing 2¼ lengths clear of his rivals in a final time of 1:09.23. The 9-5 favorite returned $5.60, $3.80 and $2.40, banking $45,000 to increase his career earnings to $178,420 and win his fourth race from 10 starts.

“We had a decent trip,” Mena said. “This horse broke super-sharp and put me in a great position. He was facing some nice horses today, but really picked it up at the five-sixteenths-pole and he was the best horse today and ran them down.”

“He’s had a world of potential his whole life and has little problems that we think are all behind him,” Stall added. “His race (last out) at Keeneland emboldened us to move forward and try this type of race. He ran a freakishly good race that day and we were worried about him (bouncing), but it looks like he actually improved a little bit today. If he stays together, we’re going to have a lot of fun down the road with him.”

Finishing a driving second up the rail under Richard Eramia was Brittlyn Stable’s Ron Faucheux-trained multiple graded stakes winner Clearly Now ($5.40 and $3.40), who bested Union Jackson ($2.80) and journeyman David Flores by a neck. The runner-up and third-place finisher had not raced since June and April, respectively.

“(Clearly Now) ran a big race and broke sharp,” Eramia said. “I had to keep my position and he was comfortable on the inside. I didn’t think he would break that sharp, but he was fresh. The (rail) post position hurt me, but he ran good.”

“(Union Jackson) was fresh and was ready to go,” Flores said. “I sat right off the pace and was waiting and hoping he would have something at the end, but he got a little bit tired. This will get him ready for next time.”

Midwest Thoroughbreds’Quijote, attempting to land trainer Tom Amoss his fourth Thanksgiving Handicap in five years, rallied but lacked the needed response to impact the top three, finishing 2¼ lengths astern Union Jackson. Supermason retreated to a well-beaten fifth, while Tommy Ligon’s Larry Jones-trained Totally Drenched - a well-supported 7-2 third choice - and David Davis’ Karl Broberg-trained A M Milky Way each felt the brunt of rough trips and completed the order of finish from well back.