Delaunay runs away with Thanksgiving Handicap

Allowed to settle just off the early pace, Maggi Moss's Delaunay took command in upper stretch and drew off for a 2 1/2-length tally in the 87th running of Fair Grounds' $98,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, the New Orleans oval's tradition-rich annual opening day highlight, giving nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss his first winner in the Turkey Day feature attraction.

"It was a long time coming, but it's still pretty sweet," said Amoss, a native New Orleanian who is second all-time with 928 Fair Grounds winners to his credit in 25 seasons. "It will be a happy night. Great crowd, great weather and Delaunay showed up, so I can't ask for any more than that."

Ridden by two-time defending Fair Grounds jockey champion Rosie Napravnik, Delaunay stalked the pace of Cash Refund, who weakened to finish third at the wire, 4 1/4-lengths behind last year's Thanksgiving Handicap winner Gantry, who sustained his first loss at Fair Grounds after sweeping three stakes last season.

"He's a really nice horse to ride," Napravnik said of her third winner on the card. "He was all 'push-button.'"

Delaunay entered the six-furlong event on a roll, posting easy wins in the September 8 Temperance Hill at Louisiana Downs and the November 3 Bet on Sunshine at Churchill Downs, and he also captured the Kelly's Landing Stakes this summer. With Thursday's third straight victory, the five-year-old gelding has now earned $404,455 from a 36-11-8-3 ledger.

As the 7-5 favorite of the estimated crowd of 8,500 on hand for opening day, Delaunay paid $4.80, $2.80 and $2.40. Gantry was off as the 9-5 second choice in the seven-horse field. Solar Charge took fourth and was followed by Shrill, China and Black Rhino under the wire.

Delaunay toured the fast six-furlong distance in 1:08 4/5 after opening splits of :21 1/5 and :44 4/5.

In the race following the Thanksgiving Handicap, String King posted a two-length victory as the 8-5 favorite in the $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes, the afternoon's supporting feature, restricted to Louisiana-breds and contested at about one mile over Fair Grounds' Stall-Wilson turf course.

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