Fair Grounds Racecourse in New Orleans kicks off its 133rd season of live racing and first under the ownership of Churchill Downs Inc. Thursday with the traditional opening-day feature, the Thanksgiving Handicap. Included among the seven horses entered in the six-furlong dash are Mountain General, Beau's Town, and Wildcat Shoes, each of whom owns stakes wins at Fair Grounds. Mountain General, who established the current six-furlong track record at Fair Grounds when capturing the 2002 renewal of the Thanksgiving Handicap, will be out to regain his winning ways for four-time Fair Grounds leading trainer Steve Asmussen. The 6-year-old son of Mountain Cat, who is owned by Asmussen's father Keith, was voted Fair Grounds' top sprinter that meet after also winning the Taylor's Special Handicap, but now a couple of seasons later he enters off only one win in his last 10 starts, which came in an upper-level allowance race at Churchill Downs in July. Jockey Donnie Meche will be aboard Mountain General from post No. 7 for Asmussen, who will be out to saddle his third consecutive winner in the Thanksgiving Handicap, as he won last year's running with Posse.
Beau's Town makes his first start at Fair Grounds since defeating Mountain General in the the Pelleteri Breeders' Cup Handicap in March 2003. The Cole Norman-trained chestnut has gone on to become a grade II winner, boasting a record of 12 wins from 20 lifetime starts. Beau's Town, who will break from post No. 5, enters Thursday's event off a stakes win on the turf at Louisiana Downs in his last start, and will get the return services of jockey Tracy Hebert from that victory. Wildcat Shoes ran the biggest race of his career in his only start at Fair Grounds, which came in the form of a smashing win in the Sugar Bowl Handicap last December in the colt's 2-year-old finale. The son of Forest Wildcat went on to win the Lost Code Breeders' Cup Stakes at Hawthorne Park in April, and the sophomore will look for his first win against older horses in his return to New Orleans. Jockey Lonnie Meche will be aboard Wildcat Shoes, who will break from post No. 3 for trainer William "Jinks" Fires. The field for the 79th running of the Thanksgiving Handicap from the rail out, with jockeys):
1 -- Artemus Sunrise, Jamie Theriot
2 -- Ole Rebel, Corey Lanerie
3 -- Wildcat Shoes, Lonnie Meche
4 -- Premium Saltine, Gerard Melancon
5 -- Beau's Town, Tracy Hebert
6 -- Aloha Bold, Robby Albarado
7 -- Mountain General, Donnie Meche.