Posse may be retiring from racing in a month, but it's becoming quite evident he likes an off-track. The 3-year-old colt rallied from last place at the top of the stretch to take a 1 1/2-length victory over Aloha Bold in the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap Thursday on opening day at Fair Grounds before 5,188 fans who braved day-long rains. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt, expected to make his final career start in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) Dec. 26 at Santa Anita Park, is 3-for-3 this year on sloppy surfaces. "It was a quality field, and when it comes up muddy it just gives him that much more of an advantage," Asmussen said. On Thursday, Posse was last through the first half-mile, more than four lengths behind the pacesetting trio of Price of Honour, Bonapaw and Gracie's Dancer. Posse and Aloha Bold rallied in the stretch, and Corey Lanerie sent Posse between Aloha Bold and Price of Honour inside the eighth pole to secure the victory. "We won a race earlier today (from off the pace) and I hoped it would set up similar," Asmussen said. "They fanned out across the track (at the top of the stretch) and he was able to get through on the inside." Asmussen and Lanerie combined for victory in the Thanksgiving Handicap for the second straight year, winning with Mountain General in track-record time in 2002. "What a wonderful feeling he is underneath you," Lanerie said. "He accelerates unbelievable. You've got to be careful because when he goes, he goes."
Posse was sent off as the odds-on favorite in a field of six and paid $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10. Aloha Bold returned $4.40 and $2.40, and Price of Honour paid $2.40 to show. Posse, who is owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and Vinery Stables, started his 3-year-old campaign with a track-record performance in a five-furlong allowance race at Fair Grounds on Feb. 10. He went on to win three of his next four starts, including two graded stakes victories, before losing his last four times out. He was coming off a fast-closing fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). The team of Heiligbrodt, Asmussen and Lanerie won the seventh through ninth straight races on the opening-day card. Lanerie also won the sixth race, giving him four wins on the day, one fewer than he took on opening day last season. Posse improved his career record to seven wins from 17 starts and his lifetime earnings to $662,841. (Chart, Equibase)