Going into this week, trainer Steve Asmussen ranked second in the country in wins with 353.But none ran as fast as Mountain General on Thursday in Fair Grounds' traditional opening day feature, the $75,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, in front of a crowd of 7,466, third-largest in the six-year history of Fair Grounds' new facility.Under a powerful drive from Corey Lanerie, Mountain General cruised home by 6 1/2 lengths in track record time of 1:08.03 for six furlongs. The winning time broke the old mark set by Hallowed Dreams (1:08.34) on March 17, 2001, in the Victoria Lass Handicap."We're very happy with the victory," said Asmussen, who also won the Thanksgiving Handicap in 1997 with Valid Expectations. "Something like a track record ... When you step back and get further away from things and races down the road, it'll mean that much more."Mountain General, a 4-year-old son of Mountain Cat out of the General Assembly mare Tulira, increased his earnings to more than $322,000 with his seventh win from 19 lifetime starts. He paid $5.60, 2.80 and 2.40."When I called on him he gave me tons," said Corey Lanerie, who equaled a career high with five wins on the opening-day card. "That's the fastest I've come down the lane in a long time."Asmussen enjoyed three winners on the opening day card, while Tom Amoss recorded victories in each of the day's first two races.Gracie's Dancer finished second, but was disqualified to fourth after Aloha Bold's jockey Jamie Theriot filed an objection with the stewards.
"From the start he kept bouncing me around," Theriot said. "Down the backstretch, down the lane ... his horse was intimidating my horse. After about the fifth time my horse lost interest and just hung on for fourth. I clearly believe I could have been second."Curt Bourque, aboard Gracie's Dancer crossed the wire three-quarters a length ahead of Wild Summer, who was moved up to second in the official order of standings."I felt I clearly broke sharp and made my move to the rail I thought I was clear," Bourque said. "As far as down the lane I thought Jamie's horse was coming out on me. I honestly don't think I bothered him."Wild Summer paid $3.40 and $2.60, while Aloha Bold returned $2.80 to show.(Chart, Equibase)