During the many years that Thanksgiving Day coincided with opening day at Fair Grounds, the Thanksgiving Handicap was the much anticipated feature that attracted hoards of New Orleanians to the nation’s third-oldest race course. Thanksgiving no longer opens the season, but the crowds still pack the Clubhouse and the Grandstand for an afternoon of holiday racing that makes for a special New Orleans tradition. First post for the 10-race program is 12:40 p.m. with Race 8, the Thanksgiving Handicap, set for 4:13 p.m. CST. As of Sunday, only a handful of tables remain available in the Black Gold Room for the Thanksgiving Day buffet (call 504-943-2200 to make your reservation).
After winning an allowance race locally in December of 2007, the son of Langfuhr owned by James and Marilyn Helzer captured the $100,000 F. W. Gaudin Memorial on the main track in January of 2008, switched surfaces to win the $100,000 Colonel Power in February over the Stall-Wilson turf course and then went back to the main track to annex the $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner in March of that year on Louisiana Derby Day.
After being sidelined by injury throughout that summer, Euroears flashed brief speed in Churchill’s $56,000 Bet On Sunshine Stakes that November before tiring, was unstarted until last August when he couldn’t handle the soft going in Penn National’s $200,000 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Handicap, and consequently needed his next race in allowance company at Philadelphia Park Sept. 7. Finally, when taken to Hoosier Park last month on Oct. 15, Euroears returned the winner’s circle following an impressive outing over muddy going.
“Hopefully, we now have the horse back to where he was two years ago when he won six in a row,” said trainer Bret Calhoun earlier this week. Jockey Jamie Theriot, Fair Grounds’ leading rider that same season, will make up most of the starting highweight of 121 pounds assigned Euroears.
Savorthetime Stables’ Sok Sok, winner of last year’s Thanksgiving Handicap and conditioned by last year’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen (also last season’s leading trainer at Fair Grounds), is capable of providing strong competition for the morning line favorite. Sok Sok has been made the 3-1 second choice and shoulders the next highest impost of 118 pounds. The 4-year-old son of Trippi also won last season’s Duncan F. Kenner Stakes locally and has the riding services of Brian Hernandez Jr., who scored a riding “hat trick” at Fair Grounds on Saturday.
From the rail out, the Thanksgiving Handicap field with jockeys, weights and morning line odds, consists of Premium Win, Shane Sellers, 114 (8-1); Euroears, Jamie Theriot, 121 (5-2); Tend, Curt Bourque, 115 (8-1); Sok Sok, Brian Hernandez Jr., 118 (3-1); Southern Style, Jesse Campbell, 117 (6-1); Tempo Five, James Graham, 116 (4-1); and Marvel Wood, Corey Lanerie, 117 (5-1).