Krantz Stable Updates
Opening Weekend is Here!
- Published: November 29, 2002
- Written by Bryan Krantz
Thanksgiving is turkey, gravy, dressing and horse racing in our family. This is the holiday when the kids go to maw maw's and pa pa's house and the adults go to spend some long hours sorting out finishing touches on Opening Day. This year was one for the books. Picture perfect weather, lots of people, just a few minor glitches and lots of happy faces.
One tradition among the traditions of Thanksgiving Day openings is the Thanksgiving Handicap. Races are measured in furlongs. These are an old English measure for one-eighth of a mile. The Thanksgiving Handicap is six furlongs (6F) or three-quarters of a mile. It has been run at the six-furlong distance since 1946 when Michigan Kid sped the 3/4 mile in 1 minute, 15 1/5 seconds (a good 6 1/2-furlong time today). In 1957 the Fair Grounds icon, Tenacious, moved the mark down to 1:11 flat. Tenacious was one of the most beloved horses to ever run at Fair Grounds. He filled the grandstand many times during the 1950s as a crowd favorite. By 1969, Tudor Scott produced the first sub-1:10 running in the race's history, going the distance in 1:09 4/5.
Several horses have since run as fast as 1:09 1/5, but in 1998, Once A Sailor had been overlooked by the betting public in a big way except for his owner, Leland Cook and trainer Gerald Romero, who left the building with Elvis stuffing hundred dollar bills in every pocket they could find. The last three years the Thanksgiving Handicap has produced drama, power and awesome speed. Bonapaw won the 2000 and 2001 runnings in succeeding times of 1:09 and 1:08 3/5 for the twin owners James and Dennis Richard. The brothers hail from the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Bonapaw is the first Grade I stakes winner (best quality grading in Thoroughbred racing) the race has produced; he won the Grade I Vosburgh at Belmont earlier this year. He also was an invited guest to the Dubai World Thoroughbred Championships and a starter in this years Breeders' Cup Sprint (two of the top races in the world).
Bonapaw missed this year's renewal of the Thanksgiving Handicap to run in the Grade I Cigar Mile in New York on Saturday. All things considered, the Cigar Mile might turn out to be an easier spot. Mountain General exploded in the last quarter of a mile yesterday to smash not only the stakes record for the Thanksgiving Handicap but the track record. Two years ago the great Louisiana-bred filly, Hallowed Dreams, lowered the track record to 1:08 1/5 in a display of her brilliance while winning the Victoria Lass Handicap. Mountain General reduced the track record to 1:08.03 (records are now measured in hundredths as new ones are set).
Races have been run on the Fair Grounds oval since the early years of the 1800's. Dash racing began in the mid 1800's when four-mile heats were cast aside for two-mile sprints. Sprints have evolved into anything less than a mile in the modern era with the standard being six furlongs. What a thrill for the crowd yesterday to enjoy the tradition of racing on Thanksgiving Day by watching a great race and becoming a part of the history being made by Mountain General.
Krantz Stable swings into action tomorrow with three starters. In the sixth race, Magnolia Park will take on horses other than Louisiana-breds for the first time in a non-winners-of-two condition allowance race. It's a big step for him, but it should be a good measuring stick. In the ninth, Coach Rags finally gets a prep for Louisiana Champions Day. This is another allowance race that could just as easily be a stake at any track. He hasn't had a race in a while and this isn't the long-range objective but he should be on go. In the 10th, Junior Delaney will make his first start since the end of last year's Fair Grounds season. He is doing well and should have the best chance of the three to find the winner's circle.
Hope all had a good Thanksgiving. Things went well for us yesterday and we look forward to finishing the weekend and getting the kids back on Sunday. It's our favorite time of year – the holidays are upon us and the racing season has started.