By Derek Simon
Remember when Thanksgiving Day consisted solely of eating those jellied cranberries for the first — and only — time all year and watching/wagering on the football games?
Well, times have changed, my friends.
Now, in addition to — count ‘em — three NFL games, there are a bunch of racetracks trying to keep folks from over-indulging in the jellied cranberries as well.
Aqueduct (AQU), Churchill Downs (CD), Del Mar (DMR), Golden Gate Fields (GG), Gulfstream Park West (GPW), Laurel (LRL) and Woodbine (WO) have all carded races on Thanksgiving Day — and some look very enticing.
The Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct, in particular, is a must-watch race if you’re a racing fan — or simply not a fan of jellied cranberries (are you getting the feeling I’m not an aficionado?). The Highweight harkens back to days of yore, when horseplayers had great names, like “Nathan Detroit,” “Benny Southstreet” or “The Seldom Seen Kid” — you know, the Damon Runyon characters that used to give horse racing its unsavory, yet thoroughly delightful, reputation.
As the name implies, the Fall Highweight is a handicap race for older horses in which the most lightly-burdened horses would be considered top-weights in most other events. For example, the three lowest-weighted horses among the seven entrants in the Fall Highweight this year — Pulling G’s, Fabulous Kid and Green Grato — all tote 124 pounds, which is 2 lbs. more than American Pharoah carried in his Breeders’ Cup Classic win. Meanwhile, Palace and Salutos Amigos are slated to carry 133 lbs. and 134 lbs. respectively.
Personally, I’m intrigued by Fabulous Kid in this spot, as he wheels back quickly for a trainer (David Jacobsen) who’s been known to have success on short rest. At 10-1 on the morning line, I’m willing to forego the jellied cranberries (I’m not letting it go) for awhile.
Another must-watch race on Thanksgiving Day is the Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes, run at Del Mar since the demise of Hollywood Park (Benny Southstreet would be aghast). The Hollywood Turf Cup features the return of The Pizza Man, fresh off his close fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
What’s interesting about The Pizza Man is that he’s won 13 of 17 starts in the state of Illinois, yet is just 2-of-8 outside of the Land of Lincoln.
Although he might be too slow to win, I’d give Southern Freedom a long look. In what figures to be a paceless affair, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee could lead the pack for a very long time on Thursday.