11/28/2013 6:35PM

Fair Grounds: Gantry by a neck in Thanksgiving Handicap

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Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts
Gantry, ridden by Richard Eramia, beats Central Banker by a neck in the Thanksgiving Handicap.

The finish line came just in time for Gantry, who held off the onrushing Central Banker to win the $100,000 Thanksgiving Handicap at Fair Grounds for the second time in three years.

Gantry, breaking from the inside stall in a field reduced to four by the scratches of Delaunay and Foreign Production, led while pressed mildly on the outside by Mico Margarita through moderate splits of 22.81 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 46.38 for the half. Gantry shrugged off a tiring Mico Margarita in midstretch, but by then Central Banker, who had waited in third behind the leaders, had tipped to the outside and was closing strongly.

Central Banker steadily ate into Gantry’s lead in the final furlong, but the wire came before he could catch him, with Gantry home by a neck. The heavy favorite, Gantry paid $3 to win and was timed in 1:10.32 for six furlongs over a fast track. Mico Margarita got third by 2 1/4 lengths over Strong and Tough, who was taken up at the start.

Gantry, one of three winners on the day for jockey Richard Eramia and trainer Ron Faucheux, does not appear to be quite the same horse he was when he won the 2011 Thanksgiving, nor, perhaps, even as sharp as one year ago, when Delaunay handed him a convincing defeat. Purchased privately by the Brittlyn Stable more than two years ago, Gantry turns 7 on Jan. 1, and it’s a reasonable assumption that his best days are behind him.

Central Banker and, to a lesser extent, Mico Margarita might be the ones to watch coming out of the Thanksgiving. The Al Stall-trained Central Banker ran his final furlong Thursday in less than 12 seconds and has a powerful kick in one-turn races on both turf and dirt. Mico Margarita was making his first start since July, appeared to tire in the final three-sixteenths of a mile, and could move forward off this comeback race for trainer Steve Asmussen.