03/30/2012 3:33PM

Fair Grounds: Round 3 of Cash Refund vs. Gantry in Kenner


NEW ORLEANS – Winter in New Orleans always has brought out the best in Cash Refund. The 6-year-old gelding has 7 wins and 3 seconds among his 17 career starts; five of those wins and two of the seconds have come at Fair Grounds.

“The horse just loves it here,” said trainer Steve Margolis.

But, unfortunately for Cash Refund and his connections, he has run into a horse this meet who likes Fair Grounds just as much. Gantry, privately purchased by the Brittlyn Stable of Maurice and Evelyn Benoit last fall, is wintering in New Orleans for the first time, and in the two dirt-sprint stakes so far this meet, he has gotten the best of Cash Refund.

But a hair could scarcely slide into the difference between the two. Gantry’s margin of victory over Cash Refund in the Thanksgiving Handicap was a nose, and if anything, the Jan. 21 Gaudin result was even closer.

Both times, it was Gantry who came out on top, and the third leg of their rivalry comes Sunday in the $150,000 Duncan Kenner, the first of seven stakes races on Fair Grounds’s closing-day program.

Seven others were entered in the Kenner, a six-furlong dirt dash, but Travelin Man, part of trainer Todd Pletcher’s two-horse entry, is staying home in favor of Soaring Stocks. Soaring Stocks has won three races in a row, but none of them look good enough to handle the top Fair Grounds sprinters. Zero Rate Policy, another Florida shipper, came within a nose of winning the Mr. Prospector Stakes two races ago, but that was a career-peak effort. Joe Hollywood has proven little more than early-pace fodder when matched against Gantry and Cash Refund, while Sweetsouthernmoon’s best hope is to sit back and pick off tiring speed horses to earn a minor placing.

And so the Kenner probably will come down to Cash Refund and Gantry again.

“We’re real happy going into this race,” said trainer Ron Faucheux, who took over Gantry’s training when he arrived in New Orleans. “I expect him to run the same race as he has been.”

Gantry has worked just four times since the Jan. 21 Gaudin, but that’s the Faucheux way, and Gantry has already excelled under a similar training pattern.

As for Cash Refund, he is a notoriously disinterested work horse, and his fast solo half-mile drill in 47.40 seconds on March 25 suggests that Cash Refund, too, is coming into Sunday’s race in top order.

In other words, Round 3 of the Gantry-Cash Refund battle might be as compelling as the first two.