11/27/2008 1:00AM

Fair Grounds: Sok Sok returns with a win


Okay, okay, we get it now: Sok Sok likes the Fair Grounds.

Eleven months after he won the Sugar Bowl Stakes by almost eight lengths last season, Sok Sok won the Thanksgiving Handicap on Thursday in New Orleans. The margin this time was smaller, about three lengths, but Sok Sok looked just about as good, going six furlongs in a swift 1:09.98 while sprinting clear from his stablemate Devereux in the final furlong.

In general, the bettors had the race all wrong. Remembering the Bill Mott barn's two stakes wins opening weekend, John Q. Public made the Mott-trained Roi Maudit an even-money favorite. He finished a well-beaten third.

Even the Steve Asmussen-trained pair of Sok Sok and Devereux was misjudged. Longshot John Charles broke on top, soon challenged by Truleyonbroadway, with Devereux sitting a nice trip outside and in behind. Devereux, the 3-1 second choice, made an encouraging wide move to take the lead just past the quarter pole. But after straightening away, there came 5-1 Sok Sok, who had raced in behind the two early leaders around the turn and into the stretch. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. tipped him out before the three-sixteenths pole, and Sok Sok dashed past Devereux - fit, sharp, and ready for his first start in almost a year. The winner, a 3-year-old Trippi colt owned by Savorthetime Stable, paid $12.40 to win.

Sok Sok now has won 4 of 7 starts, three of them stakes, and, until proven otherwise, will rank the top older sprinter stabled at Fair Grounds. Asmussen won last year's Thanksgiving Handicap with Stormin Baghdad, who went on to have an excellent meeting.