11/26/2008 1:00AM

Mott again has stakes threat

Email

NEW ORLEANS - Although there will be thousands on hand eating their turkey dinners, a holiday tradition at Fair Grounds, the opening-day feel will be missing when the field heads to the gate for the Thanksgiving Handicap.

Usually the hot hands are still to be determined when the Thanksgiving Handicap is run, but with the track having opened two weeks earlier this year, Bill Mott has already shown strength. Mott's entrant, Roi Maudit, gets marked with both high weight and favoritism for the 83rd running of the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap.

In the first two weeks, Mott has entered three starters in local stakes races and taken two into the winner's circle, with Patrick Valenzuela up for both victories.

Valenzuela will be aboard Roi Maudit, who will carry high weight of 120 pounds in the six-furlong Thanksgiving Day. He enters the race off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap on Oct. 25 at Belmont Park. Though he was beaten five lengths by the winner, Kodiak Kowboy, who is expected to run in Saturday's Grade 1 Cigar Mile, Roi Maudit suffered from a bad trip in the seven-furlong Sport Page.

"In his last race, the break was pretty bad, and then he rushed a little to get to the lead, and was four wide," said Rodolphe Brisset, Mott's assistant trainer. "If we get a good break we'll see. He looks good in this spot, and six furlongs in the dirt fits him best."

His chief competition may come from Devereux, a 3-year-old who enters this race off an eighth-place finish in the Gallant Bob Handicap, run Sept. 27 on a muddy track at Philadelphia Park.

"His last race was bad in the slop, but he's had a decent year," said trainer Steve Asmussen. "He's trained very well."

Before the Gallant Bob, Devereux finished third in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga, and three races ago won the $100,000 Red Legend Stakes by seven lengths at Charles Town. He will be making his first start against older horses Thursday.

The other entry from the Asmussen barn, Sok Sok, was last seen nearly a year ago destroying the field in the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds. he vanished from view after his 8 1/2-length victory.

"He got sick after he won the Sugar Bowl - he sloughed off, and we had to regroup with him," said Asmussen.

"I wish I could find an easier spot for his first time back," Asmussen added, though noting that both Sok Sok and Devereux "are capable of being pretty quick, and they're in a position to be sharp."