11/24/2016 6:22PM

Yockey's Warrior delivers as favorite in Thanksgiving Handicap

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Yockey's Warrior, with Miguel Mena aboard, wins the Thanksgiving Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths Thursday.

Just as everything has come together for trainer Al Stall’s stable at Fair Grounds, Yockey’s Warrior has finally started putting it all together.

For the first time in his career, Yockey’s Warrior won two races in a row, and in so doing gave Stall, a New Orleans native, his first win in the Thanksgiving Handicap, the traditional Fair Grounds opening-day feature before the race meet’s start was pushed earlier into November.

Yockey’s Warrior, getting a favorable outside pressing trip under Miguel Mena, collared Union Jackson at the eighth pole and had put him away by the sixteenth pole, going on to a 2 1/4-length win and paying $5.60 as the favorite.

It was the second winner Thursday for Stall, who after three racing days at Fair Grounds boasts a 5-2-0 mark from eight runners.

Clearly Now, saving ground from the rail, finished up the fence to nab second, a neck better than Union Jackson. Then came Quijote, Supermason, Totally Drenched, and A M Milky Way. Off splits of 22.07 seconds for the quarter, 45.44 for the half, and 57.27 for five furlongs, Yockey’s Warrior was timed in 1:09.23 for six furlongs on a fast track.

Yockey’s Warrior broke on top from the outside stall, but Mena let Supermason tow Union Jackson along on the lead, with Clearly Now surprisingly close in fourth. Yockey’s Warrior moved up around the turn as Supermason lost his position, engaged the leader in upper stretch, and, as he had last month in winning a Keeneland allowance race, finished full of run.

“His race at Keeneland emboldened us to go forward,” Stall said. “We were worried about him reacting to it, but it looked like he might have gone forward.”

The 4-year-old Yockey’s Warrior, owned by a partnership that includes Stall, is by Warrior’s Reward and out of Silia, by Gone West. He won for the fourth time in 10 starts and only recently has finally begun living up to a dazzling debut win two Februaries ago at Fair Grounds.

“He’s had a world of potential his whole life,” said Stall. “If he stays together, we might have some fun with him.”