NEW ORLEANS (Friday, March 02, 2012) – Although jockey Jesse Campbell endured a slower-than-usual beginning to his 2011-2012 winter season at Fair Grounds, he certainly ended it on a high note by capturing last Saturday’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap with an upset win aboard Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft for trainer Austin Smith.

The 34-year-old reinsman will conclude his Crescent City season this Saturday, seat wife Allyson and their two cats in the truck beside him before dawn Sunday and head north, driving straight through to Chicago while towing the family’s boat behind.

“We’ll spend a few days visiting our families in Chicago,” said Campbell Friday morning, “but then we’ll head back to Canada to get ready for the Woodbine meeting. We’re awfully excited to be going back up there. We’re really looking forward to it. We had a very good season in Canada last year even though it was my first time riding up there. I won seven stakes and four of them were graded. I’m riding for all the right people up there now, and I think we’ll really be able to build on that momentum this spring.

“I knew it would be a little slow down here this winter,” said Campbell, “but I did think we’d do a little better than we did. I did go over and win a stakes at Houston while we were down here this winter and as for that horse (Nates Mineshaft) the other day – he ran a huge race. Ever since that first race he ran down here at Fair Grounds this winter, I’d told the trainer this is a different horse than when I worked him three weeks earlier. I can’t say I expected to win the race the other day, but I knew he’d run well. Then, when he was traveling so easy and no one was challenging us when we had the lead going into the first turn, I thought then, ‘This is a good thing for us.’ I knew my horse was a good horse and that they shouldn’t be letting us get away that easy.

“It’s funny, but it was merely a coincidence that Ally was out here that day to see the horse win last week,” Campbell said. “She’s been working as a wedding planner this winter and normally she wouldn’t have a day off on a Saturday. In fact, even when we found out she did that day, I told her it probably wasn’t worth it to come out to the races. Luckily, she didn’t listen to me.”

However, last week’s $125,000 Mineshaft ’Cap is designed to serve merely as a prep race for the Grade II New Orleans Handicap to be run as part of the Louisiana Derby Day card April 1, closing day of the current Fair Grounds season. Would Campbell and Nates Mineshaft be returning for that?

“You know, I haven’t even really talked to the trainer since that race the other day,” said Campbell. “I have no idea what his plans are with the horse. But if he comes back to run in that next race, I’d certainly like to fly back down here to ride him.”


CARMEL’S CHALLENGING MARATHON RUN COMING UP SUNDAY – Fair Grounds-based horsewoman Carmel Heitzmann has completed her training and pronounced herself ready to run in the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon this Sunday.

Portions of the local marathon’s route will take place on streets immediately adjacent to the Fair Grounds property.

“I ran about 10 miles Wednesday,” said the wife of trainer Eric Heitzmann who supervises the daily operation of her husband’s stable. “That should about do it for me until Sunday. Now, all I’m going to do is rest up and load up on ‘carbs’ until the race.”

The British-born but Irish-raised horsewoman was severely injured when kicked by a horse in front of the Fair Grounds stands in February of 2011, and during those first critical hours and days her life was in jeopardy. However, following exploratory surgery that led to the removal of 24 inches of her colon, Heitzmann was released from the hospital 10 days after the accident.

As a former marathon runner, she announced this winter that she was taking pledges and going to run in this Sunday’s marathon to raise funds for Donna and Dallas Keen’s Remember Me Rescue.

That organization, along with the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association, has aided in the rescue of more than 60 starving horses seized from a farm in northern Louisiana in January. Those horses that can be saved still face a long and expensive road to full recovery.

Remember Me Rescue has a specific area on its website at http://www.TeamKeen.com that allows horse lovers to donate toward Heitzmann’s upcoming local marathon run.


KATIE MIKOLAY’S STAR KEEPS ASCENDING – Fair Grounds Racing Analyst Katie Mikolay stars in a new video teaching newcomers five basic tips to help introduce them to the world of handicapping. The video will debut on this Tuesday’s edition of “Night School,” the free weekly handicapping chat hosted online at HorsePlayerNOW.com and also accessible via the Racing and Wagering page at FairGroundsRaceCourse.com.

The video was made with the invaluable assistance of Fair Grounds television supervisor Scott Mulkey and producer Lonnie Matherne.

“I started at Square One in this business,” said Mikolay. “I didn’t come from a horseracing background and I knew absolutely nothing about the sport when I got into it. What I tried to do in this video is to show people that it is possible to learn about this sport and become successful at it even though they might be starting out at Square One just as I did.”