Fair Grounds stakes coordinator Scott Jones advised on Tuesday morning that the connections of George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire as well as Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister’s Cool Blue Red Hot informed the racing office that their charges would not be coming from South Florida for the Mineshaft, and in a related late Mineshaft development, C R K Stable’s West Coast invader Gladding was reportedly not on the equine charter flight from California that was to arrive in New Orleans Tuesday.
Trained by Martin Jones and to be ridden by Edgar Prado, Tres Barrachos was clearly second best in his last start in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Pasqual Stakes Jan 7, and was also a clear runner-up in Hollywood Park’s Grade III Native Diver Handicap before that, but the 7-year-old Ecton Park gelding has not visited the winner’s circle since capturing Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap last July 30. He must shoulder the starting top impost of 121 pounds in the Mineshaft.
One prominent challenger remaining from the original Mineshaft ’Cap field now reduced by one third is Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras, pegged as the 9-2 second choice in the Mineshaft morning line although cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap. Mister Marti Gras, fourth in Churchill’s Grade I Clark Handicap at last asking on Nov. 25, had captured the Grade III Ack Ack Handicap at the Twin Spires oval before that and also won Arlington Park’s Grade II Washington Park Handicap last Labor Day weekend. Shaun Bridgmohan will make up most of the 119 pounds assigned to the Neil Pessin trainee.
Not to be discounted in the $125,000 Mineshaft ‘Cap are the first three finishers in Fair Grounds’ $100,000 Louisiana Handicap Jan. 21. They are, in respective order, Cathy and Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Thiskyhasnolimit, Shane Sellers up and 118 pounds assigned; Jim Tafel’s Fast Alex, Robby Albarado (119); and Bourque Goldstein Thoroughbreds’ Alma d’Oro, Javier Castellano (119); while completing the field is Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft, Jesse Campbell (113).
SMART BID FAVORED IN SATURDAY’S GRADE III FAIR GROUNDS HANDICAP – Augustin Stable’s Smart Bid, hero of Fair Grounds’ Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap last year as the Crescent City oval’s showcase event for older horses over the Stall-Wilson turf course, heads a field of 10 named to Saturday’s designed prep for that test – the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap, which is also carded at about nine furlongs over the local lawn.
Although the son of Smart Strike has not visited the winner’s circle since the Muniz Memorial, run last March 26, the Graham Motion trainee finished second by three-quarters of a length in Churchill’s Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day last spring, second in Virginia’s $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup June 18 and was then runner-up once more in Woodbine’s Grade II Sky Classic over Canadian grass last Aug. 21.
Veteran reinsman Edgar Prado will make up most of the starting high weight of 121 pound assigned astride Smart Bid.
Among the challengers for Smart Bid Saturday are Andrews T & S Racing’s Mr. Vegas, David Holloway Racing’s Dubious Miss and Chester Miller and Pat Dupuy’s Strike Impact, respectively the one-two-three finishers in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap run over the Stall-Wilson course Jan. 21.
Mr. Vegas will be ridden by Miguel Mena, aboard for that last local tally but astride this time with an increased 118-pound assignment. Dubious Miss, assigned a lesser 116 pounds this weekend, has Corey Lanerie slated for the saddle once again; while Strike Impact, in this time with two pounds less than in the Col. Bradley, gets a new rider in Javier Castellano.
Completing the Fair Grounds Handicap field is Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Derby Kitten, Rosie Napravnik up with 114 pounds; Starlight Racing’s Achaemenes, Ramsey Zimmerman (114); Terry Hamilton and Robert Morgan’s Gleam of Hope, James Graham (116); Fantasy Lane Stable’s Uptowncharlybrown, Paco Lopez (113); Team Block’s Mister Marti Gras, Shaun Bridgmohan (117) but cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap; and Team Block’s Ioya Bigtime, Robby Albarado (115).