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Louisiana Derby Undercard Recap: Nates Mineshaft, Casino Host, Star Guitar, Gantry, Look At the Time & Kissimmee Kyle

NEW ORLEANS (Sunday, April 01, 2012) – Windy Hill Farms’ Nates Mineshaft dominated what was billed as one of the deepest renewals of the Grade II New Orleans Handicap and beat the last two Louisiana Derby winners in the process, drawing off to a 7 1/4-length win in track record time.

Despite setting solid fractions of 23.21 and 46.86 in the 1 1/8-mile race, Nates Mineshaft and jockey Jesse Campbell cruised through six furlongs in 1:11.18 while a length in front and never tired, opening up in the stretch and leaving the highly regarded field in his wake. Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ favored Mission Impazible (the 2010 Louisiana Derby and 2011 New Orleans Handicap winner) finished second, 3 ½ lengths in front of Dianne D. Cotter’s Toby’s Corner.

“When I saw 23, 46 and change and 11, I didn’t have a lot of high hopes,” winning trainer Austin Smith said. “But he loves this track.I’m happy for the horse. He’s turned into a monster since he’s been down here.”

The winner paid $20.80, $7.20 and $4, while Mission Impazible returned $2.80 and $2.40 and Toby’s Corner was worth $3.40.

Nates Mineshaft’s final time of 1:47.64 track record time of eclipsed the previous nine-furlong mark of 1:48.13 that Phantom On Tour ran in this race in 1998.

“I was a little concerned in the first turn that we were going too fast and I actually tried to take him back a little bit,” Campbell said. “He wasn’t really having it so you know how good horses are, you let them be happy and run their race.”

--Jim Mulvihill

CASINO HOST PULLS OFF MILD MUNIZ UPSET – Gary & Mary West’s Casino Host and trainer Chad Brown teamed up to win the Grade II, Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap at odds of 11-1 as the three wagering favorites failed to fire in the $400,000 turf event.

After Mr. Vegas set the pace with moderate fractions, things really tightened-up around mid-stretch when Papaw Bodie took over the lead, until Casino Host found his best stride and ran down Papaw Bodie to score by a half-length in the 1 1/8-mile affair.

“I talked to Chad this morning and he wanted me to give the horse a good run up and put him into the pace and don’t let him too far back and at least have somebody in front of him,” said winning jockey John Velazquez. “If he’s too far back at the eighth pole he is not going to catch him. If he’s close enough, within two lengths, he is going to finish. He was right. He was right there on the money and when I asked him he responded and put a good fight down the lane.”

The winning son of Dynaformer is a bit of a globetrotter, having started at seven different racetracks dating back to November 2010. After a few solid efforts in graded stakes company last year, the 4-year-old broke through on Saturday, paying $23.80, $13.20 and $6.60.

Connie Apostelos’ Papaw Bodie held second and paid $10.80 and $4.80. Henry E. Pabst Trust’s Joinem, another longshot, finished third paying $9.60. The final time was 1:50.87 over the course labeled “good.”

The post-time favorite, Slow Pace, finished fifth after threatening around the far turn. Last year’s winner Smart Bid never fired and finished seventh.

--Travis Stone

STAR GUITAR SETS NEW LA-BRED EARNINGS MARK – Brittlyn Stable’s Star Guitar became the highest-earning Louisiana-bred in history with a gutsy win over Klaravich Stables’ Populist Politics in the Southern Oaks Plantation Costa Rising Stakes. The $90,000 event was guaranteed to push the son of Quiet American over the previous record holder Happy Ticket provided he won.

For much of the race, Star Guitar looked up against it as String King set moderate fractions with a loose lead. In the stretch, Populist Politics took over from String King but was unable to fend-off Star Guitar who dug-in for the narrow win. Robert Orth & Wes Hawley’s Get In Da House made a rally on the outside to grab third while String King faded to fourth.

“He’s a type of horse that gives you a lot of confidence going into a race,” said winning trainer Al Stall Jr. “Honestly, I was a little worried going into the turn he looked like he had to get him to run a little bit which is unusual. I would have to say he ran his ‘B’ race or so but he’s just that kind of horse. He just overcomes the weight he is carrying, the wide trip. That’s Star Guitar. That’s why he is who he is.”

The win was the 10th at Fair Grounds for Star Guitar and his 23rd overall from just 28 career starts. Corey Lanerie was along for the ride.

“You know, breaking from the outside he broke a little sharp and he went wider around the first than I expected,” Lanerie said. “I thought I was on the best horse. I tried to keep him out of trouble and I rode with a touch too much confidence today. They made us run down the lane and work. He proved that he’s the best and that he is going to get it done.”

Star Guitar paid $3.20, $2.80 and $2.10. Populist Politics paid $4.60 and $2.40. Get In A Da House paid $2.20 for the show. The final time was 1:44.01.

“I must say that there’s no owner that could actually imagine that this happening to them,” said owner Evelyn Benoit. “He’s simply the best and today we get to say he proved it. He deserves it. I’m thrilled. I love Louisiana. I’m so happy it happened here at the Fair Grounds.”

--Travis Stone

KISSIMMEE KYLE TAKES BAYOU ST. JOHN – In The final stakes race of the day, and of the 140th Thoroughrbed Racing Season, Red Oak Stable’s Kissimmee Kyle drew off for an easy 3 ¼-length win in the $60,000 Bayou St. John Stakes for Louisiana-bred turf sprinters.

Brittlyn Stable’s Gantry, rated just behind the early pace, rallied boldly when set down for the drive and got up to be best by three-quarters of a length in Sunday’s $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes on Fair Grounds’ Louisiana Derby Day supporting stakes program.

“I can’t take more of this,” said Gantry’s excited owner Evelyn Benoit. “Yes, I can. I want to win the 12th race, too.” (That was the Southern Oaks Plantation Costa Rising Stakes, where that ownership’s Star Guitar was going to try to become the richest Louisiana-bred earner of all time.)

Gantry, trained by Ron Faucheux, was winning his third stakes of the season during Fair Grounds’ Closing Day program of this winter’s Crescent City session. He also won the $75,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on opening day.

“This is a very easy horse to ride,” said winning jockey Richard Eramia. “I had plenty of horse and I was always in perfect position. He gave me a very strong finish. He can run. He’s a good horse.’

Gantry paid mutuels of $8, $4.20 and $2.80, toured the six furlongs in 1:08.58 and increased his career earnings to $284,850 with his sixth lifetime win in 11 career starts. His final time was a stakes record and the fastest six-furlong time of the meet.

Whispering Oaks Farm’s Joe Hollywood, who set the pace with torrid splits of 21.57 and 44.24, held down the second spot at the wire, paying $6.40 and $4.20 while finishing a length and a half to the good of the Estate of Oliver Pierce’s Sweetsouthernmoon, who returned $5.20 to show.

--Graham Ross

LOOK AT THE TIME RULES CRESCENT CITY DERBY – Hooties Racing’s Look At the Time, well back early, rallied boldly outside the leaders when set down for the drive, took command at the furlong grounds and drew off to win Sunday’s $75,000 Crescent City Derby restricted to accredited Louisiana-bred sophomores by three and a half-lengths.

“This is fabulous,” said winning rider Corey Lanerie, winning his third race of the day on Fair Grounds’ closing day of this winter’s season. “This horse has a turn of foot that’s unbelievable.”

Look At the Time toured the 1 1/16-distance in 1:44.74, increased his career earnings to $105,974 with his third win in four lifetime starts and returned mutuels of $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

“This feels pretty good,” said winning trainer Wes Hawley. “I just wish he would have been left up the first time we run him; we all would have made a lot of money. There is a possibility of looking at Churchill for the Crown Royal. We’re just going to play it by ear.”

Dean, Fox, Broth and Werner’s Event City pressed the pace, gained the advantage in upper stretch, could not withstand the winner late but held down the second spot at the wire, paying $4.20 and $3.20, while a neck back in third was Danny Ray Butler’s Benwill, who returned $5.80 for the show spot.

Mario Reyes and Gerard Perron’s Wilma’s Numberone set early fractions of 23.43 and 47.45 before tiring.

--Graham Ross