Nates Mineshaft Wires Mineshaft Handicap; Smart Bid Gets Up in FG 'Cap

Windy Hill Farms’ Nates Mineshaft took advantage of soft early fractions and led at every point of call in a race named for the winner’s sire, the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap for older horses at 1 1/16 miles.

Jesse Campbell guided the longest shot on the board through fractions of 25.30, 49.35 and 1:13.59 before cruising home in a final time of 1:43.01, finishing 2 ¾ lengths to the good of Jim Tafel LLC’s Fast Alex.

“This horse has gotten so good,” Campbell said. “He’s improved so much in such a short time. He used to be a little rank. He lets me ride him now and the horse is just full of confidence.”

Nates Mineshaft, carrying 118 pounds, paid $29.60, $11.20 and $4, while Fast Alex returned $4.20 and $2.60. Alma d’Oro made up ground despite a troubled trip to finish third and pay $2.20.

Favored Thiskyhasnolimit, last month’s Louisiana Handicap winner, pulled up on the backstretch and was vanned off with an injury to his right-front leg. The horse was vanned to LSU for surgery. The incident caused Alma d’Oro to check nearing the half-mile pole.

Nates Mineshaft, now four-for-four lifetime at Fair Grounds, improved his overall record to 12-5-1-1 and boosted his earnings to $175,428.

“If you saw the last race, he was worth the opportunity to try him in here,” trainer Austin Smith said. “He just dominated that bunch. It wasn’t anything like this bunch but he is four-for-four on the racetrack and we were here and didn’t have to ship anywhere so we took a shot.”

SMART BID GETS UP IN FINAL STRIDE OF FAIR GROUNDS ’CAP – Augustin Stables’ Smart Bid earned his first win since last March’s Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap here at Fair Grounds, getting up in the final stride to defeat Andrews T & S Racing’s stubborn Mr. Vegas by a head in Saturday’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap.

With regular riderEdgar Prado aboard and carrying high weight of 121 pounds, the South Florida invader bided his time early in the 1 1/8-mile turf event as pacesetter Mr. Vegas was pressed through an opening quarter-mile in 24.40 and continued on the lead through fractions of 49.60 and 1:14.41. Jockey Miguel Mena kept Mr. Vegas going through the stretch but Smart Bid closed determinedly, getting up just before the wire in 1:51.91.

“When I got close (to Mr. Vegas) I thought we were just going to blow by but that horse kept on fighting,” said Prado. “I’m glad that I got it.”

Smart Bid paid $5.80, $3.40 and $2.60 as the favorite in a field of 7 older horses. Mr. Vegas returned $3.60 and $2.60, while David P. Holloway Racing’s Dubious Miss closed for third and paid $2.80.

Smart Bid, now two-for-two at Fair Grounds, bettered his overall record to 20-5-7-4 while the $75,000 winner’s share of the $125,000 purse upped his career earnings to $891,813.

“He really does love Fair Grounds and he is just such a game horse,” winning trainer Graham Motion said by phone after the race. “I was a little concerned because I thought (Edgar) waited a little bit longer than he normally does to ask him to run; normally he asks him quite early. But he obviously knew what he was doing and it just worked out great. Maybe we’ll have to come back for the next one (the Muniz on April 1).”