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Graydar Wins $400,000 New Orleans Handicap (GII)
By Martha Claussen
NEW ORLEANS (Saturday, March 30, 2013) – Twin Creek’s Racing Stable LLC’s Graydar followed up his impressive performance in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park with another winning effort against some of the nation’s top older horses in Saturday’s $400,000 New Orleans Handicap (GII).
The New Orleans ’Cap, for 4-year-olds and up, drew a contentious field of graded stakes winners. Graydar faced Flat Out, winner of $1.6 million, including the prestigious Grade I Jockey Gold Cup last August at Saratoga, as well as Mark Valeski, who captured the $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap (GIII) at Fair Grounds on February 23.
Breaking from the far outside, Graydar tracked longshot Majestic Harbor and Mark Valeski through opening splits of :23.70 and :47.68. They remained in tandem until Edgar Prado called on the 4-year-old Unbridled’s Song colt and it became a compelling stretch drive between Graydar and Mark Valeski, with Graydar having one final kick. He crossed the wire of the nine-furlong event in 1:49.16, winning by 1 ¾ lengths.
Co-owners Steve Davidson and NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw of Louisiana-based Twin Creeks Racing Stable praised the gritty effort of their colt, conditioned by Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher.
“We did expect a big effort out of him,” said Davidson. “It was kind of Plan B. We thought we would be on the lead but coming off of the pace and getting the wide trip. I was real proud the way he dug in there and battled against a really good field, we thought.”
“Well, Steve is the one that gets nervous,” added Bradshaw. “Walking through the tunnel, he says ‘I really get nervous with this thing.’ And I said, ‘You know what, it’s so much fun to see these animals run. It’s like that is the reward itself.’”
Mark Valeski, the Brereton C. Jones homebred, has run his best races at Fair Grounds and was runner-up on this day last year in the 99th Louisiana Derby. Trained byLarry Jones, the 4-year-old Proud Citizen colt was ridden by James Graham, who took over with regular rider Rosie Napravnik at Gulfstream Park to ride the Florida Derby.
“He tries,” said Jones. “It might be his spot at Fair Grounds. It always seems like there is always one that can get to him.
“That horse that beat him is a nice horse. He just won the best prep that had been run in America this year and this one might’ve been better than that. This was a big effort. We wanted to win but it wasn’t for lack of try on our horse’s part.”
Bourbon LaneStable & Wayne Lynn’s Bourbon Courage was bottled up in the early stages of the race, but mounted his bid late under Javier Castellano, finishing third by a half-length.
“We were worried of that with the inside post,” said trainer Kellyn Gorder. “He still ran well and we’ll live to run another day.”
Graydar returned mutuels of $4.60, $3 and $2.40 and earned $240,000 for his second graded stakes win of the year. Macho Macho completed the superfecta, followed by Flat Out, Majestic Harbor, Cool Street and Dreaming Blue.