'Honest' Choice in Mineshaft; 'Beret' Duo Tops FG Handicap

NEW ORLEANS, La. (February 5, 2009) - If a pair of graded stakes for 3-year-olds wasn't enough to whet the appetite on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Saturday at Fair Grounds, the undercard features two more Grade III stakes, the $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap and $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap, and two added-money sprints.

Fox Hill Farms' Honest Man, third in the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap Jan. 10 after being absent for more than three months, may have benefited from that recent outing and has been installed as the slight 5-2 morning line choice of eight older horses in the Mineshaft Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

The Sam-Son Farms entry of French Beret and Windward Islands, first and fifth respectively in the $100,000 Grade III Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap on that same afternoon, serves as the 5-2 morning line choice in a field of nine grass specialists for the Fair Grounds Handicap.

Completing Saturday's stakes lineup are the $75,000 Pan Zareta Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs and the $75,000 Colonel Power Stakes at about 5 1/2 furlongs on grass.

Fair Grounds' Pick 6 wager, normally offered on the last six races of the card, will be adjusted to become an All-Stakes Pick 6 Saturday, beginning with the Pan Zareta in Race 4. There is also an All-Stakes Pick 5 and an All-Graded Stakes Pick 4, all ending on the $200,000 Grade III Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds.

The Mineshaft field includes four graded stakes winners, led by Honest Man, who won the Iselin at Monmouth Park in August by 2 3/4 lengths over Grasshopper, the second choice on the Mineshaft morning line at 3-1. Grasshopper captured last year's running of the Mineshaft.

Grade II winner My Pal Charlie, the 121-pound highweight, is the 7-2 third choice. The top five choices on the morning line are only separated by two pounds in the weights.

From the rail out, the Mineshaft field with weights and jockeys includes Secret Getaway, 119, James Graham; Good and Lucky, 120, Patrick Valenzuela; Smokey Jonessutton, 112, Jamie Theriot; Grasshopper, 119, Robby Albarado; My Pal Charlie, 121, Curt Bourque; Coragil Cat, 114, Brian Hernandez Jr.; Brothers Nicholas, 116, Edgar Prado; and Honest Man, 119,  Gabriel Saez.

The Mineshaft is the final major local prep for the $500,000 Grade II New Orleans Handicap March 14.

In the Fair Grounds Handicap, which is the final major prep for the $500,000 Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap next month, French Beret looks for his third graded stakes victory over Fair Grounds' Stall-Wilson turf course. His win in the Bradley was his second in a row in that event.

Corrupt, winner of the 2007 Mardi Gras Stakes, is the 3-1 second choice. The Fair Grounds Handicap field also includes Jimmy Simms, who won the Woodchopper Stakes in his last start, and Demarcation, a dead-heat winner of the Grade III River City Handicap at Churchill Downs last out. French Beret and Demarcation are the co-highweights at 120 pounds.

From the rail out, the Fair Grounds Handicap field with weights and jockeys includes Jimmy Simms, 117, Shaun Bridgmohan; Sidcup, 117, Jesse Campbell; French Beret, 120, James Graham; Corrupt, 118, Robby Albarado; Windward Islands, 118, Corey Lanerie; Diamond Tycoon, 116, Julien Leparoux; My Happiness, 114, Edgar Prado; Demarcation, 120, Jesus Castanon; and Brothers Nicholas, 115, entered for main track only with Graham.

In the Pan Zareta - the first of the six stakes on Saturday's card - Secret Gypsy, a dominant winner of the Esplanade Stakes in her last start, makes her 4-year-old debut as the 4-5 morning-line choice in a field of a half-dozen. Robby Albarado seeks his 100th career Fair Grounds stakes win.

The Colonel Power is headlined by Bonapaw Stakes winner Storm Treasure, who is the early 8-5 choice in a field of seven.

First post on Saturday is 12:30 p.m. CST.

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation's third-oldest Thoroughbred racing facility, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and nine off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. Fair Grounds' 137th Thoroughbred season will run from Nov. 14, 2008, through March 29, 2009, and its inaugural Quarter Horse meet was conducted from Aug. 20-24, 2008. Information about Fair Grounds can be found on the Internet at www.fairgroundsracecourse.com.