Flexing Back Class and Firing Bullets, Best Actor Headlines the Mineshaft 

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New Orleans, La (Feb. 15, 2024) – Gary and Mary West’s 2022 Smarty Jones (G3) winner Best Actor returns to stakes company as the 3-1 morning line favorite in the $250,000 Mineshaft Stakes (G3) which attracted nine older males on Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.   

Run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the 39th running of the Mineshaft attracted a field of nine older males and will go to post at 4:50 p.m. (all times Central) as race 11. Headlined by the $400,000 Risen Star (G2) and $300,000 Rachel Alexandra presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2), first post for the 14-race card is 12 p.m. 

Trained by Brad Cox, Best Actor enters the Mineshaft not having raced since wiring the Churchill Downs allowance field on Nov. 23. Firing two successive local bullet workouts on Jan. 29 and Feb. 5, the 5-year-old horse will see Flavien Prat return to the irons, having been aboard for two successive wins.

“He’s doing great,” Cox said. “Hopefully it’s a good spot for him. Hopefully he breaks running, establishes early position, and keeps rolling. He is on it right now, working really well.”

Finishing sixth in the Louisiana Stakes (G3) last out when making his return to the races after a 6-month layoff, Smile Happy entered the Mineshaft for trainer Ken McPeek, seeking a return to the dazzling form he showed when winning the Alysheba (G2) last May. 

“He goes back to Ocala (between races),” McPeek said. “He trains better at my farm, Silverleaf Hills Training Center, and he’s had two works since. He was just short in the last race. It seems like we’re getting an idea of how to deal with him. On fitness alone he should improve. It’s a little easier race than the last one without Saudi Crown.”

Winchell Thoroughbreds Red Route One kicked off his 4-year-old campaign finishing a game second in the Louisiana Stakes. The West Virginia Derby (G3) winner trained by Steve Asmussen again draws the rail and will be guided by Joel Rosario.

“I was very pleased with what he showed (in the Louisiana), and I thought that was an extremely solid run from him,” Asmussen said. “We feel that he will do better when races stretch out. He looks a little faster as a 4-year-old than he was as a 3-year-old. In his first race as a 4-year-old it definitely looked like he is capable of a more tactful race.”

Another dangerous prospect entered in the race is owner/trainer Neil Pessin’s 2023 Louisiana Stakes winner Happy American. Exiting a third-place finish in this year’s edition, the 6-year-old gelding with a dangerous late kick will see Jareth Loveberry back in the saddle on Saturday.

Here is the field for the Mineshaft Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. Red Route One (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen, 5/1); 2. Hayes Strike (David Cohen, Ken McPeek, 15/1); 3. Best Actor (Flavien Prat, Brad Cox, 3/1); 4. Gasoline (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 4/1); 5. Notary (Rey Gutierrez, Armando Hernandez, 8/1); 6. Dubyuhnell (Luis Saez, Danny Gargan, 8/1);  7. Money Supply (Tyler Gaffalione, Joe Sharp, 8/1); 8. Happy American (Jareth Loveberry, Neil Pessin, 8/1); 9. Smile Happy (Brian Hernandez Jr., 5/1).

Additional Quotes for the Mineshaft

Ken Mcpeek, trainer of Hayes Strike

“He’s out of conditions so it’s hard to find an easier spot for him. He’s trained forwardly here and everything we’ve asked him to do he’s done well. Is it an ideal spot for him, I don’t know but he’s a good horse in his own right. He’s got to do it against older horses. He’s not competed against older horses at this stage. It’s another level of competition and we’re going to be interested to see how he steps up doing that.”


Gary Barber and Kinsman Stable’s Colonel Bradley Stakes winner Strong Quality returns to face 11 accomplished turf specialists that entered Saturday’s 38th running of the $175,000 Fair Grounds Stakes presented by Horse Racing Nation (G3).

 Run at 1 1/8 miles on the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the Fair Grounds Stakes will go as the 12th race with a post time of 5:19 p.m.. First post on the 14-race card is 12 p.m.

The gutsy Strong Quality recorded his first stakes victory in his 16-race career last month in the Colonel Bradley Stakes, holding off the late charge of fellow Fair Grounds Stakes rival Beatbox. Trained by Mark Casse, the 5-year-old Strong Quality has been the picture of consistency throughout his career with five victories, four seconds and three thirds with two wins coming at Fair Grounds. Jockey Florent Geroux, who has been in the saddle for his last four starts, will once again unite with the son of Quality Road from post 3.

The aforementioned Beatbox will try to turn the tables on Strong Quality from post 10 under Joel Rosario. Trained by Cherie DeVaux for Rob Comestro and Jeff Ganje, Beatbox will be in search of his first victory since Jan. 27, 2023 at Turfway Park. In the second-half of 2023, DeVaux shipped Beatbox to Fair Grounds where he sported three-consecutive runner-up efforts. Along with his second to Strong Quality in the Colonel Bradley, Beatbox finished second by one-length to Two Emmys in the Diliberto Memorial and finished two-lengths back of Rising Empire in a conditioned allowance contest. 

 Here is the complete field for the Fair Grounds Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line):1. Johny’s Fireball (Ricardo Santana Jr., Norm Casse, 10/1); 2. Chasing the Crown (Jareth Loveberry, Mike Maker, 8/1); 3. Strong Quality (Florent Geroux, Mark Casse, 3/1); 4. Rising Empire (Luis Saez, Brendan Walsh, 12/1); 5. Palazzi (Tyler Gaffalione, Mark Casse, 15/1); 6. Duke of Carthania (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Yovani Munoz, 30/1); 7. Money Supply (Gavin Ashton, Joe Sharp, 12/1); 8. Camp Hope (Brian Hernandez Jr., Ken McPeek, 6/1); 9. Harlan Estate (Declan Cannon, Whit Beckman, 12/1); 10. Beatbox (Joel Rosario, Cherie DeVaux, 7/2); 11. Gigante (Edgar Morales, Steve Asmussen, 8/1); 12. English Tavern (Jaime Torres, Michelle Lovell, 15/1). 

Additional Quotes for the Fair Grounds Stakes:

Ken McPeek, trainer of Camp Hope

“He always runs hard. He’s been with Smile Happy down there at Silverleaf and trains well there regularly. Coming in here fresh and the expectation is he should have a good year. Another one who is out of conditions because he’s won so many times, but (he’s) a horse that has graded stakes talent. Once again, one step of many heading into spring.”

Brendan Walsh, trainer of Rising Empire

“There’s a nice race in him at some point. He loves the Fair Grounds. The last race we planned on having him more forward and he broke a little slow and our plan went out the window. Luis (Saez) said he was standing fine and just before they opened the gate, he moved which cost him the break. If everything goes to plan for him he can be very dangerous. But sometimes he tends to do something like that, miss the break or get in the wrong spot. I wouldn’t count him out. One of the days he’s going to put it all together and win a race like that.”

Steve Asmussen, trainer of Gigante

“The timing of our last 3-year-old run (to the Fair Grounds Stakes) gave him a little bit of spacing because we felt (he needed that since) it is his first time against olders so we’ll see how we do. Off of the trip that he gave him the other day (in the Woodchopper), we are very fortunate to have Morales back on him. What a great trip he gave Gigante in his last race.”

Whit Beckman, trainer of Harlan Estate

“I’m a little concerned about the weather. That horse just doesn’t get that same kick; he really prefers firm ground. I flip them (blinkers) off and on with that horse. He figures things out. He’s a funny horse, a goofy horse. When he wants to run, he will run, and he’s a very good horse. He’s capable so we keep putting in those spots, so it’s just a matter of if he feels like it.”


Creative Cairo, who had a breakthrough victory last month in the Marie Kranz Memorial, will attempt to repeat that effort against 12 rivals entered in Saturday’s 56th running of the Albert M. Stall Memorial (Listed) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

 Run at 1 1/16 miles on turf, the Albert M Stall field will go to post at 4:21 p.m. in race 10. First post for the 14-race card is 12 p.m. 

Trained by Lindsay Schultz for the Estate of Brereton C. Jones, Creative Cairo made a bold rally from eight lengths off the early pace in the Marie Kranz Memorial to win by 1 ½ lengths under Florent Geroux. The three-time winning son of Cairo Prince was part of the rich breeding program of his late owner, Brereton Jones. Geroux will once again pilot Creative Cairo in the Albert M. Stall Memorial out of post 3.

Another intriguing prospect entered in the race is Gervais Racing’s Join the Dance, who finished second to Creative Cairo in their last start. Trained by Dallas Stewart, Join the Dance has won three races from 17 starts with three seconds and four thirds. Join the Dance will once again have the riding services of top jockey Joel Rosario, who was aboard in the Marie Kranz Memorial, and will break from post 13.

“She’s doing fantastic,” Stewart said. “It’s a tough post but she’s been training well and should run another big race.”

Here is the field for the Albert M. Stall Memorial in order of post positions (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. Watch This Birdie (James Graham, Ignacio Correas IV, 8/1); 2. Tryinmyheartout (Jose Guerrero, Shane Wilson, 15/1); 3. Creative Cairo (Florent Geroux, Lindsay Schultz, 7/2); 4. Ladywearsthering (Ben Curtis, Michael Stidham, 20/1); 5. Spirit And Glory (Flavien Prat, Robert Falcone Jr., 3/1); 6. Flatter Me Silly (Jareth Loveberry, Neil Pessin, 20/1); 7. Fancy Martini (Tyler Gaffalione, Robertino Diodoro, 8/1); 8. Not So Close (Ricardo Santana Jr., Norm Casse, 6/1); 9. Sultry Lass (Deshawn Parker, Michelle Lovell, 20/1); 10. Dana’s Beauty (Jaime Torres, Joe Sharp, 20/1); 11. Girl Named Charlie (Edgar Morales, Lindsay Schultz, 20/1); 12. Swoonatra (Emanuel Nieves, 30/1); 13. Join the Dance (Joel Rosario, Dallas Stewart, 8/1).


 Michelle Lovell and Griffon Farms’ 8-year-old veteran Just Might has been nothing short of brilliant throughout his 50-race career and he will attempt to become a three-time winner in the $100,000 Colonel Power Stakes (Listed) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

The 5 ½-furlong Colonel Power, run over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, was carded as race 8 with a post time of 3:23 p.m. The stellar 14-race card will begin at 12 p.m. 

Trained by his co-owner/breeder Lovell, Just Might won the Colonel Power Stakes in 2020-21 and nearly won last year’s race as the 3-5 favorite but gave way late to Pyron. The gelded son of Justin Phillip closed his 7-year-old season with his lone victory of the year in the Richie Scherer Memorial at Fair Grounds. Just Might nearly began his 2024 campaign with a victory but finished a scant nose behind Sosua Summer in the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes (Listed). Jockey Jaime Torres will have the call in the Colonel Power Stakes from post 4.

Sousa Summer will once again ship from his South Florida-base to Fair Grounds as he attempts to win his second-straight race in the Crescent City. Owned by Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber and R. T Racing Stable, Sousa Summer is a four-time winner from 21 starts for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. The now 5-year-old son of Summer Front will have the riding services of Luis Saez in the Colonel Power and break from post 5.

Here is the field for the Colonel Power Stakes from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. Silent Poet (Jareth Loveberry, Tanner Tracy, 8/1); 2. Charging (Mitchell Murrill, Tom Morley, 8/1); 3. Minnesota Ready (Joel Rosario, Tom Amoss, 4/1); 4. Just Might (Jaime Torres, Michelle Lovell, 7/2); 5. Sosua Summer (Luis Saez, Bill Mott, 3/1); 6. Went West (David C. Lopez, Louie Roussel III, 20/1); 7. Ready to Pounce (Corey Lanerie, Neil Pessin, 30/1); 8. Pirate Rick (Marcelino Pedroza Jr., Raymond Ginter Jr., 10/1); 9. Mischievous Rogue (Brian Hernandez Jr., 4/1).


About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 16 off-track betting parlors throughout Southeast Louisiana. The 152nd Thoroughbred Racing Season–highlighted by the 111th running of the Louisiana Derby–will run from Nov. 17, 2023 through March 24, 2024. More information is available online at www.fgno.com.



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