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SILVER DUST REPEATS IN MINESHAFT
Factor This denies Synchrony a Fair Grounds three-peat;
Just Might & She’sonthewarpath also post upset turf scores
The three-year-olds may have taken center stage on the “Louisiana Derby Preview Day” at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, but led by Silver Dust, the repeat winner of the Mineshaft (G3), four older stakes winners also put their hoof prints on a memorable Saturday afternoon.
Eyeing a repeat score as the 9-5 favorite in $200,000 Mineshaft Stakes (G3), Tom Durant’s Silver Dust successfully defended his title for trainer Bret Calhoun.
Behind honest opening fractions of 24.41 and: 47.25, the 6-year-old gelded son of Tapit sat fourth early on. He ranged up on the turn while still in hand, took the lead mid-stretch, and held off 30-1 shot Gun It by ¾ of a length in a final time of 1:43.40 for 1 1/1/6 miles. The pacesetting Pirate’s Punch checked in third.
With Silver Dust’s regular rider Jack Gilligan sidelined due to injury, Bret Calhoun gave the leg up to Brian Hernandez, Jr.
“Jack and I had dinner last night and I got as much information as I could,” Hernandez, Jr. said. “This horse is just getting better and better. You just have to trust him. He is a little bit of a quirky horse from what I’ve seen. Jack has done a great job riding him and I was fortunate enough to fill in. I learned from watching replays to stay out of his way and give him the most comfortable trip I can. That’s what we did today. He ran nice and easy early and when we turned for home, he picked it up.”
A winner of three of his last four starts, all against graded stakes company, Silver Dust now owns a career record of 26-7-7-2 with earnings of $822,277.
“We wish he was this good as a three-year-old,” owner Tom Durant said of a horse who at one time was considered an underachiever. “In all seriousness, this is my first six-year-old to race. I have raced a lot of horses and I’ve never raced one this age. He seems to just be getting better and better as we go and I’m hoping he can continue to impress us.”
Third behind Silver Dust in the Louisiana (G3) last month, Gun It showed a new dimension for trainer Steve Asmussen, closing from sixth to grab the place spot. He remains eligible for a second-level allowance.
“He improved a lot today,” jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. said. We changed everything with him. We took him back today and he responded very well. He was aggressive in the first part, but then relaxed and had a nice run. The best horse won today.”
Eyeing his third consecutive victory in the Fair Grounds (G3) for trainer Mike Stidham, Pin Oak Stable’s 7-5 favorite Synchrony came up a length short as the pacesetting Factor This completed the gate-to-wire voyage for Gaining Ground Racing LLC and trainer Brad Cox.
Dismissed at odds of 8-1 and allowed to get away with controlled fractions of 23.57 and: 48.25 over a firm turf course that favored speed and the inside with the rails down, Factor This held safe by a length in the final time of 1:47.29 for 1 1/8 miles. It was another 4 ½ lengths back to Botswana in third.
“We were much more confident today as opposed to last time out,” Cox said of a recent third place finish in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial, a race in which Factor This tired a bit after battling a much more taxing pace. “Some key scratches really helped us out today and Shaun (jockey Bridgmohan) did a great job. He was able to let him relax down the backside which was key. You could see him flick his ears up and really settle down and he had plenty left in the tank turning for home.”
It was the first career graded stakes win for Factor This, who now owns a career mark of 27-8-3-4 ($545,030 in earnings).
In what was his seven-year-old debut Synchrony, who is now four for six over the Fair Grounds turf course, fell just short.
“You’re never happy to get beat, but I am so proud of how the horse ran today,” jockey Joe Bravo said. “He is bigger and stronger than he was last year. I can’t wait to see what the spring brings for him.”
Dismissed at odds of 16-1, Robert Low and Lawana Low’s She’sonthewarpath scored her second career stakes victory in the $100,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes over 1 1/16th miles of firm turf.
Covered up on the rail while sitting mid-pack behind honest early fractions of 23.32 and 47.62, She’sonthewarpath picked it up at the 3/16th pole and then rallied stoutly under Chantal Sutherland to defeat defending champion and 6-5 favorite Mitchell Road by two lengths in a final time of 1:42.25. It was a head further back to 54-1 shot Quick Witted in third. Twelfth early on, 5-2 second choice Zofelle (IRE) was forced to commence her rally while very wide on the second turn. She finished fifth, but narrowly missed second.
She’sonthewarpath was returning off a third-place finish behind Zofelle in the Pago Hop Stakes at Fair Grounds on December 28.
“Steve thought we were going to be forwardly placed and I agreed,” Chantal Sutherland said. “We were on the same page. We had a really good trip and she just exploded today. It was just really exciting to win and I’m so grateful for the connections, Steve and his wife (Sue), and the whole barn have done an amazing job and they have always been so supportive of me.
With the win, the four-year-old daughter of Declaration of War now sports a career record of 10-4-1-2 with earnings of $228,705.
“We are just really proud of her,” trainer Steve Margolis said. “The owners have been great and we’re really happy they could be here at the Fair Grounds to see the race. This filly has a lot of guts. After her last race we needed to give her some time. She is a fighter, and I told Chantal to just do your thing and try to get a good trip. When she called on her she really gave her a good punch and she kept going which is hard to do in a field like this. She seems to do her best with about six weeks in between her races, so we will just sit tight and see.”
A troubled second in the South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park last time out, the Bill Mott trained Mitchell Road came up short on Saturday.
“She ran pretty good,” jockey Joel Rosario said. “I thought I had the race won, but I got blocked a little bit on the inside and I don’t think she liked that very much. She still fought and came back for me. She gave me everything she’s got.”
In the $100,000 Colonel Power Stakes, the first of seven added-money events on the card, Griffin Farms and Michelle Lovell’s 20-1 homebred longshot Just Might made every pole a winning one under Colby Hernandez.
After breaking alertly from post seven, Just Might set fractions of: 22.01 and: 44.71 while holding a clear advantage to the top of the stretch. The 2-1 favorite Chaos Theory slowly cut into the margin late, but fell a neck short. It was 2 ½ lengths back to Fast Boat in third. The final time was 1:02.15 for 5 ½ furlongs over a firm turf course that favored inside speed with the rails down.
“Michelle (trainer Lovell) told me if he broke well to let him go,” Hernandez said. “He dug in at the end there for me and really gave me everything he had. I’m really proud of this horse.”
It was just the second career turf win from nine tries for the 4-year-old son of Justin Phillip, who boosted his overall mark to 14-3-4-4 with earnings of $172,007.
“There was some speed that scratched,” Lovell said. “When I saw that, I told Colby (Hernandez, jockey) to not take anything away from our horse. He’s run well from just off the pace as well but we thought if he broke well, we’ll just let him do his own thing. It’s a really special race to win with all of my owners here.”
Chaos Theory, last year’s Colonel Power winner, was making his first start since finishing third in the Twinspires Turf Sprint Stakes presented by MassMutual (G2) at Churchill Downs in May.
“We ran well, we just couldn’t get by the horse on the lead,” jockey Joel Rosario said. “He kept on for me at the end and I am really happy with the race he put in today.”
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 is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global
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