By Brian W. Spencer
Tom Durant’s Silver Dust turned the tables on Front Row Racing et al.’s Harlan Punch when reversing the order of finish from last month’s Louisiana Stakes in Saturday’s Grade III $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, Silver Dust settled early off the soft splits set by John C. Oxley’s Flameaway through opening fractions of 25.93, 50.74 and 1:14.82. Approaching the top of the lane, the 5-year-old son of Tapit made a menacing move to take the lead and was never headed thereafter, crossing the wire 2¼ lengths the best ahead of Harlan Punch. He stopped the clock in 1:45.46 for the 1 1/16-miles trip on the main track under Jack Gilligan, who in winning the Mineshaft scored his first career graded stakes victory.
The winner of last month’s Louisiana Stakes, the Brad Cox-trained Harlan Punch rated kindly near the back under Florent Geroux and finished with good energy while unable to compete with the winner late. He finished three-quarters of a length in front of pacesetting Flameaway, who held third for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione. G M B Racing’s local star and post-time favorite Lone Sailor finished sixth.
“I was hoping to be third or fourth in the first turn, but we were able to move up when they slowed it down,” Gilligan said. “He took me around there beautifully on the last turn. I just had to keep him busy down the lane.”
“I knew today wouldn’t be his best effort, but I am really surprised at how slow the pace was,” trainer Tom Amoss said of Lone Sailor. “At that point, we have no chance to win. He got wiped out pretty bad in the first turn, too, so that and the pace didn’t help.”
The win was Silver Dust’s fourth in 19 career starts, and he earned $90,000 to boost his career bankroll to $354,607. He returned $13.40, $5.60 and $4.00, while Harlan Punch paid $4.20 and $3.00, and Flameaway returned $4.20.
Third Day, Phat Man, Lone Sailor, Long On Luck, Krewe Chief, Ballard High and Mo Dont Know completed the running order. Quip, Imperative and Thirstforlife were scratched.