Grasshopper Tackles Mineshaft
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Magna Graduate looks for a return to his winning ways in the $150,000 Mineshaft Stakes (gr. III)
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Todd Pletcher trainee Magna Graduate has not scored a win since April of 2007, and the Neil Howard-trained Grasshopper has not raced since a second-place finish in the Super Derby (gr. II) Sept. 22. Both are looking for a return to their winning ways in the $150,000 Mineshaft Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Feb. 9.

In the 1 1/16-mile Minshaft, Elisabeth Alexander’s 6-year-old Magna Graduate is the 118-pound high weight and 2-1 morning line choice. A son of Honor Grades bred in Kentucky by Nicole Zitani and Ramon Rangel, he finished sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Clark Handicap (gr. II) in his last start Nov. 23. However, he came into that race off a much better second-place effort in the Meadowlands Cup Handicap (gr. II) Oct. 5.

Grasshopper, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, will make his 4-year-old debut after just missing in the Travers (gr. I) and Super Derby in his last two starts as a 3-year-old. The Dixie Union homebred, owned by Will Farish, E.J. Hudson Jr., and the estate of James A. Elkins Jr., has never finished worse than third with a 3-3-1 record from seven starts.

In key position to spoil the bids of both runners is Bowman Couch Racing’s Silver Lord. Although he did not begin racing until last year, the 5-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song has won his last three starts for trainer Steve Asmussen and most recently took the 1 1/16-mile Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds Jan. 12. Bred in Kentucky by Pollock Farms and Taylor Made Farm, Silver Lord was beaten just once – in his first effort at Retema Park, where he finished second by 1 ½-lengths.

Moving up in company again is the H. Graham Motion trainee Better Than Bonds, who finished third in the King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) as a 3-year-old in 2005. A son of Sweetnorthernsaint, bred in Florida by L. Riley Mangum and owned by Robert Abbo Racing Stable, he’s been a steady presence at Delaware Park, where he last placed in the 1 1/8-mile Stymie Stakes Nov. 4. His last win was in the April 30 Quick Card Stakes going one mile at Delaware against three other runners. Since then, he has finished second in four stakes races and one allowance event, and was fourth in the Kelso Stakes Sept. 29.

Encaustic, Stonehouse, and Island Warrior complete the field.

$150,000 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III, race 6, approximate post 2:55 p.m.), 1 1/16-miles for 4-year-olds and upward, dirt
PP, Horse, Age, Weight, Jockey
1. Encaustic (MD), 4, 112, Shaun Bridgmohan
2. Grasshopper (KY), 4, 117, Robby Albarado
3. Stonehouse (IL), 4, 112, James Graham
4. Island Warrior (KY), 5, 113, Julien R. Leparoux
5. Silver Lord (KY), 5, 116, Corey Lanerie
6. Magna Graduate (KY), 6, 118, John Velazquez
7. Better Than Bonds (FL), 6, 114, Ramon Dominguez

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