Master Command Finds Smooth Sailing in New Orleans

The multiple graded stakes winner Master Command drew away like a a 3-10 shot should to record an easy 3 1/2-length win in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Saturday.

Carrying 122 pounds, Master Command was giving away quite a bit of weight to his five rivals, although his chief opponent, Liquor Cabinet, was an early scratch. Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher, the 5-year-old A.P. Indy horse was in control from the beginning. 

“He’s a big colt, by A.P. Indy, so we had him as a 2-year-old, but everything finally started to come together," Pletcher said. "A.P. Indy’s usually get better as they get older. Obviously, (Master Command) is at his best at a mile and an eighth.”

Breaking on the lead from his far outside post, Master Command tracked on the outside of pacesetter Good and Lucky through easy fractions of :25, :48 4/5 and 1:12 3/5. Velazquez asked his talented chestnut for a little more at the quarter pole and Master Command soon collared Good and Lucky. He was firmly in command with a furlong left and drawing away under moderate urging. The winning time for the 1 1/8-mile main track event was 1:49 4/5.

“I let (Good and Lucky) go for a while," Velazquez said. "It was just me and him. The first quarter was pretty comfortable. He grabbed a hold of the track right out of the gate.”

Patriot Act surged late to grab second from Smokeyjonessutton by a head with Good and Lucky fading to fourth.

“He ran good," trainer Neil Howard said of Patriot Act. "Obviously, the winner is a helluva nice horse.”

Coming off a six-length triumph in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) over the course Feb. 10, Master Command has now won seven of 14 lifetime starts while increasing his earnings to $959,018 for owners Aaron and Marie Jones. Brushwood Stable bred Master Command, who is out of the Lord at War mare Lady Lochinvar, in Pennsylvania.

He paid $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10. Patriot Act, who was also second to Master Command in the Mineshaft, returned $2.80 and $2.40 with Robby Albarado aboard once again for trainer Neil Howard. Smokeyjonesutton was $3 to show with Garrett Gomez riding.

It was 5 1/2 lengths back to Good and Lucky. Sandburr and More Than Regal brought up the rear.
 
(Chart, Equibase)

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