Nates Mineshaft led all the way in the $120,000 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) for his first stakes victory in a race marred by the breakdown of favorite Thiskyhasnolimit Feb. 25 at Fair Grounds (VIDEO).
The victory was the third in a row for Windy Hill Farm's 13-1 shot Nates Mineshaft, a 5-year-old ridgling son of Mineshaft making his graded stakes debut for trainer Austin Smith. Cobra Farm bred the winner in Kentucky, a bay out of the Silver Deputy mare Angel's Tearlet.
Nates Mineshaft, who was the longest price on the board in the Mineshaft, has now won all four of his starts at Fair Grounds.
Thiskyhasnolimit was the 5-2 choice in a field reduced to six by the scratch of three horses.
With Jesse Campbell aboard, Nates Mineshaft took the lead from Tres Borrachos shortly after the start and was allowed to set a soft pace, leading Thiskyhasnolimit for a half-mile while carving early fractions of :25.30 and :49.35. Thiskyhasnolimit, tracking on the outside, broke down approaching the half-mile pole with jockey Shane Sellers attempting to quickly pull up the graded stakes winner of $777,828.
Nates Mineshaft kept going for Campbell, who asked for more in upper stretch. Nates Mineshaft responded to lead by 2 1/2 lengths over Fast Alex at the furlong pole and he held sway while under steady urging. The final time was a solid 1:43.01 on a fast track.
"This horse has gotten so good. He’s improved so much in such a short time. He used to be a little rank," Campbell said. "He lets me ride him now and the horse is just full of confidence."
Fast Alex, ridden by Robby Albarado, challenged the leader rounding the final bend but could not keep pace in the lane while finishing a clear second by 1 1/2 lengths. Alma d'Oro, with Javier Castellano aboard, nosed the 121-pound top weight Tres Borrachos for third. Mister Marti Gras was fifth.
Thiskyhasnolimit was removed from the track by van following the race. State veterinarian Dr. Nancy Bonhoff reported that he appeared to have damaged his right front distal cannon bone.
Nates Mineshaft, whose current win streak began at Fair Grounds in December, won for the fifth time in 12 lifetime races and increased his earnings to $175,428. He won anoptional claiming event at one mile and 70 yards by 2 3/4 lengths in his most recent start Jan. 19.
"If you saw the last race, he was worth the opportunity to try him in here," Smith said. "He just dominated that bunch. Wasn’t anything like this bunch but he is four-for-four on the racetrack. But we were here and didn’t have to ship anywhere; took a shot.”
The winner carried 118 pounds and paid $29.60, $11.20, and $4. Fast Alex, second behind Thiskyhasnolimit in the Louisiana Handicap Jan. 21 for trainer Greg Geier, returned $4.20 and $2.60 and rounded out a $101.40 exacta. Alma d'Oro, third in the Louisiana last time, paid $2.20.