Front-running Nates Mineshaft took all of the drama out of the $396,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) April 1 (VIDEO) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, running away from the field at odds of 9-1 while setting a track record in the process.
With Jesse Campbell in the irons, Nates Mineshaft negotiated the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:47.64, eclipsing the track mark of 1:48.13 established by Phantom Tour March 8, 1998. Nates Mineshaft finished 7 1/4 lengths in front of Mission Impazible , the 6-5 favorite in the field of eight. Toby's Corner, last year's Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner, finished a distant third.
Nates Mineshaft, a late-developing 5-year-old ridgling trained by Austin Smith for Windy Hill Farm, posted his fourth consecutive win during the Fair Grounds meet. He started his streak in a $25,000 claimer. Nates Mineshaft's sire, Mineshaft , won the New Orleans Handicap in 2003.
Cobra Farm bred the winner in Kentucky. Nates Mineshaft is out of the Silver Deputy mare Angel's Tearlet.
Mission Impazible, who was coming off back-to-back seconds in the Clark (gr. I) and Donn (gr. I) handicaps, was seeking to give Pletcher his fifth New Orleans Handicap win in the past six years. But Nates Mineshaft cruised to victory, pulling away from Mission Impazible by five lengths at mid-stretch on his way to the easiest of triumphs. Nates Mineshaft posted fast quarter-mile fractions of :23.21, :46.86, and 1:11.18 while leading Thirtyfirststreet and Mission Impazible but was never in trouble.
Nates Mineshaft was coming off a a 13-1 upset in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) over the track Feb. 25, also achieved in front-running style. The bay won his graded stakes debut by 2 3/4 lengths.
"This horse, since four races back, he's just blossoming," Campbell said. "On the first turn, I was a little concerned he was going too fast. I tied to pull him back but he wasn't having any of it so you know how good horses are, you let them be happy and run their race.
"He was going so easy. His confidence level -- his mind is so right; he's so confident. He's exceeding his talent."
Mission Impazible, the 122-pound high weight ridden by Javier Castellano, came under a drive to pass a tiring Thirtyfirststreet in the stretch and was a clear second by 3 1/2 lengths over Toby's Corner.
Nates Mineshaft, winning for the sixth time in 13 lifetime starts, is now 5-for-5 on the Fair Grounds main track. He earned $240,000 for the victory, boosting his career total to $415,428.
"He likes this track," Smith said. "When I first got him, I didn’t train him hard. A lot of work has been done on him and he’s really changed a lot. This was awesome. This is a replay I’ll love to watch."
The winner carried 118 pounds and paid $20.80, $7.20, and $4. Mission Impazible, the 2010 Louisiana Derby winner, returned $2.80 and $2.40. The exacta was worth $65. Toby's Corner, in his second start on the comeback trail for trainer Graham Motion, paid $3.40 to show.
Mister Marti Gras finished fourth, followed by 2011 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Pants On Fire, Redeemed , Fast Alex, and Thirtyfirststreeet.
Nehro, who tied up following a training session a day before the race, was scratched by trainer Steve Asmussen.