Mineshaft H. (gr. III)

(gr. III , 8.5f ,)

GRASSHOPPER (DK B/ h, 117 lb) $90,000
Dixie Union —Grass Skirt , by Mr. Prospector
B—James Elkins, KY.; O—Farish, William S., Hudson, Jr., E. J. and Estate of James A. Elkins, Jr.; T—Neil J. Howard

Silver Lord (GR/RO g, 116 lb) $30,000
Unbridled's Song —Whatamiss , by Miswaki
B—Taylor Made Farm, Inc., KY.; O—Bowman Couch Racing LLC; T—Steven M. Asmussen

Magna Graduate (DK B/ h, 118 lb) $15,000
Honor Grades —Peacock Alley , by Fast Play
B—Ramon Rangel, KY.; O—Elisabeth H. Alexander; T—Todd A. Pletcher

Margins: 2½, head, nose. Others: Better Than Bonds 115($6,000) , Encaustic 112($3,000) , Stonehouse 114($1,500) , Island Warrior 113($1,500) . Winning Jockey, Robby Albarado.

Grasshopper’s time had come. When his striking blaze came barreling down the Fair Grounds stretch Feb. 9 in the Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III), the 4-year-old was winning his first stakes event but it wasn’t the first time he had made headlines.

Scintillating seconds to Street Sense in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and to Going Ballistic in the Super Derby (gr. II) last year put him on just about everyone’s list of horses to watch in 2008. He didn’t disappoint, winning the $147,000 Mineshaft by 21¼2 lengths. Grasshopper got the 11¼16 mile distance in a sharp 1:43.46.

The colt races as a homebred for William S. Farish, master of the powerhouse Lane’s End Farm and former U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, Edward J. Hudson Jr., a second-generation oil and gas entrepreneur, and the estate of late banker James A. Elkins Jr., who passed away in 2006.

“I was very, very pleased with the way he ran,” said conditioner Neil Howard. “We’ve always had cautious optimism about this colt. He was always a horse who trained well and was very honest in everything he did, always genuine.”

A third-generation homebred, Grasshopper’s record now stands at four wins and four placings from eight career starts. His earnings already top $500,000.

“Mr. Farish, Mr. Hudson, and I have always had high hopes for the colt,” continued Howard. “He kind of had an unusual campaign early on. He was lightly raced and landed in the Travers against Street Sense, but he ran a tremendous race that day.

“We’ve always been excited about him, but we always thought he would be better as an older horse. We’re hoping that proves to be the case. We gave him a little time and he’s filled out and matured.”

Grasshopper is the third stakes winner out of his dam, the Mr. Prospector mare Grass Skirt. His promising 3-year-old full brother, Turf War, won the $1-million Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot Stakes (gr. III) in a dead-heat and Canada’s Swynford Stakes. Another full brother, Straw Hat, won the 2005 Black Gold Handicap at Fair Grounds. The mare was bred back to Dixie Union for 2008.

Grass Skirt was unraced but, like Grasshopper, was a homebred for Farish, Hudson, and Elkins. Her dam, the winning Nijinsky II mare Balinese, was bred by Farish, Hudson, and W.T. Carter out of the Claiborne Farm-bred Homespun.

Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) winner Dixie Union is the sire of Grasshopper and 16 other stakes winners. His graded winners in 2007 included the aforementioned Turf War, plus Dixie Chatter (gr. I), and Most Distinguished (gr. II). His 2008 fee is $50,000 at Lane’s End near Versailles, Ky.—J.W.