Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and Michael Smurfit's Gaff prompted the pace most of the way before taking over mid-stretch and capturing Saturday's inaugural running of the $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes by a neck Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course.Gaff covered the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast main track in 1:03.47, a little over one-fifth off the track record of 1:03.20. The race was originally scheduled for the turf, but was transferred after rains the last three days.Gaff responded willingly to what is probably his preferred surface while returning $16.20, $7.80 and $5.40, under a heady ride by Donnie Meche. The Scott Blasi trainee increased his career earnings to $327,147 with his fifth win in 17 starts. The win came exactly one month after a seventh-place finish under Meche in the Thanksgiving Handicap on opening day of the Fair Grounds meet.
Post time favorite Smalltown Slew ($3.40, $2.80) rallied strongly in the lane but arrived too late while finishing a head to the good of Venomous ($6.20).Mystery Classic broke in stride to set the pace, recording early fractions of :21.89 and :45.39 before weakening in the final furlong.(Chart, Equibase)