Pollard's Vision makes his 4-year-old debut Saturday as the morning line favorite in the $100,000 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III), part of a four-stakes card at Fair Grounds.
A field of 10 older horses shapes up for the Mineshaft, a 1 1/6-mile event which was named for the 2003 Horse of the Year, a New Orleans favorite.
Trainer Neil Howard and owners William Farish, James Elkins, and Temple Webber, who campaigned Mineshaft, team up again with top challenger Alumni Hall, who has been installed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.
Pollard's Vision, the 121-pound high weight, is the 5-2 morning line favorite, however, after an outstanding 3-year-old season. The year included wins in the Illinois Derby (gr. II) at Hawthorne, the Leonard Richards (gr. III) at Delaware Park, and the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) the day prior to the 2004 Breeders' Cup.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Pollard's Vision returns to Fair Grounds, where he began a stretch of nine graded stakes tries when finishing third in last year's Louisiana Derby (gr. II). Jockey John Velazquez will ride Pollard's Vision, who will break from post No. 7 on Saturday.
Alumni Hall inherited the leading role in the Howard barn after the top handicap performer Midway Road suffered a season ending injury in a workout two weeks ago training up to the Mineshaft.
A son of A.P. Indy
and half-brother to 2000 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Secret Status, Alumni Hall suffered setbacks early in his career, and the lightly raced 6-year-old didn't debut until last spring at age 5.
But Alumni Hall hit the ground running, capturing four of his first five starts, including a win in the Black Tie Affair Handicap at Arlington Park. He was then thrust into a series of graded stakes in late summer and fared well against some of the top handicap horses in the country.
Since his arrival at Fair Grounds for the winter, Alumni Hall has run two solid races, including a game win on the road in the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Park last month.
Regular rider Robby Albarado, who has already teamed with Howard to capture five stakes this meet at Fair Grounds, will break Alumni Hall from the rail.
Other formidable contenders in the Mineshaft include grade I winner Colonial Colony, from the Dallas Stewart barn, and Louisiana Handicap victor Gigawatt, trained by Steven Flint.
The Mineshaft serves as the final tuneup for the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) on March 12.$100,000 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III), 4 & up, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Alumni Hall (KY), Robby Albarado, 118, 7/2
2. Britt's Jules (FL), Gerard Melancon, 115, 12/1
3. Gigawatt (KY), Brian J. Hernandez, Jr., 115, 9/2
4. Fiber Optic (KY), Wilfredo L. Lozano, Jr., 109, 50/1
5. Colonial Colony (KY), Mike E. Smith, 120, 5/1
6. Wanderin Boy (KY), Larry Melancon, 113, 12/1
7. Pollard's Vision (KY), John R. Velazquez, 121, 5/2
8. Formal Attire (KY), Gary L. Stevens, 115, 10/1
9. Skipaslew (VA), Tyler Baze, 116, 10/1
10. Golden Glen (KY), Eddie M. Martin, Jr., 113, 12/1