Majestic Thief nosed out favored Skate Away to win the $50,000 Mardi Gras Handicap, the annual "Fat Tuesday" feature at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Ridden by Shane Sellers, Majestic Thief ($12.60) saved ground from the break, tucking in behind pacesetter Implicit and the stalking One Nice Cat through six furlongs in 1:12.16. Skate Away, the 7-5 favorite, was the first to move at the head of the lane, collaring a tired Implicit to assume command for the stretch drive. The son of Mahogany Hall put in his bid as he straightened for home, rallying to be on even terms with the favorite. The two battled through the final sixteenth of a mile, trading positions with every stride to hit the wire together, with Majestic Thief narrowly in front. "When he got in front he loafed a little, but came back gamely to win," said Sellers. "I thought Gerard (Melancon, aboard Skate Away) won, and I even congratulated him, but this week has been tough and I'm happy to win the head bob." The $50,000 race was originally scheduled to be run at about 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf, but was moved to one mile on the main track because of rain the last two days. The final time was 1:37.12 over a main track listed as good. Majestic Thief, trained by Walter Bindner, won for the sixth time in 27 lifetime starts, improving his earnings to $261,784 with his first stakes victory. He was bred in Kentucky by Woodlyn Farm and races for Walt Freeman, Mason Rudd, and Don McClinton."He is one tough customer," said Bindner. "I think he showed a lot of heart in this race. If he comes out healthy, the Mervin Muniz is a possibility," referring to the grade II $500,000 race on March 21 that was formerly known as the Explosive Bid Handicap. Skate Away, who was 3 1/2 lengths clear of One Nice Cat, is also pointing toward the Muniz, where he could get the opportunity to turn the tables.
"I thought I won the race," said Melancon. "Shane even congratulated me. I guess I lost the head bob. He ran big, and I look forward to (the Muniz)."(Chart, Equibase)