Cedartown Aims to Make the Grade in Mineshaft Handicap

He was a high-dollar purchase out of an auction where precocity is most valued and rewarded. Yet shortly after Cedartown was obtained by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin team through the 2016 Fasig-Tipton March select 2-year-olds in training sale, it became clear patience would be needed in order for the son of Candy Ride  to live up to his $620,000 price tag.

"He was just kind of a big, growthy, late-developing horse, and Jimmy Bell and Dan Pride with Godolphin, they could see that and they took their time in getting him to me," trainer Michael Stidham recalled. "Once we got him, he was one where we knew he wasn't going to be an early horse. He needed a little time to develop and mature, and we gave him all the time he needed. And it's paying us off now."

Since getting his career underway last June, Cedartown has rewarded his connections by not doing a whole lot wrong in his seven starts to date. With three straight wins to his credit including back-to-back stakes triumphs, the 4-year-old bay colt will try and knock off his first graded stakes victory Feb. 17 when he starts against seven others in the $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap (G3) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

While it took more than a year for Cedartown to debut after being pegged out of William B. Harrigan's consignment, his progression has come along almost exactly as his team of human caregivers predicted. His physical makeup and pedigree suggested two turns would be his wheelhouse. Sure enough, after running second while sprinting in his first two career outings, he broke his maiden at third asking when stretched to 1 1/16-miles—the same distance he will travel Saturday.

The only time Cedartown has been beaten over 8 1/2 furlongs came when he finished second by two lengths to heavily-favored Dr Blarney in a particularly salty allowance race Sept. 9 at Delaware Park. Though was beaten that day, Stidham actually points to that moment as one when he knew he had a horse capable of taking his ability to a higher echelon.

"We ran him at Delaware in a race that was kind of a tricky 'a other than' allowance. It was a race that allowed a horse who had won 13 races ... because he had won state-bred races," Stidham said. "We ran against (Dr Blarney) and he was the overwhelming favorite in the race and Cedartown gave him everything he wanted. They battled down the stretch and the horse beat him, but we knew that horse was a stakes winner and (Cedartown) gave him a pretty good battle down the lane. 

"At that point we knew if everything went well, he would go on to be pretty nice."

Indeed, Cedartown has been victorious ever since, winning an allowance race at Keeneland via disqualification prior to taking the Zia Park Derby last November. He scored a two-length victory over fellow Mineshaft entrant Scuba during his seasonal bow Jan. 13 in the Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds.

"Without a doubt (going two turns had made a difference). It's everything he always wanted to do," Stidham said. "Our goal from early in the year was to try and make the New Orleans Handicap (grade 2, March 24)."

Installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite, Cedartown will break from the rail under Joe Bravo in a field of eight for the Mineshaft. In addition to being joined in the lineup by multiple graded stakes winner Scuba—winner of the 1 1/4-mile Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (G3) in November—Cedartown has another graded winner to contend with in The Player.

Trained by Buff Bradley, who also co-owns and co-bred the chestnut son of Street Hero, The Player finished fourth to Cedartown in the Louisiana Stakes but gets the addition of blinkers Saturday. On his best day, The Player has shown he can handle this caliber of foe, having won the Oct. 28 Hagyard Fayette Stakes (G2) by three lengths over Neolithic  at Keeneland.

Entries: Mineshaft H. (G3)

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Saturday, February 17, 2018, Race 5

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 3:05 PM (local)
11Cedartown (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoe Bravo121Michael Stidham8/5
22No Distortion (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRobby Albarado116Anthony F. Rini15/1
33Scuba (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJulien R. Leparoux120Brendan P. Walsh6/1
44Rich Daddy (KY)Javier Castellano117Eddie Kenneally8/1
55The Player (KY)Calvin H. Borel120William B. Bradley5/2
66Thirstforlife (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie115Wesley E. Hawley8/1
77First Premio (KY)Adam Beschizza114Mark E. Casse8/1
88Team Colors (KY)John R. Velazquez116J. Kent Sweezey12/1