Photo: Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir
Many may remember when Fordubai made his stakes debut in last spring’s Illinois Derby. He was all but ignored at the windows, and was sent off at odds of 23-1 in the field of 14, despite coming off a win over the track at Hawthorne. He would run much better than his odds, finishing second to the talented Departing. It seems little has changed for my choice to win the fifth and final stakes on an excellent card tomorrow at Fair Grounds.
In six stakes tries so far, Jim Tafel’s homebred has gone off at average odds of just a shade above 14-1. Not bad for a horse who has won twice, with a second, in those six races, as part of a solid lifetime record of 11-5-2-0. Clearly, the four-year-old son of E Dubai has been slow to earn the respect of the betting public, but when entries were drawn for Saturday’s Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap, I thought he might finally go favored in a graded event.
Not so, says the Fair Grounds morning line oddsmaker, who has tabbed the Greg Geier trained dark bay at 9-2 in advance of breaking from the outside most post in a field of nine. Those morning line odds make him just one of a group vying for second choice, behind the 5-2 favorite, Prayer For Relief. Keep in mind, that’s the same Prayer For Relief that finished third, 1 ¼ lengths behind Fordubai in the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap at this same track five weeks ago. Granted, the odds were 3-5 and 7-1 respectively that day, but I see it as more business as usual for the colt who has yet to capture the imagination of a majority of the bettors and fans.
Before winning at Fair Grounds in his first race as an older horse, Fordubai, already a winner on dirt, turf, and synthetics, finished off his three-year-old season with a pair of middle the pack finishes in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby, and Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup. In both of those afternoons, he may have well run to his high odds, but his trainer believes he had legitimate excuses in both.
“In the Hawthorne Gold Cup, it [ten furlongs] was maybe too far,” said Geier. “In the Indiana Derby, it stormed before the race, and it was sloppy.? He was on the rail and just didn’t like it.”
I know, excuses-excuses, but in both races he faced a strong field, and was by no means embarrassed. Continued belief in the colt by his connections led to another stakes try in the Louisiana Handicap, and probably his best performance to date. The victory last month earned a Beyer of 103, and also earned a, “[he] ran very, very well,” from his trainer. Seven-time Fair Grounds’ leading jockey, Robby Albarado, also liked what he saw in his first race riding Fordubai.
“He ran to his work last week,” said Albarado after the race. “I just think with him being in front like that was unfamiliar territory for him that late in the stretch and it is a long stretch, so he was a little unfocused.”
That last part of what was said from his rider again on Saturday is interesting in that it would seem to leave the door open for more improvement, from the horse few want to admit is a very good horse.
As the middle leg of an older horse series which concludes with the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on Louisiana Derby Day March 29, the Mineshaft does come up a little tougher than the Louisiana Handicap. Besides the multiple graded stakes winner, Prayer for Relief, tommorrow’s 12th race also has attracted Maggi Moss’s Grand Contender, who slplit Fordubai and Prayer For Relief in the Louisiana Handicap, as well as a trio of talented new four-year-olds in Micromanage, Bradester, and Ground Transport. The hard-hitting Mister Marti Gras is cross-entered in this, as well as the Fair Grounds Handicap on the turf a few races earlier on the card.
Nice horses, one and all, but I am going with Fordubai. He should sit a nice stalking trip from his outside post, and he continues to work well over a track that he obviously likes. Sooner or later, he's bound to get the respect he deserves.