George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire, hero of last season’s
$1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, is being pointed toward a return to the Crescent City to contest Fair Grounds’
Grade III Mineshaft Handicap Feb. 25.
$125,000 Mineshaft, for older horses at 1 1/16-miles over the main
track, is one of six stakes worth a total of $885,000 (including the
Grade II Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds of Triple Crown potential) that will be contested on a day that is billed as
Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford.
The upcoming $300,000 Risen Star, as the billing suggests, is the final designed local prep race for this year’s
$1 million Louisiana Derby April 1, while the Mineshaft ’Cap serves in the same capacity for the
Grade II New Orleans Handicap on that same closing day program of Fair Grounds’ 2011-2012 session.
of which circulates back to the subject of Pants On Fire, who could
become the third horse in the last five years to parlay a win in the
Louisiana Derby to one in the New Orleans Handicap.
Todd Pletcher completed that mission that Fair Grounds double last year when Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s
Mission Impazible won the New Orleans Handicap, and three years prior when Michael and Doreen Tabor’s
Circular Quay accomplished the same feat.
Kelly Breen, who saddled
Pants On Fire to win the Grade II Louisiana Derby last year, would
appear to be ideally placed to repeat the local double if Pants On Fire
were to run well in next weekend’s Mineshaft.
ready to run now,” said Breen last week of Pants On Fire, who would be
ridden by Fair Grounds’ defending rider champion and current leading
rider Rosie Napravnik in the Mineshaft. Pants On Fire has been away from competition since a fifth-place finish in the
Grade I Haskell Invitational on the Jersey Shore at Monmouth Park last July 31. “We’re going to take it race by race right now.”
Pants On Fire worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at
South Florida’s Palm Meadows training center last Sunday.
In earlier winters in
New Orleans, Edmund Gann’s
Peace Rules, conditioned by the late Hall of Fame trainer
Bobby Frankel, was able to complete the Louisiana Derby-New Orleans Handicap double in 2004, and Golden Chance Farm’s
Master Derby, trained by the late
Smiley Adams, parlayed the same double in 1976.
OTHER MINESHAFT HANDICAP EARLY PROBABLES
In addition to George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire, last season’s
Grade II Louisiana Derby winner, another horse being given serious consideration for the
Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at this time is Lothenbach Stables’
Mister Marti Gras, winner of Arlington Park’s
Grade III Washington Park Handicap last Sept. 3.
Following that score, Mister Marti Gras finished fourth in the
Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup Oct. 8, returned to the winner’s circle in Churchill’s
Grade III Ack Ack Handicap Nov. 4 and then ran fourth in the
Grade I Clark Handicap at the Twin Spires oval on Nov. 25.
Other older horses under consideration for the
Mineshaft Handicap at this time include the second, third and fourth place finishers in Fair Grounds’
$100,000 Louisiana Handicap, contested at 1 1/16-miles on the main track here Jan. 21.
Beaten a length that day when finishing second after being bumped entering the first turn was Jim Tafel’s
Fast Alex, trained by
Greg Geier, who had previously won
Fair Grounds’ $72,000 Tenacious Handicap Dec. 17 and finished fourth in last year’s
Grade II New Orleans Handicap.
Third under the wire in the Louisiana Handicap was Bourque Goldstein Thoroughbreds’
Alma d’Oro, a Todd
Pletcher-trained son of
Medaglia d’Oro who had finished second behind Mister Marti Gras in
Churchill’s Ack Ack and run seventh in the Clark ‘Cap at the Louisville
Also being pointed for the Mineshaft by trainer
Mike Stidham is Terry Hamilton and Robert Morgan’s
Gleam of Hope, fourth in the Louisiana Handicap after being bumped after the start and second in the Tenacious ’Cap.