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Mark Valeski Looms Large in Mineshaft Handicap

Mark Valeski (no. 5), ridden by Rosie Napravnik and trained by J. Larry Jones, wins the 58th running of the grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes for three year olds on May 12, 2012 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. (Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire)
Brereton C. Jones’ homebred Mark Valeski has been installed as the 2-1 favorite for Saturday’s 28th running of the $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap (GIII) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. The Proud Citizen colt will be making the second start of his 4-year-old year after a second in last month’s Louisiana Handicap behind Z Thoroughbreds LLC’s Infrattini, who was made the 5-2 second choice.


The Mineshaft is one of four graded stakes, and six stakes overall, on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Presented by Lamarque Ford. The 13-race card, topped by the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (GII) for 3-year-old Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby hopefuls, starts early with a first post of 12:30 p.m. CDT. The Mineshaft is Race 8 at 3:55 p.m. and will kick off a $100,000-guaranteed Pick 4 that also includes the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies, the Risen Star and a 10-horse maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies. 


Infrattini earned his fourth win in a row, and first stakes victory, while taking the Louisiana ’Cap for trainer Paul McGee. However, despite finishing three-quarters of a length behind that day, Mark Valeski got the nod for morning line favoritism, based in part on his impressive bullet five-furlong work in :59 on Sunday for trainer Larry Jones. Mark Valeski, breaking from post two, will be ridden by leading jockey Rosie Narpavnik, carrying 119 pounds, while Infrattini, leaving from post seven, gets Miguel Mena back in the saddle at 121 pounds.


The locally based top choices will likely keep an eye out for South Florida shipper Golden Ticket, owned by Magic City Thoroughbred Partners and trained by Ken McPeek, who won last year’s Grade I Travers in a dead heat and is 7-2 on the morning line. Now a 4-year-old, the Speightstown colt kicked off his season last month with an easy 5 1/4-length win in a Gulfstream Park allowance. James Graham, second in the Fair Grounds standings entering Monday’s races, will be aboard Golden Ticket for the first time, tacking high weight of 120.


Raut LLC’s Hero of Order, seeking his first win since an epic 109-1 upset in last year’s $1 million Louisiana Derby for trainer Gennadi Dorochenko, will break from post five under Shaun Bridgmohan and has been assigned 112 pounds. The 4-year-old Sharp Humor colt is projected at 12-1 by oddsmaker Mike Diliberto.


The eight-horse field also includes, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, weight, morning line odds): Raison d’Etat (Jon Court, Wayne Lukas, 112, 20-1); Golden Yank, cross-entered in the Fair Grounds Handicap on turf (C.J. McMahon, Gary Thomas, 112, 12-1); Cool Street (John Jacinto, Bernie Flint, 115, 6-1); and Macho Bull, also cross-entered in the Fair Grounds Handicap (Iram Diego, Dorochenko, 112, 12-1).


The Mineshaft serves as a steppingstone to the $400,000 New Orleans Handicap (GII) on Louisiana Derby Day, March 30.




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