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Fair Grounds: Pants On Fire Targets Mineshaft

Pants on Fire wins the Louisiana Derby 2011
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.


The $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.


All 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.


Trainer 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.


Trainer 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.  


“He’s 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.




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 oval.


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.



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Pants On Fire breezed 5f in 1:00.60 (4/23) at Palm Meadows on Feb 18.

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