The predicted duel between last winter’s Grade II Louisiana Derby winner and last spring’s Grade I Blue Grass Stakes winner got shot down Saturday when Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich’s Stonehouse snuck up to steal the gold medal in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap.
Vinery Stable and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire, who swept Fair Grounds’ sophomore series last year and won this year’s Louisiana Handicap, made the pace as expected in Saturday’s final major preview for the upcoming Grade II New Orleans Handicap March 27, but on Saturday General Quarters, who was the Louisiana Handicap runner-up, and is owned and trained by Tom McCarthy, pressed that pace. What happened? Friesan Fire faded to fourth late and General Quarters marched on to gain the second spot, but it was Stonehouse who swept to the front at the furlong grounds and then withstood a late-second rally by “The General” to win by a neck.
“This old horse can run,” said Spanky Broussard, a native New Orleanian who turned 69-years-old on Super Bowl Sunday watching his beloved New Orleans Saints win that game, and then enjoyed “the birthday that keeps on giving” by tapping the vein that led to the winner’s circle in the Mineshaft. “(Stonehouse) is a nice horse and he’s already proved it. He’d already won over half a million dollars. I thought he’d run good, and when he caught up to those speed horses turning for home I knew he was going to win it.”
Stonehouse also proved to be a gold mine in the Mineshaft for punters, returning mutuels of $35.60, $9.20 and $27.60. The 6-year-old son of 2000 Arlington Million winner Chester House increased his career earnings to $612,522 with his 10th win in 38 lifetime starts and got the 1 1/16-mile distance over the main track in 1:44.09.
General Quarters, who dropped back to third in upper stretch but came again gallantly to be clearly second best, paid $3.60 and $8.40 while finishing 1 3/4-lengths in front of Virginia Tarra’s Giant Oak, who paid $13.60.
“We’ll just have to try again,” said McCarthy, who at 76 years of age is seven years senior to Broussard. “Today we beat Friesan Fire but we set it up for somebody else. I was very pleased with the way my horse fought back today. He ran a winning race.”
Friesan Fire set early fractions of 24.73 and 48.20 before weakening in the lane.
Blues Street Drills Rivals in Fair Grounds Handicap
Antsu Stables’ Blues Street paved the way for happier times in the Todd Pletcher barn at Fair Grounds by capturing Saturday’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap by 2 1/4-lengths one race after Glencrest Farm’s Devil May Care disappointed as the favorite in the Grade III Silverbulletday Stakes.
One race after Blues Street’s stepping stone score, Paul Robsham’s Discreetly Mine made things better yet for the Pletcher barn by winning the Grade II Risen Star Stakes.
“You lose some, you win some,” said Pletcher’s assistant trainer Ginny DePasquale immediately after the Fair Grounds Handicap. “I thought the filly (Devil May Care) had the best chance of all of our horses, but this horse has always been a very dependable honest horse. I think he’s getting better as he gets older.”
Blues Street, a 6-year-old gelding by Street Cry, was allowed to settle early by rider Javier Castellano, rallied boldly when set down for the drive and wore down David Holloway Racing’s Dubious Miss in the final furlong. The winner returned mutuels of $5.80, $3.60 and $3, accomplished the about nine furlong distance over a Stall-Wilson turf course rated firm in 1:51.71, and increased his career earnings to $307,178 with his seventh victory in 21 career starts.
“It felt great,” said Castellano, who also was aboard the winning Discreetly Mine in the Risen Star. “I really liked the way the race developed. I was very satisfied. I’d never got on this horse before. I appreciate Todd Pletcher giving me the opportunity to get on this horse.”
Dubious Miss, always well placed in the Fair Grounds ‘Cap, gained a clear advantage at the furlong grounds, could not withstand the winner late but was easily second best, finishing 4 1/2 lengths to the good of Kaygar Stables and Robert Gerczak’s Baltimore Bob, who lacked the needed late response.
Dubious Miss paid $9.80 and $6.60, and Baltimore Bob returned $4.40 in the show spot.
William Don Bennett and Carl Bowling’s Acting Zippy made the early pace with fractions of 24.97 and 49.99 over the grass before fading to eighth. The Fair Grounds Handicap is the final local designed prep for Fair Grounds’ Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap March 27.
Chamberlain Bridge Wins Colonel Power
In Saturday’s $60,000 Colonel Power Stakes for older horses at about 5 1/2 furlongs over the Stall-Wilson turf course, even-money choice Chamberlain Bridge, owned by Carl Moore, won the local grass dash for the second straight year. The smallish 6-year-old gelding broke a bid tardily but gradually settled just behind the early pace, took command in the stretch run and withstood runner-up Country Day by three-quarters of a length. Chamberlain Bridge, trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Jamie Theriot, paid $4, $2.40 and $2.10, toured the distance in 1:04.29 over firm going and increased his career earnings to $679,054 with his 12th win in 24 career starts.
Country Day paid $3.80 and $3, while 2 1/4-lengths farther back was Wise River, who paid $4.60 to show. Turfiste made the pace in the Colonel Power with splits of 22.59 and 46.38 before tiring to finish ninth.
In Saturday’s $56,400 Pan Zareta Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs, Gold Mark Farm’s Double Espresso pressed the early pace, took command in upper stretch and then withstood the late bid of the odds-on Dubai Majesty to hold on by a head at the wire.
Trained by Tom Amoss and ridden by the meet’s leading rider James Graham, Double Espresso paid $14.20 and $3.80 with no show wagering in the four-horse field. She toured the three-quarters in 1:10.82 and increased her career earnings to $161, 433 with her fifth victory in 10 lifetime starts.
Dubai Majesty broke tardily, recovered steadily to challenge the winner in the final furlong but could not get by. She paid $2.20 to place while suffering her second tough defeat in a row after missing by a nose in Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint Jan. 30. Coy Cat finished third, 4 3/4-lengths farther back, while pace setter Simplify tired after setting early splits of 22.96 and 46.70