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2007 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup, Mineshaft, and Taylor's Special Handicaps

There were five stakes races on Louisiana Derby Preview Day at the Fair Grounds, highlighted by the Risen Star and the Silverbulletday for 3-year-old males and females respectively. Kicking off the stakes action on Saturday were three handicap stakes races for older horses, and under ideal racing conditions in New Orleans, all three races were run in stakes record time.

The $200,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap (G3) featured older horses going about 1 1/8 miles on the turf. 5-2 second choice Devilment battled with 33-1 Northern Scene early through slow fractions of 24.80, 49.37, and 1:13.21, while being stalked by 7-1 Cloudy's Knight in third. 2-1 favorite Fort Prado sat in midpack fifth for the backstretch run. Entering the stretch, Devilment shook clear of the pack to draw away by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go. However, Cloudy's Knight came out at the top of the stretch for running room and rallied determinedly to catch the pacesetter at the line by a neck, in 1:49.48 over the firm course. It was another 1/2 a length back to 9-2 Storm Treasure in third. Favored Fort Prado saved ground throughout but had no rally at the end, finishing fifth.

Pgm, Horse, Jockey, Win, Place, Show

3, Cloudy's Knight, Zimmerman, 15.60, 6.80, 4.80

10, Devilment, Meche , -, 4.40, 3.60

5, Storm Treasure, Velazquez, -, -, 3.20

Winning Time: 1:49.48

$2 Exacta 3-10: 75.20

$2 Trifecta 3-10-5: 385.20

$2 Superfecta 3-10-5-2: 1646.40

Cloudy's Knight in the winner's circle. Winning trainer James McMullen said, "The owners were gracious enough to let me bring this horse down here this winter. We're just going to soak this up for awhile before we decide what's next, but as for the (Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap-G2), that's absolutely in our sights." Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman added, "He had a perfect trip. He's old enough to know how to relax, so I didn't have to keep a good hold on him. He's a big horse, so we moved out, not to get blocked, and he did the rest. He didn't even seem tired. I could barely pull him up."

The $200,000 Mineshaft Handicap (G3) saw a field of six older horses go 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The field was tightly bunched around the clubhouse turn, with 7-10 favorite Master Command, 7-2 second choice Welcome Again, and 4-1 third choice Purim all gunning for the lead entering the backstretch through an initial quarter in 24.23. Purim had the lead after a half in 48.02, with Master Command still contesting the pace four wide. Turning for home, Purim stubbornly hung on to the lead while Welcome Again tired and dropped out of contention. At the 3/16 pole, Purim also succumbed to the fast pace, allowing Master Command to assume the lead and he easily drew away to a 6-length victory over late running 9-1 Patriot Act in 1:42.26. It was just a neck back to 10-1 Well Said in third.

Pgm, Horse, Jockey, Win, Place, Show

5, Master Command, Velazquez, 3.40, 2.60, 2.20

4, Patriot Act, Albarado, -, 5.40, 3.60

3, Well Said, Graham, -, -, 4.00

Winning Time: 1:42.28

$2 Exacta 5-4: 22.20

$2 Trifecta 5-4-3: 110.20

$2 Superfecta 5-4-3-1: 308.60

Master Command in the winner's circle with his trainer Todd Pletcher on the far left. Winning jockey John Velazquez said, "He was going so easy, and when I asked him he responded right away. At the 1/16 pole he began to wander a little but at that point he was much the best." Pletcher added, "Right now, the tentative plan is to run him back in the New Orleans Handicap."

The first stakes race on the afternoon was the $100,000 Taylor's Special Handicap for older horses sprinting about 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. 6-1 Storm Surge and 7-2 Chosen Chief battled down the backstretch through a quick pace of 22.07 and 45.36, while 5-2 favorite Wrzeszcz sat at the back of the pack and out of trouble down the center of the course. Through the stretch, 3-1 second choice Gaff, who had stalked the pace in third between horses, switched to the outside and rallied to pass the pacesetters late, drawing away to win by 1 1/2 lengths over late-closing Wrzeszcz in 1:03.12. It was another 1/2 lengths back to 12-1 Santana Strings in third.

Pgm, Horse, Jockey, Win, Place, Show

3, Gaff , Meche, 8.00, 4.20, 3.00

9, Wrzeszcz , Melancon, -, 3.80, 2.80

2, Santana Strings , Talamo, -, -, 12.40

Winning Time: 1:03.12

$2 Exacta 3-9: 26.40

$2 Trifecta 3-9-2: 234.20

$2 Superfecta 3-9-2-6: 499.80

Gaff in the winner's circle with his trainer Steve Asmussen in the back on the far left. Asmussen said, "Gaff is a real nice horse. It's good to see him getting back to his old form. Dubai (Golden Shaheen) kind of knocked him out of whack, but the last two (races) at the Fair Grounds has brought his form back." Jockey Donnie Meche added, "I just let him settle early and then took him to the outside so he could have free running room and he did everything on his own from there. Turf or dirt? It doesn't matter with this horse."

PHOTO: Master Command and John Velazquez after winning the Mineshaft Handicap

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