Lost in the Fair Grounds wash of Saturday’s Grade 2 Risen Star and Rachel Alexandra, two respectable preps for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, respectively, is an intriguing Grade 3 race featuring several familiar names — the Mineshaft Stakes.
Wondering what happened to Derby dark-horse O Besos? He’s here. So are late-bloomers Olympiad and Miles D, who double as your two morning-line favorites. And yes, so are 7-year-old geezer geldings Midcourt and Title Ready.
All enter the Fair Grounds starting gate with plenty to prove in the 10th of a 13-race Saturday card. The absence of Fair Grounds’ two 4-year-old behemoths: Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon — who are in Saudi Arabia for next weekend’s $20 million Saudi Cup — helps everyone’s cause on that front.
The 1 1/16-mile Mineshaft is one of those races that attracts familiarity. Maxfield won this race last year, for the first of his four 2021 scores. In 2020, Silver Dust defended his 2019 victory, beating the likes of Pirates Punch, Sleepy Eyes Todd and Hofburg.
Mineshaft offers opportunity for stakes scores
And this Mineshaft edition unites colts and horses who own plenty of allowance wins, but lack a graded stakes score on the resume.
That list starts with 3/1 favorite Olympiad. The 4-year-old Speightstown colt owns three victories in six races — all allowances. That includes a 7 1/4-length dismantling of a January allowance at Gulfstream Park. You’ll likely see him setting or pressing the pace Saturday.
You’ll likely see Miles D (7/2) pressing and stalking. He brings a two-race winning streak out of New York, the first time he’s raced outside Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga in his six-race career. Last out, on Nov. 27, he captured the Listed Discovery Stakes at Aqueduct by a half-length over talented Speaker’s Corner. Finishing 11 1/4 lengths back, in fourth, was Wood Memorial winner Bourbonic.
Deep field surprised Chad Brown
“This horse has done well,” trainer Chad Brown told Fair Grounds. “He ran late in the year over at Aqueduct and put up a very nice win against a very talented horse (Speaker’s Corner). He’s wintered well and now it’s time to get his 4-year-old season started. The race came up deeper than I thought it would. He’s going to really have to fire off the layoff to beat these horses.”
One sneaky-fast contender is Todd Pletcher’s Untreated (9/2), who also brings a two-race win streak to the gate. Untreated also has three wins: all in maiden and allowance company. His only stakes outing was a dismal eighth in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes last April at Keeneland.
Those three come into the Mineshaft lacking a graded stakes victory. So does O Besos (6/1), who returned from a six-month layoff Jan. 2 with a nose victory in a Fair Grounds allowance. That was his first race since he finished third in the Grade 3 Matt Winn. That, in turn, came after the Orb progeny finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Louisiana Derby.
The Geritol geldings
Two Mineshaft contestants who don’t lack graded stakes cred are Midcourt (8/1) and Title Ready (20/1). Never one to dodge California competition, Midcourt owns two graded stakes victories, along with in-the-money finishes in three Grade 1s: thirds in the 2020 Santa Anita Handicap, 2020 Pacific Classic and 2020 Awesome Again.
He runs for the first time outside California after only two 2021 starts: a May allowance victory and an eighth in the Awesome Again.
Title Ready won last year’s Grade 3 Louisiana Stakes for his only graded stakes victory. That doubles as his last victory and one of two in his last 10 races dating to a July 2020 allowance win.
The Mineshaft looms as a deep challenge. Since finishing 11th in last year’s Dubai World Cup, Title Ready finished third in a Churchill Downs allowance, sixth in the Listed Tinsel Stakes at Oaklawn and eighth in the Pegasus World Cup. He finished a combined 28 lengths back in the three races.