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Justify Triple Crown Gear

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

Master Command and John Velazquez after winning the Mineshaft Handicap

Risen Star and Silverbulletday Stakes

Date: 02/10/2007

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.

Northern Scene, Devilment, and Cloudy's Knight pass in front of Black Gold's grave in the infield as the field goes by the first 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
Results Chart

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."

Second place finisher Devilment in the post parade. (left)

Beaten favorite and fifth place finisher Fort Prado in the post parade. He won this race last year. (right)

First time by with Sandburr, Master Command, and Welcome Again out front.

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
Results Chart

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."

Second place finisher Patriot Act in the post parade. (left)

Third place finisher Well Said in the post parade. (right)

Eventual winner Gaff passes Venomous in the stretch. In the background you can see the grave of Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold.

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
Results Chart

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."

Risen Star and Silverbulletday Stakes Results

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