Back as good as ever in last month’s Louisiana (G3), Silver Dust will look to make it two in a row at Fair Grounds this meet in Saturday’s $200,000 Mineshaft (G3), one of the highlights of the Louisiana Derby Preview Day undercard.
A gem of consistency over the New Orleans track with three wins and three second in seven starts, Silver Dust is one of four older runners defending their stakes titles on Saturday’s card.
“I have a lot more confidence going into this race this year than I did last year,” trainer Bret Calhoun said of Silver Dust. “He’s gotten so consistent now. Last year I knew he was a very talented horse and could pop in a huge race, it was just whether or not he was going to do it. In the past he was the kind of horse you couldn’t always trust in the afternoon, with how he’s been recently, I certainly do have a ton of confidence and trust in him. He has the potential to be an even better horse this year now that he’s putting it all together.”
Hofburg, a leading figure on the 2018 Triple Crown trail, makes just his second start since October of that year in the Mineshaft. The Juddmonte homebred was limited to just one start last season, a comfortable second-level allowance score at Saratoga in July. The Bill Mott trainee placed in the Belmont S. (G1) behind Justify and in the Florida Derby (G1) two seasons ago.
“After his win at Saratoga in July we were thinking of trying him in the Woodward (G1). Unfortunately, he had a small bone bruise coming out of the race and it was the right thing to do to stop on him and give him some time,” said assistant trainer Riley Mott.
Cutting Humor, last year’s Sunland Derby (G3) winner, sheds blinkers after a season-opening third in a Gulfstream allowance, his first start since the Kentucky Derby (G1) last May. Other potential players include the stakes-winning Sleepy Eyes Todd, likely out of his element in a 12-furlong Grade 3 over the Sam Houston turf last time, and Pirate’s Punch, who smoked allowance foes by more than 11 lengths on Jan. 16.
Synchrony, the 7-year-old Pin Oak homebred trained by Mike Stidham, goes for a three-peat in the $150,000 Fair Grounds S. (G3) over nine furlongs on the turf. Last seen in October, the Tapit horse has suffered only one loss over the local lawn, that to 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar in last season’s Muniz Memorial (G2).
“His level of enthusiasm is the same as when we first got him in years ago. Getting him over a million dollars in earnings is a goal, but we are also still chasing that elusive Grade 1, and we think he’s still capable of getting that done,” Stidham said.
The top six from last month’s Colonel E.R. Bradley S. — Dontblamerocket, Midnight Tea Time, Factor This, Captivating Moon, Sailing Solo, and Space Mountain — all reappear in this slightly longer test, while multiple graded stakes winner The Great Day could factor in his debut for Ignacio Correas. His most notable turf effort since his importation from Argentina was a second in last summer’s Arlington H. (G3).
Recently upset in her season debut at Gulfstream, Grade 3 heroine Mitchell Road will look to rebound in the $100,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial, a race she captured last season before going on to win the Gallorette (G3) at Pimlico for Bill Mott.
The 1 1/16-mile grass test for fillies and mares also includes Notapradaprice, who captured a Grade 3 at Parx last summer and the off-the-turf Blushing K. D. at Fair Grounds in December. The trio of Quebec, Don’t Tell Marge, and Stave were separated by a neck in last month’s Marie Krantz Memorial, while Zofelle is undefeated in three U.S. starts, including the Dec. 28 Pago Hop S.
The Stall Memorial also marks the North American debut of Irisa, previously a Group 2 winner on dirt in Argentina but also Group 1-placed in that country.
Chaos Theory will be asked to overcome a nine-month layoff in his title defense of the $1000,000 Colonel Power, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for older horses. When last seen, the lightly-raced son of Curlin with three wins over the Fair Grounds turf was a respectable third to World of Trouble in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) on May 3.
The in-form Fast Boat comes off a close second against stakes company at Sam Houston, while Made You Look and Blind Ambition both have sufficient back class but perhaps could use more distance than this.