MINESHAFT HANDICAP | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/16 MILES
After racing behind rivals most of the way, Mark Valeski altered course to the outside in midstretch and charged to the lead in Saturday's Grade 3, $148,500 Mineshaft at Fair Grounds. The Larry Jones-trained colt went on to post a comfortable one-length tally with jockey Rosie Napravnik, returning to the winner's circle in his second attempt since capturing last year's Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park.
A Brereton Jones homebred, Mark Valeski established himself as a Kentucky Derby prospect when finishing a nose second in his stakes debut, the Grade 2 Risen Star 12 months ago at Fair Grounds. His connections elected to skip the Kentucky Derby and point toward June's Belmont Stakes following a half-length second in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and Mark Valeski looked promising when prepping with a sharp 1 1/4-length score in the Peter Pan in May. However, he headed to the sidelines with an injury and did not return to action until the January 19 Louisiana Handicap, finishing a close second.
The four-year-old son of Proud Citizen took a step forward off the comebacker on Saturday. After breaking sharply from post 2, Mark Valeski was guided to the rail, just behind Hero of Order, who showed the way into the first turn while being chased by Infrattini to his outside. The pacesetter recorded the opening quarter-mile in :25 1/5 and the half-mile in :49 3/5, with an eager Mark Valeski under a snug hold while being boxed in down the backstretch.
Mark Valeski continued to race in tight quarters through the far turn as Hero of Honor reached the three-quarters mark in 1:14 4/5. Golden Ticket, who raced next to Mark Valeski in fourth during the early stages, advanced along the outside rounding the bend to make it three abreast as the leaders entered the stretch drive. Mark Valeski was still trapped down on the inside with nowhere to run.
Napravnik shifted her mount several paths to the outside passing the three-sixteenths pole for clear sailing and Mark Valeski instantly responded, surging to the front in commanding fashion. He completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44 4/5.
The 4-5 favorite returned $3.80, $2.60 and $2.10 to his supporters.
Cool Street, who brought a four-race winning streak into his stakes debut, rallied boldly from off the pace late to edge 5-2 second choice Golden Ticket by a neck for second at 14-1 odds. Golden Ticket was in turn 1 1/4 lengths better than Hero Of Order, who was followed under the wire by Infrattini, Macho Bull and Raison d'Etat.
With the $90,000 payday, Mark Valeski has now earned $540,952 from a 8-4-3-0 career line.
The Kentucky-bred Mark Valeski is the only black-type winner out of the Grade 1-placed multiple stakes-winning Fortunate Prospect mare Pocho's Dream Girl. His third dam is the Hail to Reason mare Silver True, who captured the 1966 Spinaway Stakes and would go on in the breeding shed to produce dual Grade 1 victor and sire Silver Buck.
This female family is also responsible for champion Silver Spoon and Grade 1 winners State Dinner and Banquet Table.