04/01/2017 6:01PM

Enterprising notches second straight stakes win with Muniz

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Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges Jr.
Enterprising paid $14.20 in winning the Mervin Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds on Saturday.

NEW ORLEANS – Enterprising is 6 years old and has raced nearly 30 times, but his career may just be hitting its stride, for trainer Mike Maker has found his niche, and is exploiting it.

Maker theorized that Enterprising would be best served by races at 1 1/8 miles or farther, and Enterprising scored his second straight stakes win over that distance at Fair Grounds by taking the Grade 2, $300,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap for older grass runners Saturday.

Enterprising ($14.20) charged up the rail and held off favored Kasaqui to win by a neck, with Kasaqui nosing out Oscar Nominated – also trained by Maker – for third.

The victory was the second straight graded stakes win in as many weekends for Maker and jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who won the Spiral Stakes for 3-year-olds last Saturday with Fast and Accurate at Turfway.

Enterprising has won three of his last five starts, but this was the most significant of that trio. He won the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap five weeks earlier.

“This validates that,” said Maker, who trains Enterprising for the Maxis Stable of Sidney Karmia. “We’ll try to keep him at longer distances. He’s on top of his game.”

Enterprising used his rail draw to get a sweet, ground-saving trip under Gaffalione. He benefited from an honest pace initially set by longshot Sky Flight, with One Mean Man and Roman Approval in closest pursuit.

“I had a perfect trip. Saved all the ground, and when we came into the stretch there was a good opening,” Gaffalione said.

Enterprising was stretched to the limit, as Kasaqui came roaring down the center of the course with Oscar Nominated right there, too.

Enterprising completed about 1 1/8 miles on the firm turf course in 1:48.41. He has now won nine times in 29 starts, and the $180,000 first prize increased his career earnings to more than $770,000.

Maker said the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day likely would be next for Enterprising.