03/30/2013 5:46PM

Fair Grounds: Graydar outduels Mark Valeski in New Orleans Handicap

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Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts
With Edgar Prado aboard, Graydar wins the New Orleans Handicap for his fourth win in five starts.

Graydar backed up his breakthrough score in the Donn Handicap by asserting himself late against a stubborn Mark Valeski for a clear-cut victory Saturday in the 88th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds.

With Edgar Prado up for Twin Creeks Racing Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher, Graydar returned $4.60 as favorite in a field of eight older horses. Carrying high weight of 120 pounds while spotting his rivals one to nine pounds. He finished the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.16 over a fast main track.

Majestic Harbor, a 63-1 shot, set the pace, with Mark Valeski giving close pursuit and Graydar poised just to his outside. Nearing the quarter pole, those two chasers made their moves, and Mark Valeski, a 4-1 shot with Jimmy Graham up, maintained a head in front until inside the eighth pole, from where Graydar edged away to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

Macho Macho finished third, another three-quarters of a length back, with Bourbon Courage fourth and Flat Out fifth.

Graydar, a gray 4-year-old colt by Unbridled’s Song, “showed a new dimension, some versatility,” in coming from off the pace to win, said Pletcher assistant Whit Beckman, who saddled the colt while his boss watched from Gulfstream Park. “He ran a huge race.”

Graydar now has won 4 of 5 career starts. His prior race was the Grade 1 Donn on Feb. 9 at Gulfstream Park, where he led all the way in his stakes debut, with Bourbon Courage finishing second.

The $2 exacta (8-7) paid $22; the $1 trifecta (8-7-6) returned $24.40; and the 10-cent superfecta (8-7-6-2) was worth $10.46.