12/15/2012 7:41PM

Fair Grounds: Hurricane Ike refuses to fold in Tenacious Handicap

Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts
Hurricane Ike (right), ridden by James Graham, holds off Brethren by a neck in the Tenacious Handicap.

People always are talking about horses and their distance limitations. Fact is, those limitations are fluid. Put an apparently distance-limited horse in the right spot, and he will  go as far as you please.

Take Hurricane Ike. Sure, he probably delivers his best lick in one-mile races, but left to his own devices on an easy lead Saturday in the Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds, Hurricane Ike got 1 1/16 miles  just fine. In front the whole trip, he dug down and held off pace-pressing Brethren to win the $75,000 dirt race by a neck, his first career victory beyond one mile.

The outcome started to take shape after just a one-quarter of a mile. When a first fraction of 24.76 seconds came up, and Hurricane Ike galloped along comfortably, it felt like big trouble for any horse sitting off the pace and hoping to make a late run. The half-mile went just as slow, 49.46. Brethren stuck close in the two path, but still Hurricane Ike, jockey James Graham sitting chilly, hadn’t been seriously challenged.

Brethren’s rider, Shaun Bridgmohan, made his move with about a quarter-mile to run. Brethren drew alongside Hurricane Ike but he could not pass his stubborn foe, settling for second after a stretch-long duel.

“When the half was 49 and [change] that kind of really told the tale, because he is a very game horse when he gets hooked,” said winning trainer Mike Stidham. “Down the lane he always digs in and tries his hardest.”

It Happened Again rallied mildly for third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Brethren, with Worldly another neck back in fourth. Winning time for was 1:45.70, and Hurricane Ike paid $11.40.

Hurricane Ike, a 5-year-old horse by Graeme Hall who races for Ike and Dawn Thrash, won his sixth race from 27 starts. Stidham took over his training last fall after Jeff Thornbury had guided Hurricane Ike through the first 24 races of his career.