01/17/2012 3:45PM

Fair Grounds: Infrattini avoids having to jump into stakes company

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NEW ORLEANS – Not to get all misty-eyed, but there was a time when a trainer could expect to run an improving, developing horse through logically spaced allowance conditions.

That time, as all horsemen know, has passed, and Paul McGee had begun looking into alternatives other than a Fair Grounds second-level allowance race for Infrattini. A trip to Oaklawn already had been contemplated, as had a start Saturday in the Louisiana Handicap here, but lo and behold, when the Thursday card at Fair Grounds was assembled last weekend, there was Infratinni’s second-level, dirt-route allowance printed out on the overnight.

“It would have forced my hand if the race hadn’t filled,” McGee said not long after training hours Tuesday morning.

Infrattini is one of seven horses entered to run one mile and 70 yards in a race also open to $40,000 claimers, and he looks like the best of them. A 4-year-old by Include, Infrattini won a maiden race here last March at third asking, and went on to dabble in stakes, finishing second in the Matt Winn at Churchill, a close fourth in the West Virginia Derby, and a close, closing fifth in a loaded edition of the Oklahoma Derby. McGee and owner-breeder Z Thoroughbreds exercised Infrattini’s entry-level allowance condition during the Churchill fall meet, and Infrattini got up by a half-length at odds of 1-5 after being badly blocked at the top of the stretch.

“It wasn’t a good feeling at the three-sixteenths pole,” said McGee.

Infrattini has the look of an animal whose best racing might be in front of him. He has started only eight times but has not required a significant layoff, nor has he run poorly in any outing since a six-furlong debut more than a year ago at Fair Grounds.

“We were taking our time with him as a 2-turning-3-year-old,” McGee said. “We’re hoping he has a big year ahead of him.”

Infrattini’s opposition includes three last-start winners, among them Gentle Tap, whom Infrattini easily handled in the Churchill race. But Gentle Tap improved to win a first-level allowance here Dec. 17 and has come back with encouraging workouts for the Steve Asmussen barn.