01/19/2013 5:52PM

Fair Grounds: Infrattini continues winning ways in Louisiana Handicap

Hodges Photography/ Lynn Roberts
Infrattini (left), with Miguel Mena aboard, overtakes favored Mark Valeski to win the Louisiana Handicap.

There was no blowout track-record performance, as had been the case when Infrattini last started in November at Churchill Downs, but Infrattini’s victory Saturday in the $100,000 Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds still seemed more meaningful than his Kentucky fireworks in the fall. He defeated a graded-stakes-winning foe in Mark Valeski and did so in stakes rather than allowance competition while stretching his sharp form from a one-turn mile to a two-turn true route.

“He was fresh today and ready to go,” said winning trainer Paul McGee. “He’s won four in a row now at four different tracks.”

The victory skein includes Polytrack races at Arlington and Keeneland, the Churchill mile, and now the 1 1/16-mile Louisiana Handicap. The 5-year-old Infrattini ($7.80), a son of Include bred and owned by Z Thoroughbreds, clearly has hit by far the best form of his career, which began with just 2 wins from 13 starts before his current streak.

“This horse keeps getting better and better,” said winning jockey Miguel Mena, who rode Infrattini in two of his wins late last year. “For me, today was his best race.”

After a few horses – including Mark Valeski – acted up briefly in the gate, Hurricane Ike broke on top to set a slow pace under James Graham. The opening quarter-mile went in 24.88 seconds, the half in 49.18, with Rosie Napravnik guiding rail-drawn, heavily favored Mark Valeski off the fence and into the two path to press Hurricane Ike down the backstretch run. Infrattini held ideal position just behind the top pair, racing in upper stretch to confront Mark Valeski, who tackled and passed Hurricane Ike turning for home.

Mark Valeski, making his first start since winning the Peter Pan Stakes in May, drifted out while appearing to tire and bumped Infrattini at the sixteenth pole, but Infrattini continued on resolutely to win by three-quarters of a length. Another o1 ½ lengths behind Mark Valeski, Hurricane Ike edged Self Control for third. Winning time on a fast track was 1:44.62.

McGee said he and Infrattini’s owners would have to discuss whether to come back Feb. 23 in the Mineshaft Handicap. As for Mark Valeski, he figures to benefit from this comeback start, and probably has his best racing ahead of him later in the Fair Grounds meet.