03/30/2013 2:59PM

Fair Grounds: Lee's Spirit springs $53.60 surprise in Costa Rising

Hodges Photography/ Lynn Roberts
The 8-year-old Lee's Spirit (left), with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, surges to nose out Populist Politics in the Costa Rising Stakes.

NEW ORLEANS  – Running closer the pace than usual, longshot Lee’s Spirit showed punch when it counted in the Fair Grounds stretch and won the $60,000 Costa Rising Stakes for older Louisiana-breds on Saturday in a head-bobbing finish by a nose over Populist Politics.

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, subbing for injured John Jacinto, kept Lee’s Spirit in third place along the inside in the early running, close behind pacesetting Heavy On Themister and stalker Watch My Smoke. The pace was slow. Heavy On Themister, the odds-on favorite, ran the first half-mile in 48.98 seconds and six furlongs in 1:13.32, seemingly advantageous fractions for a front-runner. But Bridgmohan said he wasn’t concerned.

“Once he got himself into the game today, I was not concerned at all,’’ he said.

In the stretch, Populist Politics swung around Watch My Smoke and Heavy On Themister, and Lee’s Spirit surged outside of Populist Politics. Lee’s Spirit, who had lost his previous four starts since winning the Gold Cup at Delta Downs, won by bob over Populist Politics.  Watch My Smoke finished third, 1 ¼ lengths behind the top pair, in the field of six horses.

Trainer Eddie Johnston said he told Bridgmohan to ride Lee’s Spirit “where he’s comfortable.’’

“He kept him fairly close,’’ said Johnston, who is a co-owner of Lee’s Spirit with Scott Boudreaux and Don Gaudet. “I didn’t know if he’d have his kick, but he did. He beat some nice horses today.’’

Lee’s Sprit, an 8-year-old gelding, won for the 12th time in 53 career starts. He ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.70 and paid $53.60.