02/26/2013 5:50PM

Fair Grounds: New Orleans Handicap next for Mark Valeski

Jamie Hernandez/Hodges Photography
Mark Valeski likely will have two works prior to the New Orleans Handicap.

Larry Jones could tell after the Louisiana Handicap on Jan. 19 that Mark Valeski had put forth great effort. Mark Valeski ran hard and finished second to Infrattini while making his first start since June, and he had a right to come back tired.

On Saturday, things were much different. In winning the Mineshaft Handicap by a half-length, Mark Valeski ran hard for only the last furlong after being trapped along the fence behind a slow pace for most of the race. His flashy turn of foot carried Mark Valeski to an eye-catching victory, and the circumstances of the race should leave him with plenty in the tank for the New Orleans Handicap next month.

“He didn’t seem the least bit tired,” Jones said Tuesday morning. “He’s still pretty fresh, really. We’ll play it by ear, but he’ll probably have two works before the next race.”

Mark Valeski’s impressive showing suggested that with further progress he could wind up among the elite older dirt-route horses this year, and Jones and owner Brereton Jones have allowed their thoughts to stray beyond the Fair Grounds season.

“I think our first major deal after the New Orleans Handicap would be the Stephen Foster,” Larry Jones said. “We think he’s going to be a factor in the national handicap division, and that’s what we’re trying to set him up for.”

Meanwhile, Blue Violet, the Jones-trained third-place finisher in the Rachel Alexandra on Saturday, probably will make her next start in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Dancinginthecircle, who set a hot pace in the race and faded to fifth, will be cut back to one-turn races this spring, Jones said. Smitten, another 3-year-old filly, worked Sunday and will be entered in Saturday’s Allen Lacombe Memorial, a turf race, as a Fair Grounds Oaks prep.