01/07/2012 7:30PM

Fair Grounds: Old Bushmill flies late to take Dixie Poker Ace

Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.
Old Bushmill, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, overtakes Kissimmee Kyle in deep stretch of the Dixie Poker Ace.

Not all that many years ago, the Louisiana-bred older-male turf division came down to two horses: if Coach Rags wasn’t winning a statebred-restricted turf stakes, then Mr. Sulu was. The situation has grown more complex, with a larger group of horses taking turns going to the winner’s circle.

Saturday, Old  Bushmill took his turn, winning the$60,000  Dixie Poker Ace  at Fair Grounds by a half-length, nailing pacesetter Kissimmee Kyle in the final furlong. String King, who had bravely won the Louisiana Champions Day Turf about one month ago, had nothing this time, checking in sixth of seven.

Old Bushmill ($16.80) did not lack credentials to win the Dixie Poker Ace. The 4-year-old Old Bushmill finished fifth on Champions Day but in August had won the Louisiana Cup Turf Classic at Louisiana Downs, his third straight victory for trainer Morris Nicks. Saturday, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan kept Old Bushmill in the pack behind the leaders during the first five furlongs or so, as Kissimmee Kyle set a measured tempo, going the opening half-mile in 49.91 seconds. On the first part of the far turn, Bridgmohan guided Old Bushmill a couple paths off the rail and onto what might have been a better part of the Fair Grounds course, and once Old Bushmill straightened away for the stretch run, he delivered a big kick, passing five horses in the final three-sixteenths of a mile.

Winning time for one mile on firm going was 1:37.95, and the winner’s final quarter-mile might have shaded 23 seconds if a six-furlong split of 1:14.61 is to be believed. Kissimee Kyle finished one length better than another Nicks-trained runner, Blackntansatlarry’s, but that horse was disqualified and placed fifth for interfering with Idefromthebayou during the stretch run. Old Bushmill, a son of North Light, is owned by Larry Johnson.