02/23/2012 5:50PM

Fair Grounds: Thiskyhasnolimit could stalk pace in Mineshaft Handicap

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Lynn Roberts
Thiskyhasnolimit wons the Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds in his last start.

So far, the most noteworthy race in the career of Thiskyhasnolimit was one he lost, a second-place finish to Lookin At Lucky in the 2010 Indiana Derby. But from the appearance he made winning the Louisiana Handicap on Jan. 21, his first start since July, Thiskyhasnolimit might not yet have hit his ability’s limit.

Race 2 in Thiskyhasnolimit’s 5-year-old season comes Saturday, when he starts in the Grade 3, $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile dirt race drew nine horses when entries were taken last weekend, but three of them – Pants On Fire, Gladding, and Cool Blue Red Hot – already have been withdrawn from the race.

“Those were three good horses,” said Greg Geier, who trains Fast Alex, the Louisiana Handicap runner-up. “Going from nine to six, that’s a big deal.”

[MORE: PPs and video previews for the Saturday card at Fair Grounds]

Gladding and Pants On Fire would have brought more pace to the Mineshaft, but between Nates Mineshaft and California shipper Tres Borrachos, there’s enough speed that Thiskyhasnolimit probably won’t enjoy the same front-end trip through slow fractions he had last month. But that might not matter. If the two other pace horses want to take the lead, Thiskyhasnolimit, well drawn in midpack with Shane Sellers, should have no problem sitting back in second or third and biding his time. The Sky Mesa horse’s works since his comeback victory appear solid and include a strong six furlongs in 1:13.40 on Feb. 13.

Fast Alex got within one length of Thiskyhasnolimit in the Louisiana Handicap, despite a less-than-ideal journey. Steadied into the first turn, Fast Alex was stuck along the fence until deep stretch, and he finished with good energy.

“He’s trained wonderfully,” Geier said. “I think Nates Mineshaft will go to the front with Thiskyhasnolimit, and hopefully they’ll go a little faster.”

Five-year-old Fast Alex won the Tenacious Handicap earlier in the meet and has scored all four of his career victories over the Fair Grounds main track.

Mister Marti Gras concluded his 2011 campaign with a respectable fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and fits much better in a race like the Grade 3 Mineshaft. After a winter break, Mister Marti Gras began exercising at a training center before posting five solo works at Fair Grounds prepping for his 5-year-old debut.

“I think he’s going to run a good race,” trainer Neil Pessin said. “We’re not dead set on go, but he should run well enough to win. He puts enough into his gallops that I don’t think fitness is an issue.”

Tres Borrachos figures to attract betting support and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last fall, but his most recent win came last July over a modest field in the San Diego Handicap on Del Mar Polytrack.

Alma d’Oro was third in the Louisiana Handicap and finished a half-length behind Mister Marti Gras in the Ack Ack last fall at Churchill. Nates Mineshaft ran fast winning a second-level allowance race last month, but never has beaten horses of this caliber.

Mineshaft H. (G3), Post Time: 3:55 CT Saturday

Purse: $125,000; 1 1/16 miles

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Mister Marti Gras

N. Pessin

S. Bridgmohan

9-2

1

Alma d'Oro

T. Pletcher

J. Castellano

6-1

1

Tres Borrachos

M. Jones

E. Prado

7-2

1

Cool Blue Red Hot

A. Penna, Jr.

M. Cruz

12-1

1

Nates Mineshaft

A. Smith

J. Campbell

20-1

1

Dubious Miss

P. McGee

C. Lanerie

8-1

1

Uptowncharlybrown

E. Coletti, Sr.

P. Lopez

12-1

1

Mister Marti Gras

N. Pessin

S. Bridgmohan

5-1

1

Ioya Bigtime

N. Pessin

R. Albarado

10-1

1

Smart Bid

H. Motion

E. Prado

3-1