05/26/2012 2:18PM

Lone Star Park Handicap: Nates Mineshaft has number in his favor

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Amanda Weir/Hodges Photography
Nates Mineshaft, with Jesse Campbell riding, wins the New Orleans Handicap.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – From a numerical standpoint, no horse has run a better dirt race this year than Nates Mineshaft. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 113 for his tour-de-force New Orleans Handicap, and if he runs back to that North American-high Monday in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap, the 1 1/16-mile racewill be a race for second. But if Nates Mineshaft fails to recapture his form of two starts ago, fellow graded winners Marilyn’s Guy and Apart look poised to add to their credentials in what is the richest race of the meet at Lone Star Park.

In all, eight older horses will go Monday. The field is completed by Get in Da House, who was third in last month’s Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile; Fog Alert, who enters off a win in the $100,000 Sunland Park Handicap; Imco Spirit, another New Mexico runner who is seeking his third consecutive stakes win; Golden Yank, a multiple stakes winner of more than $850,000; and Night Party, who invades off back-to-back allowance wins in Kentucky.

Nates Mineshaft is the 121-starting highweight, two races removed from his Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. He took the lead from the bell in tha 1 1/8-mile race and had more when challenged in the stretch, drawing out by seven lengths. (Only one horse, Wise Dan, has earned a better Beyer this year, a 117, but it came on Polytrack.) As for Nates Mineshaft, he has raced once since his career score April 1, and was beaten 20 lengths when he ran sixth in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs on May 4. His trainer, Austin Smith, said he tried changing tactics with the horse, who was taken off the pace to avoid getting caught up in a speed duel with a longshot. Nates Mineshaft did not rate, Smith said, and will resume his front-running ways Monday.

“We’re not going to be taking back,” he said.

Nates Mineshaft, who before his New Orleans win wired the field in the Grade 3 Mineshaft at Fair Grounds, will break from post 6. He races for Windy Hill Farm and is to be ridden by Jesse Campbell.

Marilyn’s Guy is seeking his third consecutive stakes win Monday. He will be cutting back in distance after holding off his rivals by a neck in the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior at a 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct in his last start March 17.

“He opened up a long lead at the top of the stretch and was just barely able to hold on,” said Tony Dutrow, who trains Marilyn’s Guy. “I think a mile and an eighth is his limit, and it may not be his best distance.

“He’s a nice kind of horse, got lots of things going for him. He’s talented, and he wants to do his best.”

Marilyn’s Guy also has tactical speed, and might get a nice trip behind Nates Mineshaft.

“In his last two races, he’s been able to track the speed and when needed he responded very well both times,” said Dutrow, who has given the mount to Lone Star’s leading rider, Cliff Berry.

Apart could fall into a stalking position. Much like Nates Mineshaft, he will be looking to recapture his best form after finishing a distant fifth in the Alysheba. The race was Apart’s first start of the year, after a 2011 season in which he won the Grade 3 Schaefer Memorial at Pimlico and placed in four other stakes, including the Grade 1 Stephen Foster. He became a candidate for the Lone Star after a Churchill allowance did not fill following the Alysheba.

“I thought the old Apart would be very competitive in this race, and hopefully, he shows back up,” said trainer Al Stall Jr.

“He’s done great. He got a freshening. He came back very strong, and trained well, and we’re all excited about him. I’d love to see him be competitive, and go forward for the rest of the year.”

Apart, who will add blinkers, will break from the rail under Glen Murphy.

Get in Da House is the only Texas Mile starter returning for the Lone Star. He was beaten 3 3/4 lengths by Endorsement, who last week returned to run a big third in the Grade 3 Pimlico Special. Don Simington has the mount for trainer Wes Hawley.