02/20/2016 5:39PM

Majestic Harbor snaps losing streak in Mineshaft

Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography
Majestic Harbor (right), ridden by Corey Lanerie, outfights Eagle by a head in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap.

NEW ORLEANS – Majestic Harbor looked like the lone speed in a four-horse field, but when the gate for the Grade 3, $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap sprang, the 8-year-old horse was in no hurry to press his tactical advantage.

Point Piper held a narrow lead into the first turn, at which point jockey Corey Lanerie decided to get involved, asking Majestic Harbor to come through on the inside and set the pace. Majestic Harbor did Lanerie’s bidding, and when the Fair Grounds tote board lit up with a half-mile split in a moderate 48.09 seconds, Majestic Harbor was right where he needed to be. The only Grade 1 winner in the race, Majestic Harbor turned back a determined run from Eagle and scored his first victory since winning eight starts ago last April. 

Lanerie said he thought the Fair Grounds main track was playing fair Saturday, but with Majestic Harbor home by a head, front-running horses had won four of the card’s first five dirt races.

Majestic Harbor led last month in the Louisiana Stakes but took pace pressure partway through, was run into by a rival in upper stretch, and faded to a distant fifth. But Paul McGee, who trains Majestic Harbor for the Gallant Stable, pointed to contending form in graded stakes races last fall and a recent strong works for hope that the aging gelding still had a good race in him.

“I didn’t really feel he had lost anything, and he had kind of been touting himself his last couple works,” McGee said.

Majestic Harbor went a good pace around the turn, getting six furlongs in 1:12.30, and he stopped the timer Saturday in a fine 1:42.86 for 1 1/16 miles, paying $15 to win. Eagle ran a winning race in defeat, just failing to reach Majestic Harbor while rallying gamely. Last early, Eagle made a sharp move to get into contention at the quarter pole, but the moderate pace did him in.

“It’s tough when they run so well not to get a graded stakes,” said trainer Neil Howard.

Eagle was two lengths better than Point Piper, who finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of 3-5 favorite International Star, who was such a sharp winner of the Louisiana last month.

“I had no horse at any point today,” said Miguel Mena, International Star’s jockey. “He never picked up the bridle.”

Majestic Harbor, by Rockport Harbor out of French Deputy mare Champagne Royale, won for the ninth time in 39 starts. He was bred in Kentucky by Brandywine Farm and Liberation Farm, and is a brother to 2014 Arkansas Derby winner Danza.