Updated on 09/17/2011 8:48PM

Wanderin Boy wires in Mineshaft

Lou Hodges Jr.
Wanderin Boy, Larry Melancon up, wins the $100,000 Grade III Mineshaft Handicap Saturday at Fair Grounds.

NEW ORLEANS - Inexperienced and in an unfamiliar land, Wanderin Boy earned his stripes in Saturday's at Fair Grounds. He set a fast pace, held off a determined run from the millionaire Pollard's Vision, and probably earned a trip back to New Orleans from Florida for the New Orleans Handicap.

Shipped to Fair Grounds this week by trainer Nick Zito, Wanderin Boy, a 4-year-old Seeking the Gold colt bred and owned by Arthur Hancock, came in with only three races under his belt. Physical setbacks put Wanderin Boy's career on hold until October of his 3-year-old season, but he won his debut at Keeneland last October by almost three lengths and finished a good second in his second start.

"We knew he could run, but it was a matter of how much education he was going to need," said Tim Poole, the Zito assistant who saddled Wanderin Boy. "He learned from that second start. He's very intelligent, and very aggressive."

Wanderin Boy came back Jan. 7 at Gulfstream to win an entry-level allowance race by more than three lengths, a start that set him up perfectly for the Grade 3, $100,000 Mineshaft. Sent straight to the front by jockey Larry Melancon - who won two of the four stakes here Saturday - Wanderin Boy went clear of Gigawatt by a length through a quarter-mile in 23.29 seconds and a half-mile in a fast 46.22. Pollard's Vision, favored and making his first start of the season, moved up from third to challenge Wanderin Boy at the top of the stretch, but the leader dug in and was slightly increasing his lead in the final yards.

"He was the speed of the race," Melancon said. "He looks like he's got some class to him."

Pollard's Vision turned in a typically gritty effort but was clearly second, 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner and the same margin ahead of third-place Gigawatt. Wanderin Boy, who paid $12.40 to win, was timed in 1:43.08 over a fast track.

Taylor's Special: Wrzeszcz by a nose

Wrzeszcz won a thrilling stretch battle with Mighty Beau to take the $100,000 Taylor's Special Handicap by a nose.

Jockey Larry Melancon employed a different tactic aboard Wrzeszcz in the Taylor's Special than he had in the prep race for the stakes, where he led every step of the way. This time Melancon rated Wrzeszcz in sixth down the backstretch as Mark Guidry sent favored Mighty Beau right to the lead, cutting fractions of 21.97 seconds for the quarter-mile and 45.56 for the half-mile, with Western Roar, then Chosen Chief chasing him.

Going into the far turn of the 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint, Wrzeszcz was still fifth, but he swept wide toward the leaders around the turn and was third when they straightened out for the stretch drive. Wrzeszcz collared Mighty Beau at the furlong pole, and the two raced as a team to the wire, with Mighty Beau fighting back along the rail, then Wrzeszcz coming back in the last jump to win the head-bob. Chosen Chief was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third, with Britt's Jules 2 1/4 lengths farther back in fourth. Wrzeszcz was timed in 1:03.70 over firm turf.

Wrzeszcz, trained by Tom Amoss for owner Richard Colton Jr., returned $15.20.

- additional reporting by John Swenson