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Mineshaft Stakes: Tawny Port Will Be Making His First Start Since Last September

Written by: Brian Zipse
Updated February 17, 2023
12 min read

Mineshaft Stakes Odds and Post Position

Check out our predictions and odds for the Mineshaft Stakes at Fair Grounds!









B J Hernandez Jr

D Stewart




R Gutierrez

W B Calhoun




F Geroux

B Cox




T Gaffalione

C DeVaux




C Lanerie

P McGee




J Graham

N Pessin




L Saez

T Pletcher




D Parker

W B Calhoun




M Murrill

K McPeek

Mineshaft Stakes Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Tawny Port over Happy American, Pioneer of Medina, Mr. Wireless and Big Blue Line  = $40 
  • $5 Exacta Part Wheel - Happy American, Pioneer of Medina, Mr. Wireless and Big Blue Line over Tawny Port  = $20
  • If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Tawny Port (4/1).    



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Mineshaft Stakes Predictions

Twice a stakes winner at Fair Grounds already this meet, Happy American shoots for a hat trick when he tops a field of nine older males entered in Saturday’s $250,000 Mineshaft Stakes.

The 5-year-old son of Runhappy began his meet at Fair Grounds late last year by rolling in the stretch to a 2 3/4-length score in the Tenacious Stakes. 

Trained by Neil Pessin, Happy American followed that up with a determined score in the Grade 3 Louisiana four weeks ago.

Mr. Wireless will look to turn the tables on his rival after two consecutive second-place finishes, including a narrow defeat last time in the Louisiana. 

A winner of the Grade 3 Indiana Derby and the $500,000 West Virginia Derby as a 3-year-old, the 5-year-old son of Dialed In has proved to be a tough competitor at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Mineshaft.

Two horses who ran in last year’s Kentucky Derby, Tawny Port and Pioneer of Medina, should also have something to say in the Grade 3 Mineshaft.

Third in the $1 million Louisiana Derby last year, the Todd Pletcher-trained Pioneer of Medina comes in off a solid second in the Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday last out at Gulfstream Park. 

Tawny Port, meanwhile, was a winner of both the Grade 3 Lexington and Grade 3 Ohio Derby last year and will be making his first start since last September for trainer Brad Cox.

Mineshaft Stakes Predictions and Race Analysis

Happy American

Now five, this gelded son of Runhappy seems to have found his best stride. He had shown flashes of ability earlier in his career, but his last two wins, both locally, point him out as an emerging player in the older male division. 

A repeat of either of those stakes wins, both of which were at the same distance as the Mineshaft make him a clear threat to win his third in a row. Once again, though, he will have to overcome a race without much early speed. 

He’s done it in the last two, but this one figures to be the toughest test yet. He looks like a deserving favorite, who could easily win, but I am siding with another for the top spot on Saturday.

Tawny Port

Despite a poor effort in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby to end his season, this son of Pioneerof the Nile had a very good campaign in 2022. 

Wins in the Grade 3 Lexington and Grade 3 Ohio Derby, as well as strong efforts in both the Kentucky Derby and Jim Dandy against the best in the division, pointed him out as a horse of class. Away for five months, he returns in a tricky spot, but trainer Brad Cox usually has them ready to run. 

He likes to rally, but has a little more early speed than Happy American, and should get first jump on the morning line favorite. That could be the only advantage he needs to return a winner in this Grade 3 test. He is the top pick.

Pioneer of Medina

Another son of Pioneerof the Nile, he seemed to need time after taking a beating in last year’s Kentucky Derby. After two dull efforts following the Derby, he has regained the good form that led to a start in the Run for the Roses. 

A game allowance victory at Churchill Downs was followed by a solid effort when second behind Skippylongstocking in the Harlan’s Holiday. In the last one, he showed plenty of speed, which could be a real positive on Saturday as most of the top contenders here like to rally. 

He’s yet to win a stake race in his career for trainer Todd Pletcher, but has been competitive three different times, including twice at Fair Grounds last year behind the champion Epicenter. He is an obvious contender.

Mr. Wireless

The first of two for trainer Bret Calhoun, this gelding runs a lot of good races. He has enough tactical speed to stay in touch early, and then he generally makes him move to be in with a big shot down the stretch. 

It’s easy to like consistent horses like this. It should be only a matter of time before he breaks through for his first graded stakes victory since winning the West Virginia Derby 18 months ago. Is this the spot? 

Coming off two solid runner-up efforts behind the morning line favorite, he is certainly a solid contender. While he is not my top pick, I find it very difficult to keep him off any of the exotic tickets.

Hoist the Gold

Trained by Dallas Stewart, this 4-year-old joins Tawny Port as the only horses in the field who are coming in off a Grade 1 race last time. It was a good performance too, as he rallied for third behind Taiba in the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita. 

The problem is that the performance came at 7 furlongs. Having only sprinted in his career, the two turns of the Mineshaft presents a whole new challenge. He has the pedigree to handle it, but after 16 career starts at one turn, this field looks pretty tough for his first stretch out. 

In fact, he faded badly out of his longest race to date, a one mile allowance back as a juvenile. For this reason, I am not high on his chances on Saturday.

Big Blue Line

This Maryland-bred was a hard-knocker last year as a 3-year-old for trainer Paul McGee. He was not good enough to win any of his three stakes attempts, but may now be on the improve as an older horse. 

It’s hard to know for sure how it will translate to graded stakes company, but his recent prep over the track sure did look good. 

He has some tactical speed and if he can replicate or even move forward off that easy allowance win, he could surprise on Saturday.

Run Classic

Well thought of throughout his career, this son of Runhappy has only made eight career starts, so there might still be room for improvement for the 5-year-old. 

He has looked impressive on occasion for trainer Bret Calhoun, but in his three career stakes attempts, two of which came at Fair Grounds, he was not quite up to the challenge.

Like many in the field, he is in with a shot, but I just don’t have a strong reason why he will turn the tables on Happy American and Mr. Wireless this time around. 

King Fury

This very well bred son of Curlin is a three-time stakes winner, but has not sniffed the winner’s circle in nearly a year and a half. 

Trained by Kenny McPeek, he will lose the blinkers after an unsuccessful test with them last out when sixth in the Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn Park. 

With the back class, you can not totally dismiss him, and this will be his first ever try at Fair Grounds, but his form of late cannot lend much confidence in this contentious affair.

Farmington Road

This son of Quality Road was a Belmont Stakes participant back in 2020. The late runner has never been able to break through in stakes company, but can run strong races on occasion. 

Two starts back, he came from well back to edge Run Classic and Happy American in a loaded Churchill Downs allowance race. 

He deserves to be a longshot in this field, but it would not be a shock to see him outrun his odds on Saturday for trainer Cherie DeVaux.



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How to Watch the Mineshaft Stakes

  • What: Mineshaft Stakes (Grade 3)
  • Location: Fair Grounds
  • Time: Saturday, February 18 -- 5:37 pm Eastern time
  • How to Watch: FanDuel TV
  • Purse: $250,000
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Brian Zipse

292 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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