Pioneer of Medina had to battle every step of the stretch before proving best by a head in Saturday’s $250,000 Mineshaft S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, registering his initial stakes victory. Luis Saez was up on the four-year-old colt for Todd Pletcher.
Off as 2.80-1 favorite among nine runners, Pioneer of Medina stalked the action in third as Hoist the Gold showed the way through opening splits in :23.79 and :47.59. Run Classic was tracking the pacesetter and advanced entering the far turn to take the lead.
Pioneer of Medina came under a ride nearing the conclusion of the bend and surged wide into the stretch. Run Classic was up by about a length while straightening for home, but he began to face pressure from the outside. Mr. Wireless charged widest of all to make it a three-horse battle with about a furlong remaining.
Run Classic gave way slightly approaching deep stretch, as Pioneer of Medina took the lead between horses, and Mr. Wireless appeared to have dead aim. But Mr. Wireless could never get past Pioneer of Medina, who determinedly dug in to prevail on the wire.
Pioneer of Medina completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.59. Mr. Wireless, the 6.50-1 fifth choice, was a half-length better than 8-1 Run Classic. It was nearly six more lengths to Hoist the Gold in fourth, and Tawny Port, King Fury, Big Blue Line, Happy American, and Farmington Road came next.
Pioneer of Medina had shown an affinity for Fair Grounds, winning an allowance before recording a fourth in the Risen Star (G2) and a third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) last year. He followed with poor showings in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Smarty Jones (G3), but rebounded a couple of starts later with an allowance win at Churchill Downs in mid-November.
The Kentucky-bred Pioneerof the Nile colt was exiting a runner-up effort in the Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 31., and the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds on the March 25 Louisiana Derby undercard will be an option for his next start.
Campaigned by Oussama Aboughazale’s Sumaya U.S. Stable, Pioneer of Medina is the first foal to race out of stakes-winning Lights of Medina, runner-up in the 2017 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and a daughter of Eskendereya. Pioneer of Medina has now earned nearly $450,000 from a 12-4-2-2 record.