NEW ORLEANS, LA – Returning to the site of his coming-out party in last year’s running, Tom Durant’s Silver Dust found the winner’s circle yet again with a repeat victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Mineshaft Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds.

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Breaking cleanly from post 4 as the 9/5 favorite under Brian Hernandez, Jr., Silver Dust closely tracked while riding wide and in the clear early on. Ahead of him, Pirate’s Punch set the pace through fractions of :24.41, :47.25, and 1:11.42.

Moving three-wide into the far turn, Silver Dust steadily advanced his position until he emerged with a narrow lead at the top of the stretch. Pirate’s Punch refused to make it easy for him, however, and fought back gamely on the inside.

Silver Dust managed to edge clear in mid-stretch, then drifted in slightly while kept to task. A late move from Gun It, running on the wrong lead, was not enough to usurp the bettors’ choice in time.

Trained by Bret Calhoun, Silver Dust crossed 3/4 of a length in front in a final time of 1:43.40 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track.

“This horse is just getting better and better,” said Hernandez, Jr., who took over riding from injured jockey Jack Gilligan. “You just have to trust him. He is a little bit of a quirky horse, from what I’ve seen. Jack has done a great job riding him and I was fortunate enough to fill in. I learned from watching replays to stay out of his way and give him the most comfortable trip I can. That’s what we did today. He ran nice, and when we turned for home, he picked it up.”

Gun It was 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Pirate’s Punch, who fought hard to neck out Captivating Moon for third. Cutting Humor was fifth, while Sleepy Eyes Todd faded to sixth after running second early.

HofburgWinning Number, and Mocito Rojo completed the order of finish. Roiland and Blended Citizen were scratched.

Credit: Hodges Photography / Jan Brubaker

Silver Dust’s win was his second straight following the Louisiana Stakes (G3) here on January 18 and improved his overall record to 26-7-7-2, including a local mark of 8-4-3-0. The 6-year-old gelded son of Tapit has now amassed $822,277 in lifetime earnings.

“We wish he was this good as a three-year-old!” Durant said. “But in all seriousness, this is my first 6-year-old to race. I have raced a lot of horses and I’ve never raced one this age. He seems to just be getting better and better as we go and I’m hoping he can continue to impress us.”

Silver Dust returned $5.60 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.60 to show. Gun It brought back $17.40 to place and $6.40 to show, while Pirate’s Punch paid $3.60 to show.