At the top of the stretch, it appeared Saturday's $500,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park would become a match race between heavily favored Mineshaft and last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Volponi. That changed when jockey Robby Albarado gave the go-ahead to Mineshaft.
With an easy kick, Mineshaft drew clear and won off by 2 1/4 lengths. Dollar Bill was 4 lengths farther back in third.
"Mineshaft just toyed with them today," Albarado said. "Volponi took a run at him, but this horse just shook it off."
Despite the easy win, trainer Neil Howard said he still thinks Mineshaft, a 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy, still has something to prove relative to Medaglio d'Oro in the handicap division.
"We want to be careful with what we do relative to the fall," Howard said. "We're thinking of giving him a little rest. He's been going all year."
Volponi's trainer, Phil Johnson, was boosting his rival's stock. "I think Mineshaft is probably the best handicap horse in the country," Johnson said.
Both of the top two finishers may go in the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 2.
In other races with potential bearing on the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, to be run Oct. 25 at Santa Anita:
--Tap The Admiral caught favorite pace-setter Package Store an eighth of a mile from home in Saturday's $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs and then staved off a late bid by Freefourinternet to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Package Store held third. Rock Slide, a full brother to Mineshaft, finished seventh of nine. "He's a real confident little horse and has a lot of confidence in himself," said winning trainer Del Carroll. "Every once in a while he has the ability to back it up."
--Strong Hope won Sunday's Dwyer Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park by a neck over Nacheezmo. But most of the attention was focused on previously unbeaten Sky Mesa, coming back from a series of injuries after a brilliant 2-year-old campaign was cut short last fall before the Breeders' Cup. Sky Mesa ran well to finish third. Strong Hope, a son of Grand Slam, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.76. John Ward, trainer of Sky Mesa, said he "was pleased. Anytime you have a horse coming back running the first three-quarters in (1:09), and he's right there, I'm happy." Ward said Sky Mesa likely will return in the Jim Dandy on Aug. 3 or the Travers on Aug. 23. Trainer Todd Pletcher said Strong Hope's next race likely will be the Jim Dandy.
--Candy Ride is an Argentine-bred, trained by Ron McAnally, and that usually spells success on the turf. That's just what the 4-year-old colt had Friday in the $150,000 American Handicap at Hollywood Park, dueling with Special Ring before winning by 3/4 length. The 9 furlongs on the grass took 1:46.20. But McAnally has something else in mind for the unbeaten colt. "It's the race Sid and Jenny (Craig) want him to win, in their backyard with all their family and friends," McAnally said. "I told them if ever we're going to win the Pacific Classic, it would be with this horse." It was McAnally's fourth win in the American Handicap. The first was in 1983, with John Henry.
--Excessivepleasure had some shipping problems getting from Southern California to Prairie Meadows for Saturday's $250,000 Iowa Derby. Once he got to the track, though, traffic was a thing of the past. Working to the lead on the first turn, the son of In Excess opened up a daylight lead and raced unchallenged to the wire, scoring by 2 3/4 lengths over Saint Liam. Absent Friend was third and the favorite, Champali, finished fourth. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:40.82. "I'd like to try him on the turf," said winning trainer Ty Leatherman. "I think he can run on the turf or the dirt. He has a big heart and he tries every time." He said he may send the colt either to New York or California for more seasoning.
$2 million Turf
--Balto Star, at 37-1, took the lead in Saturday's $750,000 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park and never gave it up, winning by 1/2 length over The Tin Man. Lunar Sovereign was a nose farther back in third and Requete was just a neck farther back in fourth. Denon was only a head farther back in fifth. Balto Star, a 5-year-old son of Glitterman, ran the 1 3/8 mile on firm turf in 2:12.78. "He stole the race," said Anthony Sciametta Jr., assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "The boss said to put him on the lead and see how far he can go. That's what (jockey) Jose (Velez Jr.) did." Velez said he was "just a passenger today."
--Ballingarry was a disappointment in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf, likely because he was forced to fly back and forth from Europe to North America twice in the month before the race. This year, says trainer Laura de Seroux, things seem different. And, in fact, the Sadler's Wells colt demonstrated how different he is with a pace-stalking, 1/2-length victory in Saturday's $200,000 Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf. Ridden confidently by Rene Douglas, Ballingarry got a good trip and finished the 1 1/2 mile over turf rated "good" in 2:28.30. "Last year when we got him, he had run in the Canadian International and then he had to go back to France to do his test for entry into the United States," said de Seroux. "By the time of the Breeders' Cup, he was a very jet-lagged horse." Dr. Brendler was second in Saturday's outing.
--In England, Falbrav rebounded from finishing fifth in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Ascot to win Saturday's Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park. Racing off the early pace, Falbrav sprinted to the lead with about 2 furlongs left and held off Prince of Wales winner Nayef to win by 3/4 length. Falbrev ran 10 furlongs of "good to firm" turf in 2:05.59.
$2 million Distaff
--Wildwood Royal led a trio of longshots across the finish line in Friday's $125,000 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows. After stalking the pace, the Royal Academy filly got to the lead in the upper stretch and inched clear to win by 3/4 length over Golden Reputation. Tulupai was third after leading early. The favorite, Golden Marlin, finished seventh and Ruby's Reception got home fourth. Wildwood Royal ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.64 - a stakes record. "It tickles me that it's the second stakes record she's set here," said trainer Jimmy Zook. "She set the Panthers stakes record and this one." He said he may try Wildwood Royal at Delaware or on the Arlington Park turf.
$1 million Mile (turf)
--Magic Mission was just up at the wire to win Saturday's $100,000 Royal Heroine Stakes at Hollywood Park by a head over pace-setting Little Treasure. Belleski was third. Magic Mission, a 5-year-old British-bred by Machiavellian, ran 1 mile on firm turf in stakes-record time of 1:34.25. Winning rider Corey Nakatani said trainer Neil Drysdale's decision to put blinkers on the mare made a difference. "She was more focused today," he said.
--Sea Pleasure got cranked up about halfway through Friday's $100,000 Americana Handicap at Calder Race Course, then flew down the lane to win by 3/4 length over Stauch. Mr. Livingston was third. Sea Pleasure, a son of Mecke, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:51.28. "Like most Meckes, he likes to come from out of it," said winning trainer Manny Tortora.
--War Zone ran from well back in the field to win Saturday's $100,000 Poker Handicap at Belmont Park by 1/2 length over Trademark. Saint Verre was third. War Zone, a 4-year-old son of Danzig, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.81 for jockey Javier Castelllano and trainer Bobby Frankel. Said Castellano, "Bobby told me before the left to ride him confidently and be patient."
$1 million Filly and Mare Turf
--Dimitrova raced fourth during the early stages of Saturday's $750,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park, then surged to the lead when jockey David Flores provided the encouragement, winning by 2 lengths over pace-setting Sand Springs. Atlantic Ocean was third. Dimitrova, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Swain, ran the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 1:59.98. "What a filly," said winning rider David Flores. "The moment I saw her, I could tell." Trainer Dermot Weld added, "Maybe we'll try her in the Yellow Ribbon or the Matriarch - races like that. But today was the day for her. She's a lovely filly. When she quickens, it's all over."
--Snow Dance tracked Trekking through the early stages of Friday's $250,000 New York Handicap at Belmont Park, got the lead in the lane and held on to beat Pertuisane by 1 length. Riskaverse was third. Snow Dance, dispatched at odds of 27-1, ran 1 1/4 mile on the inner turf course in a speedy 1:59.63. Winning trainer John Ward said he had been looking forward to running Snow Dance, a 5-year-old daughter of Forest Wildcat, on firm footing. "This is what she likes to do and we didn't get a chance to do it this spring," he said, adding the July 26 Diana Handicap at Saratoga will be next.
$1 million Sprint
--Joey Franco took the lead at the top of the lane in Saturday's $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Invitational at Hollywood Park, then held off Publication to win by a hed. Bluesthestandard finished third but was disqualified to sixth for interference. That promoted Primerica to show money. Joey Franco, a 4-year-old, Cal-bred son of Avenue of Flags, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.56.
--Aldebaran got through from the back of the pack in Friday's $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap at Belmont Park and drew off on the rail through the stretch to win by 2 lengths over Peeping Tom. State City was third. With Jerry Bailey up, Aldebaran, a 5-year-old son of Mr. Prospector, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.54. "I brought him back a little quick for this," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "But he will probably get two months off now," with the Aug. 31 Forego at Saratoga as his next stop.
--House Party ran from near the back of the field to win Friday's $200,000 Prioress Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park by 3 1/4 lengths over Chimichurri. Princess V. was third. House Party, with Jose Santos up, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.45. The French Deputy filly how has won four of seven starts this year. "She was much the best," said winning rider Jose Santos, who swung House Party wide entering the stretch to avoid traffic. Trainer H. Allen Jerkens said the 7-furlong Test Stakes at Saratoga may be next for House Party.
--In Friday's $100,000 Jersey Shore Breeders's Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, Gators N Bears opened up a big lead in the stretch and then held on to beat Mt. Carson by 1/2 length, with Don Six third. The favorite, Bishop Hill Court, finished fourth. Gators N Bears, a 3-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.80.
$1.5 million Juvenile
--Limehouse had some traffic issues in Sunday's $150,000 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs but overcame them to win by 4 1/2 lengths over First Money. The odds-on favorite, Cuvee, had an even worse trip than Limehouse and finished a well-beaten third. Limehouse, a son of Grand Slam, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.62, extending his unbeaten record to three wins from as many tries. Last time out, he won the Three Chimneys Juvenile on Derby Day. Cuvee, a Carson City colt, also came into the Bashford Manor undefeated. Limehouse is owned by Dogwood Stable, which also has Heckle prepping for the top 2-year-old events. "I love running 2-year-olds and this one seems precocious," said Dogwood manager Cot Campbell.
--Ten Times Better was significantly better than 10 rivals in Friday's $93,500 D.S. "Shine Young Memorial Futurity at Evangeline Downs. The son of Finest Hour tracked the leaders, then ran by them to win the state-bred event by 2 3/4 lengths over Streak of Smoke, with Sudjanas Finest finishing third. The 5 furlongs took 59.40 seconds.
--Sir Oscar dueled with Charming Jim most of the way through Saturday's $100,000 Criterium Stakes at Calder Race Course, then just thrust his neck in front as the duo passed under the finish line. My Friend Bruce was third. Sir Oscar, a son of Halo's Image, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.55. "Today he got tested and came through," said winning trainer Manny Azpurua. He said Charming Jim will try the Florida Stallion Stakes series at Calder, starting Aug. 9.
$1.5 million Juvenile Fillies
--Be Gentle, with Cornelio Velasquez up, won a three-way battle for the lead in Friday's $100,000 Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, then kept going to win by 1 1/4 length over Renaissance Lady. Sweet Jo Jo was third. Be Gentle, a daughter of Tale of the Cat, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.96. D. Wayne Lukas, who trains both the exacta finishers, said he will "take them both to Saratoga, as well as Unbridled Beauty, and then we're going to scatter them a bit."
--Wacky Patty battled for the lead through most of Friday's $100,000 Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park, then edged clear to win by 1 length over Cherish Destiny. Platinum Princess was third. Wacky Patty, a Florida-bred daughter of Formal Dinner, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.28. "I can't wait until she goes two turns," said winning jockey Jose Valdiva Jr.
--Berry Berry, making her second start, won Sunday's $50,000 Prairie Gold Lassie at Prairie Meadows. Lovethatlegend was second and Walks Lik'N Angel was third. The 5 furlongs went in 57.77 seconds. "I really didn't know what I had because of that last race," said winning owner/trainer Larry Hunt. "We had so much trouble in it. She's as good as we thought she might be." Hunt bought the Defrere filly at the Keeneland sales for $6,000. "They were giving them away that day," he quipped.
In other weekend racing:
Madeira Mist beat First Quarter to the wire by a nose in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Dance Smartly Stakes. Byzantine was third. Madeira Mist, a daughter of Grant Lodge, shipped in from New York for the race and finished the 9 furlongs on the grass in 1:48.05. "I knew the photo was close," said winning rider Patrick Husbands. "She ran an honest race."
Lone Star Park
Kool Humor sat right behind the early speed in Saturday's $100,000 Alysheba Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-olds, pounced in the stretch and drew clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Shawklit Man. Icewater was a distant third. The 7 furlongs took 1:21.92 over a muddy track. "I was really pleased with him," said winning trainer Jack Bruner. "He's come around and he's been training like we wanted him to all week." Kool Humor is a son of Distorted Humor.
Friday, Petionville Indeed upset the $100,000 Walmac Lone Star Oaks, relaxing well behind the leaders and then taking the lead on the stretch turn. She went on to win by 4 lengths over Tiva's Little Sis despite gawking and running greenly in the stretch. "As soon as she made the lead, she started pricking her ears and just ducking and diving all over the race track," said winning rider Terry Stanton.
Just Too Too led almost all the way to a 3/4-length victory over Katdogawn in Sunday's $100,000 Flawlessly Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Just Too Too, with Gary Stevens aboard, ran the 1 mile on the turf in 1:34.29. Valentine Dancer was third.
Cat Singer gave up the lead briefly in Saturday's $100,000 Cleveland Gold Cup Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds but battled back and then drew clear to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Ben's Reflection. Southtown Slew was third. Cat Singer, a son of Sir Cat, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.24.
Delta Princess took charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Dr. Jaems Penny Memorial Handicap, dusting the competiton for a 4-length victory. Spice Island was second and Willie's Luv finished third. Delta Princess, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy filly, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.48.
Sea of Green rallied from near the back of the field to take Friday's $100,000 Charles Town Dash Handicap by 1/2 length over Baby Shark, with Sheryar Special third. Sea of Green, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred son of Seacliff, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a muddy track in 52.02 seconds.
Image of Approval led most of the way to a 3/4-length victory over Eagle Time in Friday's $75,000 Coca-Cola Independence Day Handicap. Image of Approval, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred son of Grant Approval, ran 1 mile in 1:38.00.
Storybook Kid was last of seven starters in Friday's $75,000 Independence Day Handicap until he swung out for the stretch run. Then, the 5-year-old Red Bishop gelding ran by them all to win by a head over Skate Away. Dash for Daylight was third, a neck farther back. Storybook Kid ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:43.24.
Misty Sixes hustled out to the lead in Friday's $50,000 Brookmeade Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares and extended the advantage to win by 7 1/4 lengths over Personal Flair. Misty Sixes, a 5-year-old daughter of Summer Squall, ran 1 1/16 mile on the inner turf course in 1:44.16. Thunder and Rain was third.
Delmonico Cat raced from the middle of the field to take Friday's $45,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes by 1/2 length over Stormy Society. Rene Douglas rode the Storm Cat filly for trainer Bill Mott, finishing the about 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:46.34.
Alfurune swung four-wide into the stretch in Friday's $40,000 Independence Day Handicap and drew clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Poker Brad. Skip to the Stone was third. Alfurnue, a 5-year-old Alfaari gelding, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:40 2/5.
She's Scrumpy, running against older fillies and mares for the first time, stalked the pace in Friday's $35,000 Princess Elaine Stakes, then got the lead and held on to beat Demiparfait in the drive. She's Scrumpy, last year's juvenile filly champ at the Minnesota track, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:48.
Bassant upset Friday's $35,000 Blair's Cove Stakes, making a late run to defeat All Rumor. J.P. Jet held on for third. Bassant ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.46.
News and Notes
--Dick Vitale has invaded horse racing, perhaps with a "prime time player." It's Awesome Baby, co-owned by the college hoops commentator and University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino, won his first start Friday at Calder Race Course. "I'm excited," said Vitale. Now we'll go to South Beach and spend a little of the money we won and have a good time. It's awesome, baby."