At the time of last year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Mineshaft was struggling in minor stakes in England, a winner only once in six starts. After his convincing victory in Saturday's $500,000 Woodward Stakes, Mineshaft is well on his way to being the favorite in the Oct. 25 renewal of the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Sent off as the heavy favorite, Mineshaft sat behind a three-horse pace duel, which trainer Neil Howard said was "like Christmas." When those three tossed in their hands, Mineshaft took complete charge, winning by 4 1/4 lengths with jockey Robby Albarado keeping after him right to the wire.
"I let him work on finishing," Albarado said. "The next race is going to be tougher. He is going to have to step it up. I let him work a little."
Howard said the next race will be the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 27 at Belmont. "That's why we skipped the Whitney (at Saratoga) -- to run in these two races, provided he's doing fine," Howard added.
Hold That Tiger, a good third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was second in the Woodward, with Puzzlement third. Mineshaft, a 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy, ran the 1 1/8 mile in 1:46.21.
Counting from his first race in the United States, a victory in a Churchill Downs allowance last November, Mineshaft has posted seven wins and two seconds from nine starts. In the international rankings, he is tied for No. 2 in the handicap division with Medaglia d'Oro and Moon Ballad and behind Candy Ride.
In other weekend racing with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita's Oak Tree Meeting Oct. 25:
$2 million Nextel Distaff
Lady Tak and Spoken Fur were expected to make the most noise in Saturday's $500,000 Gazelle Handicap at Belmont Park. But it was a European shipper, Buy the Sport, making her first start in North America, who came along in the stretch run to win by 1/2 length at odds of 48-1. Lady Tak was second after leading into the stretch. Spoken Fur came from well off the pace to finish third. Buy the Sport was purchased recently by Peter Minikes, who noted she was running well against good horses in Europe and apparently wanted to run on dirt. "We pointed for this race, thinking that we were taking a big step up here," he said. "We have a nice filly." Jockey Pat Day said of the 3-year-old Devil's Bag filly, "This was a good effort for her first try on dirt in this country. It shows you that she is real adaptable to come over here and win."
$2 million John Deere Turf
--Lunar Sovereign tossed in a clinker in his last race, finishing eighth in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Saturday, the 4-year-old Cobra King colt redeemed himself with an off-the-pace, 2 3/4-length victory in the $500,000 Man o'War at Bemont Park. With Richard Migliore riding, Lunar Sovereign swung four-wide into the stretch and quickly drew clear. Slew Valley was second, completing a longshot exacta, with favorite Denon finishing third. Balto Star set the early pace and held on for fourth. The 11 furlongs on yielding turf took 2:17.99. "This was the first trip where everything went exactly the way I wanted it to go," said Migliore. "I got to save ground going into the first turn and I was able to tip him out when I needed to." Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin added, "I don't know if we'll go to the Breeders' Cup. We'll have to talk to the people that make those decisions."
--High Chaparral, winner of last year's Turf at Arlington Park, held on to win Saturday's Ireland the Food Island Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, the fifth leg of the World Series Racing Championship. High Chaparral sat behind a brisk pace set by stablemate France, then got to the fore approaching the furlong mark. In the late going, jockey Mick Kinane let High Chaparral drift in, preventing a late-running Falbrav from completing his challenge. Falbrav was second and the stewards rejected an objection by his rider, Darryll Holland. Winning trainer Aidan O'Brien said the victory in High Chaparral's second race of the year completes his preparation for the Oct. 5 Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. "The plan all year has been the Arc," he said. Alamshar, favorite for the Champion Stakes, finished fourth.
--In Germany, Godolphin Racing's Mamool won a tight stretch battle with Black Sam Bellamy to take Sunday's Grosser Preis von Baden, the sixth leg of the World Series Racing Championship. With Frankie Dettori up, Mamool hung back to let Black Sam Mellamy set the pace. Mamool came on again in the final 100 yards to win by 1/2 length, finishing 2,400 meters in 2:32.75 on "good" turf. Godolphin Racing Manager Simon Crisford said he is considering sending Mamool, a 4-year-old son of In the Wings, to another race in Germany, the Canadian International at Woodbine, the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp or the Melbourne Cup.
--Fairly Ransom, a Kentucky-bred son of Red Ransom who started his career in France, stepped up to win Saturday's $300,000 Del Mar Derby. After saving ground under Alex Solis, the colt swung out for racing room in the stretch and scored by 1 1/4 lengths over Devious Boy. Sweet Return was third and the favorite, Senor Swinger, was fourth. Fairly Ransom ran the 9 furlongs in stakes-record time of 1:46.66.Winning trainer Ron McAnally blamed Fairly Ransom's fourth-place finish in his last outing on a tough effort in his previous race. "That may have taken a little too much out of him," McAnally said. "But when you have a 3-year-old that only gets beat 2 lengths by the French Derby winner (Dalakhani, in a Group 2 race at Longchamp in April), that's some kind of horse."
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
--Indy Five Hundred sat well behind the leaders in Sunday's $250,000 Garden City Breeders' Cup at Belmont Park until the running started in the stretch. Then, the A.P. Indy filly, with "Patient Pat" Day up, overhauled favorite Dimitrova and went on to win by 4 lengths. She finished in 1:48 2/5 on "good" turf. Said winning trainer Bob Barbara, "Pat said she was so full of horse at the three-eighths pole, she just wanted to explode turning for home." Indy Five Hundred now has three wins from nine starts.
--Spring Star made all the pace in Sunday's $200,000 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar, then held on between rivals in deep stretch to win by a neck over Magic Mission. Garden in the Rain was just a nose farther back in third. Spring Star, a 4-year-old, French-bred daughter of Danehill, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.78 for Alex Solis. Corey Nakatani, aboard Magic Mission, claimed foul, charging Solis' whip hit Magic Mission during the stretch run. The stewards disallowed the claim. "I never hit her," Solis said. "I would have felt it if I had and I didn't feel anything."
--At Longchamp in Paris, Nebraska Tornado won Sunday's Prix du Moulin by 1/2 length over Japanese invader Lohengrin, with Bright Sky third. Nebraska Tornado won the French Oaks earlier this year but suffered her first defeat last month at Deauville. Last year, Banks Hill finished second to Rock of Gibraltar in the Prix du Moulin with a rough trip, then finished a close second to Starine in the Filly & Mare Turf. Banks Hill won the Filly and Mare Turf in 2001 at Belmont Park.
$1 million Sprint
--House Party got the outside position for the stretch run in Saturday's $200,000 Endine Handicap for fillies and mares at Delaware Park and closed stoutly to win by 1 length over Vision in Flight. Mooji Moo finished third. House Party, a 3-year-old daughter of French Deputy, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.01 under Jose Santos, equaling the track record set by Demitrius in 1980. "The last quarter mile, I basically let her do what she wanted to do because she was going so easily," Santos said. "If I had known she was going to equal the track record, I would have probably pushed her a little bit." The Florida-bred filly is trained by H. Allen Jerkens. She now has won six of her 13 starts.
--My Captain held off Echo Eddie through the stretch run to win Saturday's $60,000 Big Jag Handicap at Bay Meadows in Northern California. With Francisco Duran in the irons, My Captain took the lead on the turn after pressuring the longshot pace-setter. Full Moon Madness raced evenly to finish third. My Captain, a 4-year-old Conquistador Cielo gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.01. "This guy is a late bloomer," said winning trainer Art Sherman. "He's matured so much." He said My Captain may start next in the $200,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 5.
--Somnus upset Saturday's Haydock Sprint Cup in England with a late run in the final furlong. Oasis Dream, the favorite, held on for second after leading and Airwave was third. Somnus ran 6 furlongs on turf rated "good to soft" in 1:13.49.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
Pink Champagne won a stretch duel with favorite Saree to take Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Natalma Stakes by a head. Pink Champagne, a Kentucky-bred daughter of 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, found running room at mid-stretch and came to challenge Saree. The pair ran together to the wire. The 1 mile over the grass took 1:36.53. The race was only Pink Champagne's second start. She won a maiden turf race at Belmont in July. Past winners of the Natalma include Dance Smartly, Alywow, Kirby's Song and Ginger Gold.
In other weekend racing:
Heyahohowdy went for the lead on the turn for home in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Flaming Page Stakes for fillies and mares, then held off a late run by Carib Lady to win by 3/4 length. Heyahohowdy, a 4-year-old daughter of Domasca Dan, ran the "about" 1 1/2 mile in 2:33.82. "She was running easy and relaxed, so I was pretty confident," said winning rider Ray Sabourin. "Every time somebody came to her, she'd nudge on so she was okay."
Don't Countess Out lost her footing at the start of Saturday's $75,000 Weekend Delight Stakes for fillies and mares. Recovering, the 4-year-old Take Me Out filly took the wide route around the turn, got to the lead at the furlong marker and won by 2 3/4 lengths over For Rubies. Born to Dance was third with the odds-on favorite, Vicki Vallencourt, checking in fourth. Don't Countess Out ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.58. "She picked it up in the middle of the turn and took off down the stretch," said winning rider Terry Thompson.
Calder Race Course
The Name's Bond got the lead with a furlong left in Saturday's $75,000 Needles Stakes for 3-year-olds and cruised home a 3 3/4-lengths winner over Me My Mine. Millennium Storm was third. The Name's Bond, a son of Jules out of the Baldski mare Junk Bond Queen, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.28 over a track rated "good" under Manoel Cruz. The race was moved off the grass because of drenching rain. "I still want to get him on turf again and see how he does," said winning trainer Frank Gomez.
Floater dueled down the lane with Dawn's Revenge in Sunday's $75,000 Juvenile Stakes for Ohio-breds before getting clear in the late going to win by 1 1/2 lengths. White Angel Light was third. Floater, a son of Salt Lake, was sent off as the pari-mutuel favorite and finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:48.72.
Cruise Along survived a slow pace up front to win Saturday's $75,000 All Brandy Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Coquettish. Leebearski was third. Cruise Along, a daughter of Runaway Groom, ran the 9 furlongs on the turf in 1:51.39.
Academic Angel led from gate to wire in Saturday's $75,000 River Cities Stakes. Under Lonnie Meche, the 4-year-old daughter of Royal Academy set a moderate pace and had enough at the end to hold off I'm the Business by 1 length. Due to Win was third. Academic Angel ran the "about" 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.93.
Misty Sixes found running room on the rail on the turn for home in Saturday's $50,000 Lighthouse Stakes, came though the hole and took off to win by nearly 12 lengths over Rebecca's Charm. Cocktailsandreams was third. Misty Sixes, a 5-year-old daughter of Summer Squall, ran the 1 mile in 1:42 3/5. The race was moved off the turf. "The only question," said winning rider Joe Bravo, "was how far she would win by."
Sunday, Boozin' Susan rallied past pace-setter Tangier Sound in the stretch drive of the $50,000 Incredible Revenge Stakes to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Multiple Wins was third. Boozin' Susan, a 4-year-old daughter of French Deputy, ran the 5 furlongs on "good" turf in 55.83 seconds.
Korbyn Gold took charge in the final furlong to win Saturday's $45,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes for 2-year-olds by 3 lengths over Voladero. Got the Goods led the way early and held on for third. Korbyn Gold won the Middleground Breeders' Cup at Lone Star this summer but finished eighth in his last outing, the James C. Ellis Juvenile at Ellis Park. The Spectcular Bid is a prep for the Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 27.
Friday, I'm a Majek Girl drew clear in the stretch to post a 7 1/2-length victory in the $45,000 Top Flight Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. I'm a Majek Girl, a daughter of Captain Bodgit, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.93. It was her second win in as many starts. The race is a prep for the Arlington-Washington Lassie on Sept. 27.
In Sunday's $45,000 Paradise Creek Stakes, Megoman stalked the early pace, then drew even during for home and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Mr Mississippi was second in the race for 3-year-olds and Scottago was third. Megoman, a son of Traitor, finished the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:45.70.
Okie Style got the lead with a half-mile left in Saturday's $40,000 Prairie Meadows Freshman and sent on to chalk up a comfortable victory as the even-money favorite. War Reality was second and Cocodan was third. Okie Style, a son of Blumin Affair, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:11.80. Winning trainer Kelly von Hemel said Okie Style will go to Remington Park.
In the companion $40,000 Prairie Meadows Debutante, Aspen Gal posted an upset victory over favorite Goodies Galore. Aspen Gal, a daughter of Talkin Man, crossed the wire 8 lengths in front.
News and notes
--Gary Stevens returned to riding Friday, one day less than three weeks after being injured at the end of the Arlington Million. Stevens finished second aboard Fly to the Wire in the $75,000 El Cajon Stakes. "I feel like a million," Stevens said. "Of course, I'd be feeling even better if I was over there (the winner's circle). But I feel good. My air is good and I'm fine." Stevens was thrown to the Arlington turf and trampled when his mount shied near the finish of the Million.
--Pat Valenzuela, aboard Chester's Choice, beat Julie Krone, piloting Woke Up Dreaming, in a Sunday match race at Del Mar. The duo race together most of the way, with Woke Up Dreaming edging in front at the top of the stretch, only to see Chester's Choice come back with another run to win by a nose. After a torrid early pace, the final time was 1:46 1/5.