Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, September 07, 2003

Mineshaft cruises to victory in Woodward

NEW YORK Trainer Neil Howard knows he has a star in Mineshaft, and so does the colt's owner, William S. Farish.

On the way to a smashing victory in the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday, Mineshaft picked up a few more admirers.

''I couldn't believe how easy he ran by me. It was amazing to watch,'' said Edgar Prado, who was aboard runner-up Hold That Tiger.

''Gosh, he was awful impressive,'' said Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, whose Puzzlement finished third nine lengths behind Mineshaft.

Returning from a summer vacation at Saratoga, Mineshaft blew past three horses on the final turn and shook off Hold That Tiger in the stretch for a 4 1/4-length win. In adding the Grade I Woodward to a resume that includes wins in the Pimlico Special and Suburban Handicap, in his last start July 5, Mineshaft stamped himself as a Horse of the Year contender along with Azeri and Medaglia d'Oro.

''There are some nice horses out there, but you would certainly have to include him in the upper group,'' Howard said.

Ridden by Robby Albarado, the 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy equaled the third fastest running of the Woodward, covering 1 1-8 miles in 1:46.21. Northern Rock, who set the early pace, was fourth with Thompson Rouge last in the five-horse field.

Mineshaft started his career in Europe, but won just once in seven starts, all on the turf. Farish, on the advice of his European trainer, John Gosden, brought Mineshaft back to the United States to run on dirt. The results have been sensational eight wins and two seconds in 10 races. This year, Mineshaft has won six of eight races.

''This was one of his best races, and he does it so easily,'' said Farish, the United States' ambassador to England. ''This is an incredibly talented horse.''

Now it's on to bigger and hopefully better things for Mineshaft, a powerfully built bay colt. Next up is the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 27 and then the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

''Now we go into the fall,'' Farish said. ''Hopefully we'll be there for the Breeders' Cup.''

Richard Migliore, who was aboard Northern Rock, was also impressed: ''He probably got beat by one of the top three horses in the country, if not the world.''

Mineshaft, sent off as the 3-10 favorite by the crowd of 13,108, returned $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10. Hold That Tiger, shipped over from Europe by trainer Aidan O'Brien, returned $3.20 and $2.10. Puzzlement paid $2.10 to show.

Hold That Tiger finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year but was winless in three races in Europe before his runner-up effort Saturday.

''He ran super,'' Prado said. ''He wins the Woodward any other year. Unfortunately, Mineshaft was in here.''

With the win, Mineshaft won $300,000 and boosted his career earnings to $1,883,402.

The two other Grade I races on the card produced surprise winners.

Buy the Sport, a 48-1 long shot from Europe, staged a furious stretch run and defeated favorite Lady Tak by a half-length in the $250,000 Gazelle Handicap. The New York-bred not only beat Lady Tak but also ran away from two other top 3-year-old fillies, Spoken Fur (third) and Island Fashion (fourth).

Lunar Sovereign made a sweeping move around the final turn and overtook pacesetter Balto Star for a 2 3/4-length win in the $500,000 Man o'War. Slew Valley was second, Denon third and Balto Star fourth.

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