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Sunday, September 7, 2003


By design, owner William S. Farish and trainer Neil Howard by-passed Saratoga for their star handicap horse, Mineshaft.

The 4-year-old son of 1992 Horse of the Year and three-year-old champion A.P. Indy had won 5-of-7 starts with a pair of seconds in the first half of the year. It was a long way to the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita on October 25th, and they figured they would take the summer off to reload for the autumn.

Saturday afternoon, they came out with guns blazing.

Set off as the heavy favourite of the crowd of 13,108, Mineshaft rated off a three-way speed duel, then simply proved he was the best by carrying jockey Robby Albarado to an effortless 4.25-length victory over European invader Hold That Tiger in the 50th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward.

The weight-for-age, nine-furlong event was the feature on Opening Weekend of Belmont Park’’s Fall Championship Meet.

The meet has always lived up to its name, and Mineshaft’s Woodward victory makes him a huge player in the race for Horse of the Year. He will likely run next here in the meet’s showcase event, the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at 10 furlongs on Saturday, September 27th and then try to cap off the year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Mineshaft has already beaten defending Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Volponi, who he turned back in wining the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap here on July 5th, which was his last start before the Woodward. In each race, he has gotten stronger.

Saturday, he was staked to a gift when three of the five Woodward players - Thompson Rouge, Northern Rock and Hold That Tiger - went out to the lead and sparred through fractions of :23 4/5; :47 2/5 and 1:11 1/5, while Mineshaft rated in fourth.

Albarado adjusted his goggles, moved to the outside and let his mount go, keeping him alert with a strong hand ride. He won in 1:46 1/5. Mineshaft returned $2.60 to win.

Winning trainer Neil Howard of favoured Mineshaft (No. 2): “You know me, I never expect anything. He’s just a nice horse. I was happy with him all through the month at Saratoga. That was a big race for him today. There are some nice horses out there but you would have to certainly include him in the upper group. The way he was acting before we came over, he was getting a little antsy in the barn when we were putting the bandages on. I said, `Oh, man,’ because he can jump out there if you want him to. Like Robby (Albarado, jockey) says, he gets his game face on and he’s very ratable. When I saw three of those horses in front of him, it was like `Oh, my God! How could this possibly happen?’ I couldn’t believe it. Not that means that they had to stop, but it was like Christmas. The plan is to go to the Jockey Club Gold Cup ($1 million, 10 furlongs, Saturday, September 27th, Belmont Park). That’s why we skipped the Whitney - to run in these two race, providing he’s doing fine.”

Winning jockey Robby Albarado: “I let him work on finishing. The next race is going to be tougher. He is going to have to step it up. I let him work a little. It’s unbelievable riding him. I’ve never felt anything like that. They got comfortable at around the half-mile pole. There were some nice horses in front of him, but when I pressed a little bit, they went on. But Mineshaft was too much for them. He’s amazing.”

T.J. Comerford, assistant to Aidan O’Brien, trainer of runner-up Hold That Tiger (No. 5): “He ran a very good race, and he’’ll improve again. He will have to improve. Aidan will be pleased with his run today. These horses go home in a couple of days.”

Edgar Prado, of Hold That Tiger: “He ran super. He was second-best. He wins the Woodward any other year. Unfortunately, Mineshaft was in here. I couldn’t believe how easy he ran by me. It was amazing to watch.”

Allen Jerkens, trainer of third-place finisher Puzzlement (No. 1): “My horse tried as hard as he could. I couldn’’t ask for anything more. He was really up against the winner, especially picking up weight off his last race. Still, the winner was impressive. Gosh, he was awful impressive.”

Jorge Chavez, jockey of Puzzlement: “My horse keeps getting better each time. I can’’t complain; my horse gave it his best. But the winner was just too much for us.”

Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of fourth-place finisher Northern Rock (No. 3): “We went head to head with one of the best horses in the country, and as you can see, didn’’t do too well. We’ll probably look to drop down and run against lesser horses.”

Richard Migliore, jockey of Northern Rock: “I tried real hard. We ran blood and guts; they just ran faster than we could today. He probably got beat by one of the top three horses in the country, if not the world. When I knew we had fourth sewn up, I didn’t abuse it.”

Bill Mott, trainer of last-place finisher Thompson Rouge (No. 4): Unavailable for comment.

Jerry Bailey, jockey of Thompson Rouge: “I had the bravest horse in the race. He chased them all home.”


Georgica Stable’’s New York-bred Buy The Sport had been running on the grass for most of her career in England and Italy, but her biggest win had come on dirt.

Saturday afternoon, dirt was again her friend as she rallied to catch favoured Lady Tak in deep stretch and post a stunning half-length victory at 48-1 to win the 45th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Gazelle Handicap for three-year-old fillies at nine furlongs.

Making her first start in this country and her first on the anti-bleeding medication Lasix, the Devil’s Bag filly also got a huge break in the weights. She carried 113 pounds, getting eight pounds from Lady Tak and Spoken Fur and nine pounds from Island Fashion, all of whom are Grade 1 winners.

Danuta took the lead to get the first quarter-mile in :22 4/5 and the half in :45 2/5, before giving way to Lady Tak, who appeared ready to roll after winning Saratoga’s Grade 1 Test back on July 26th. Lady Tak, however, had never raced beyond a mile and a sixteenth, and when she started to tired late, Lady Tak and Spoken Fur mounted their rallies.

Buy The Sport, ridden by Hall of Famer Pat Day, came widest to get the win in 1:48 2/5.
Winning owner Peter Minikes (Georgica Stable) of Buy The Sport (No. 6): “We almost bought her before the Breeders’’ Cup last year, but there were some problems with the sale. A month ago, I was looking at her form in Europe and she was running against some good horses that were coming back and running well. I kept say, `This horse is better on the dirt,’’ because she ran that race at Lingfield (International Trial Stakes, April 5) and won. I said, `All right, let’s take a shot. Buy her and bring her over here.’ We pointed for this race thinking that we were taking a big step up here. We have a nice filly. Brian (Meehan, trainer) brought her over here; we thought that bringing the trainer along for one race was the right thing to do. (Trainer) Bobby Barbara will take her over for now. I can’t believe she could beat these horses.”

Winning trainer Brian Meehan of Buy The Sport: “We bought her in Miami. We go there every spring and usually try to buy a half dozen. We brought her back and she did well as a two-year-old. She did well this year and was crying out for the dirt.”

Winning jockey Pat Day: “Mr. (Brian) Meehan told me that she is a one-paced filly, but she jumped right in with the early speed and I had her comfortably placed. I lost some ground on the turn; she couldn’t keep up with the others. But she kept at it and maintained her pace. 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.”

Steve Asmussen, trainer of second-place finisher and beaten favourite Lady Tak (No. 8): Had no comment.

Jerry Bailey, jockey of Lady Tak (asked if the distance was too far for Lady Tak): “I guess so. I restrained her as along as I could ”

Bobby Frankel, trainer of third-place finisher Spoken Fur (No. 1): Unavailable for comment.

Cornelio Velasquez, jockey of Spoken Fur: “My filly ran a big race. I thought we had a chance in the stretch when we were catching up with Lady Tak. But Buy The Sport came along outside and went by both of us. That’’s all you can say.”

NOTES: New York-bred Buy The Sport returned $98 for every $2 win ticket. . . This is Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day’’s third Gazelle winner. He previously won with Royal Indy (1997) and Tap to Music (1998). . . It is the first Gazelle win for trainer Brian Meehan, who was making his first start in this country.


Darley Stable’s Lunar Sovereign avenged an early Grade 1 loss to Balto Star yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, sweeping past the front-runner with a three-wide move on the turn and outlasting the rest to win the 45th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Man o’War at 11 furlongs on the Widener turf course. He is now unbeaten in four tries at Belmont Park.

Balto Star, who, at odds of 43-1, had defeated Lunar Sovereign by a half-length in the Untied Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park back on July 5th, set a dawdling pace in the Man o’War of :25 4/5; :51 4/5 and 1:117 1/5 on a yielding course. With the portable rail out nine feet, Balto Star had a distinct advantage after a mile in 1:42.

But turning for home, jockey Richard Migliore swung Lunar Sovereign wide and the 4-year-old Cobra King colt did the rest, winning by 2.75 lengths over Slew Valley while covering the course in 2:17 4/5. Despite the slow time, it was impressive in that Lunar Sovereign picked up 12 pounds off his eighth-place finish in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Sword Dancer and was equally weighted at 126 pounds under the weight-for-age conditions of the Man o’’War.

Winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin of Lunar Sovereign (No. 3): “He ran that way in the United Nations and the next race (Sword Dancer at Saratoga) was a throw-out: he laid close and all the speed horses stopped that day. It was a little too bad to be true. I told Richie (Migliore) to ride him with confidence because he had been training so well. That’s 4-for-4 at Belmont. I don’t know if we’’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup; we’’ll have to talk to the people that make those decisions. It is my first Grade 1 in this country.”

Winning jockey Richard Migliore: “There was enough give in the ground and I was happy with the position I had. I was clocking Denon, and when Jerry (Bailey) opened his hand at the three-eighths pole, it seemed he didn’’t have any response from his horse. That’s when I made my move. I pulled him out and he just inhaled them. This was the first trip where everything went exactly the way I wanted it to go. At Monmouth, we got spun wide on a speed-favouring course. At Saratoga, I overcompensated by saving every inch of ground, but we were in tight for a portion of the race and I think my horse was discouraged from that. Here, I got to save ground going into the first turn, and I was able to tip out when I needed to. Kiaran (McLaughlin) has done an unbelievable job with this horse. I breezed him six days ago, after Kiaran had made some changes with him. Kiaran does amazing work.”

Gary Sciacca, trainer of runner-up Slew Valley (No. 5): “He ran a good race. He was down on the inside. They kind of went slow. There was a lot or rain, so the turf was a little soft, but he punched in good. The other horse got a good jump on him, but he came running really hard. He ran a really good race. I’’m proud of him.”

Javier Castellano, jockey of Slew Valley: “There wasn’t that much speed in the race. There was only one speed (Balto Star). I got a perfect trip; I was inside and on the rail. He rated and responded when I asked. He was second-best, but ran a perfect race.”

Bobby Frankel, trainer of third-place finisher and beaten favorite Denon (No. 7): Unavailable for comment.

Jerry Bailey, jockey of third-place finisher Denon (No. 7): “I knew at the three-eighths pole, that I didn’t have a lot of horse. I didn’t have enough to go with the winner; I went anyway, and it probably cost me second place.”

NOTES: This is the first Man o’War and first Grade 1 winner in this country for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. . . It is the second win in this race for jockey Richard Migliore, who won the 1985 Man o’’War with Win.

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