Even though Pleasantly Perfect's upset win in Saturday's $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) puts trainer Neil Howard's retired colt Mineshaft securely in the driver's seat for Horse of the Year honors, the conditioner wasn't accepting congratulations Sunday morning. Possibly Perfect defeated both of Mineshaft's main rivals for the 2003 Eclipse Award as the nation's top runner, Medaglia d'Oro and Perfect Drift, in the Classic at Santa Anita.
"I have not been sitting at home or laying awake nights hoping that a longshot would win the Classic, but I would be naive to say that the outcome certainly didn't hurt us any," Howard said from Churchill Downs. "That horse that won it (Pleasantly Perfect) is a very nice horse, but I think Mineshaft is just that good a horse. But we've never run against him, so there's no sense trying to analyze that."
Owner-breeder William S. Farish retired Mineshaft a few weeks before the Breeders' Cup because of concern over minor ankle and leg bone chips that had been detected late in his 4-year-old campaign. That decision ended a season in which the son of 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy won tradition-rich grade I races such as the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Woodward at Belmont Park and the Pimlico Special. His only losses on the season were to Perfect Drift in a narrow decision in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, and a runner-up finish to Balto Star in the Whirlaway at the Fair Grounds. Mineshaft completed his career with a record of 10-3-1 in 18 races with earnings of $2,283,402, with $2,209,686 of that total collected in 2003.
"Mineshaft raced the whole season, but unfortunately we couldn't make the last race," Howard said. "He did it at all distances you need to be a champion, he did it in the mud, he did it on good tracks, and he went to different racetracks. He ran in Maryland, he ran at Belmont, he ran in Kentucky, and he ran in New Orleans."
Now at Farish's famed Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky., Mineshaft is preparing for his first breeding season in 2004 while standing for a $100,000 fee. Howard hopes that voters will not forget Mineshaft's marvelous season when it comes time to cast their Eclipse Award ballots for "Horse of the Year" and best older horse.
"I give all those guys credit that went out there (to the Breeders' Cup) and I wish we could have been there," he said. "But I certainly think Mineshaft is deserving of (Horse of the Year). I hope he gets it for the Farishes. What greater honor could there be for them?"