Mineshaft, clearly the class of the field, shook off a stubborn Hold That Tiger in the stretch to draw away to an easy 4 1/4-length triumph in the $500,000 Woodward at Belmont Park Saturday.
Ridden by Robby Albarado for trainer Neil Howard, Mineshaft, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy colt, won his second consecutive grade I stakes – he took the Suburban at Belmont July 5 in his last start – and the third grade I in his last four outings.
"That was a big race for him today," Howard said. "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."
Howard said the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) on Sept. 27 at Belmont is the next target for Mineshaft.
Hold That Tiger, with Edgar Prado aboard, held onto second by 4 3/4 lengths over Puzzlement and Jorge Chavez. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile Woodward was 1:46 1/5 on a fast track.
Sent off at 3-10 in the five-horse field, Mineshaft was a relaxed fourth down the backstretch as Northern Rock assumed control over Thompson Rouge and Hold That Tiger through fractions of :23 4/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11 1/5.
Howard said he was surprised at the pace scenario.
"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."
Mineshaft seemed to glide into contention while four wide on the turn, challenged Hold That Tiger at the top of the stretch and shook loose at the eighth pole after completing a mile in 1:34 2/5. He finished up under a vigorous hand ride from Albarado.
"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. It's unbelievable riding him. I've never felt anything like that. 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."
"He ran super," Prado, who rode Hold That Tiger, said. "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."
"My horse tried as hard as he could," said Allen Jerkens, trainer of Puzzlement. "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."
Mineshaft earned $300,000 for owner/breeders William S. Farish, James A. Elkins Jr., and W.T. Webber Jr. Mineshaft is from the Mr. Prospector mare Prospector's Delite.
He won for the eighth time in 10 starts in the United States since transferring here from Great Britain a year ago. Overall, he sports a 9-3-1 record in 17 starts and earnings of $1,683,344.
Mineshaft paid $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10. Hold That Tiger, the Aidan O'Brien-trained 3-year-old returning to the U.S. for the first time since his third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year, returned $3.20 and $2.10. Puzzlement, who trailed into the far turn and gained mildly, showed for $2.10. The $2 exacta was worth $13.60.
Northern Rock was fourth with Thompson Rouge finishing fifth.