Putting Mineshaft's Career, Cup Chances in Perspective

Putting Mineshaft's Career, Cup Chances in Perspective
Photo: AP-NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Mineshaft goes out on top.
With the announcement of Mineshaft's retirement, the questions will persist as to how he would have run in the Breeders' Cup, and where he will be ranked on the list of the top horses of the past decade. From a speed standpoint, one expert says he is "the fastest horse of all time."

"It's difficult to compare horses of different generations, but basically he's the fastest horse we've ever recorded since we started doing figures 21 years ago," said Thoro-Graph's Jerry Brown. "Horses, like other athletes, have gotten faster because of a variety of reasons, but his numbers are insane. He's run seven straight negative numbers, and his last two have been a negative 4. In fact, the fastest race he's ever run was when he lost to Perfect Drift, because of the wide move he made. And he was giving him eight pounds. He got a negative 5 3/4 for that race, which is the biggest (fastest) number we've ever given out.

"Of course, what he is and what he will be are two different things. What he is is the fastest of all time, as far as his numbers are concerned. But with each big race, the chances increase that he could tail off, especially traveling out to California."

Len Friedman of the Ragozin Sheets, had a different interpretation of Mineshaft's pattern. Friedman said Mineshaft received a "plus 2" in the Suburban, followed by a sensational (by Ragozin standards) "minus 2 1/2" in the Woodward. Coming back in only three weeks, he was a likely bounce in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, according to Friedman, and he did, to a "plus 1 1/2," which still likely would have been good enough to win the Classic.

Friedman said, with four weeks off to the Classic, Mineshaft's projected number for the Classic would be somewhere between a "zero" and a "minus 2 1/2," which would have made him pretty much invincible if he were to have earned a figure within that range. But the big question, of course, is which direction his number would have gone, having to ship to California at the end of a long campaign.

That was one of the factors weighing heavily on Farish, as well as his knowledge of the colt's ankle chip, and having to go from the sandy Belmont track to the harder clay surface of Santa Anita.

For the record, in the two runnings of the Breeders' Cup that were held at Santa Anita, horses who made their previous start at Belmont Park have a record of 18 starts, no wins, three seconds, and one third. That's 14 of the 18 finishing out of the money. And one of those seconds was by Bertrando, a California-based horse who had shipped to Belmont for the Woodward Stakes (gr. I). Among those who finished out of the money were grade I stakes winners Sky Beauty, Heavenly Prize, Colonial Affair, Bet Twice, Devil His Due, Dehere, Polish Navy, Dispute, Fly So Free, Birdonthewire, and Miner's Mark.

The best effort was by Turkoman, who came off a rousing victory over Precisionist in the Marlboro Cup (gr. I) and a head defeat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont to finish a fast-closing second to Santa Anita-based Skywalker in the Classic. A victory by Turkoman would have assured him Horse of the Year honors. By him losing, however, Lady's Secret was named Horse of the Year following her victory in the Distaff.

But that is all moot, now that the colt has been retired after the displacement of the ankle chip. What will be remembered are his remarkable series of races in some of the most prestigious races in the country, and his durability, having made at least one start in 16 of the 18 months he raced. In one of the months he didn't race, he was traveling from England to America. Once here, he won at six different distances on fast and sloppy tracks.

His races became so machine-like, they were mere formalities. He had his races won so early, he made the last quarter mile seem irrelevant, serving as nothing more than an opportunity for the fans to stand and cheer and pay tribute to an extraordinary athlete.

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