06/28/2013 4:08PM

Arlington Park: Nates Mineshaft gets a second chance


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – If Nates Mineshaft ever is to approach his Cinderella 2012 campaign, he will need to show at least a glimmer of life in the featured fourth race Sunday at Arlington.

The race, with multiple allowance conditions and an $80,000 claiming option, is carded for 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack, and drew six entrants besides Nates Mineshaft. At his best, Nates Mineshaft would have drummed them. Rising up suddenly under the care of former trainer Austin Smith and current trainer Anne Smith, Nates Mineshaft went from $25,000 conditioned claimer to track record-setting New Orleans Handicap winner in the course of three months during the 2011-12 Fair Grounds season. He went on to win the Lone Star Park Handicap and finish a close third in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap a year ago, but required a long layoff thereafter and did not return to racetrack training until this spring at Arlington.

His comeback race, in the Hanshin Cup on May 25, was not encouraging. Nates Mineshaft, making his second Polytrack start, took up his customary position on the front end in the one-turn mile, but before five furlongs had been run, he was done. The whole field whizzed past, and Nates Mineshaft checked in last of nine.

Still, it’s too soon to entirely give up. Smith all but said before the Hanshin that Nates Mineshaft was going into the race a short horse, and he has since come back with a pair of snappy Arlington drills. Sunday’s two-turn configuration fits the sort of race in which Nates Mineshaft excelled last year, and jockey E.T. Baird, who also was aboard in the Hanshin, figures to stick Nates Mineshaft on the lead again and see what happens.

Hattash and Workin for Hops might prove the main challengers. The former was trained by Charlie Bettis until his unexpected death June 21, and Hattash exits an Arlington Polytrack win at this same class level. Workin for Hops most recently finished a solid third on turf in the overnight Swoon’s Son Stakes here.