Updated on 07/30/2013 4:50PM

Arlington Park notes: Nates Mineshaft likely to run in Million

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Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography
Nates Mineshaft (right), the winner of last year's Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, likely will get a shot at the Arlington Million on Aug. 17.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Say this for the father-and-son team of Pete and Peter Reiman, the breeders and owners of Nates Mineshaft: They do not shy away from the big stage.

Nates Mineshaft, one of the surprise stories of the 2012 racing season, won his first start in more than a year when he captured a high-end allowance race Saturday at Arlington Park, and the victory – Nates Mineshaft’s first on turf – is likely to lead to a start in the Arlington Million on Aug. 17.

“The owners, long before we even got started this year, really hoped and envisioned he may take to the grass and be able to compete in the Million,” trainer Anne Smith said. “I think they both would love to see that. I think they want to see him run here in Chicago. I have a feeling they’ll give it a go.”

The 6-year-old Nates Mineshaft never had won a stakes of any kind at the start of 2012, but by the end of May that year, he had knocked out graded victories in the Mineshaft and New Orleans handicaps at Fair Grounds and in the Lone Star Park Handicap.

Nates Mineshaft finished third, beaten less than a length, in the Stephen Foster Handicap in June 2012, but despite attempts to make the Hawthorne Gold Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last fall, the horse didn’t race again until this past May. He finished a distant last of nine in his comeback race, the one-mile Hanshin Cup on Polytrack on May 25, but improved markedly off that start to run second in a June 30 Polytrack allowance race before posting a front-running win by a head over the decent horse Trend last weekend.

The race was just Nates Mineshaft’s second on turf, though Smith had been pleased with grass workouts leading into the start, and she said Nates Mineshaft had exited the victory in good condition.

“He just seemed to recover so much more quickly coming off a grass race,” she said.

Smith said that should Nates Mineshaft’s owners have second thoughts about the Million, the horse would also be considered for the Governor’s Cup on Aug. 17 at Remington and the Washington Park Handicap on Aug. 31 at Arlington.

At least four coming for Million

The overseas contingent for the Million and its supporting stakes is starting to take shape, with at least four horses expected to make the trans-Atlantic ship for the race. Two of those probable runners, Grandeur and The Apache, finished second and fourth in the York Stakes last Saturday in England.

Grandeur already has a North American history, having been based last fall and early winter in Southern California, where he won the Oak Tree Derby and the Hollywood Turf Cup. The Mike de Kock-trained The Apache finished second this year in the Dubai Duty Free.

Wigmore Hall, third in the York Stakes and a two-time Million runner, is more likely for the American St. Leger on the Million undercard than the Million itself, according to the International Racing Bureau.

The other two likely European shippers for the Million are Mull of Killough, who was fifth in the Singapore Cup in his only Group 1 start, and Side Glance, most recently seventh behind Al Kazeem in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on June 19 at Royal Ascot.

One Arlington-based horse not going to the Million is Willcox Inn. Willcox Inn, based at Arlington with trainer Mike Stidham, finished eighth in the 2012 Million and is likely to make his next start Aug. 31 at Saratoga in the Bernard Baruch Handicap. Willcox Inn finished second in the Mervin Muniz Handicap and second in the Dixie Stakes at 1 1/8 miles this year, but disappointed last out in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations, where he checked in fifth. The Baruch, over 1 1/16 miles, is a better distance fit for the horse, Stidham said.

“We’ve experimented with the longer distances, and he can’t compete at that high a level there,” Stidham said. “We’re going to stay at a mile and an eighth and shorter.”

Meanwhile, the talented Stidham-trained Ground Transport, troubled by sore feet earlier this summer and unraced since a tough-trip ninth in the Illinois Derby, has posted two recent works and is possible for the Straight Line Stakes on the Million undercard, Stidham said. Stidham also is seeking a spot for Heart to Heart, a sharp 2-year-old debut winner here July 13. Heart to Heart could race Aug. 3 in the $100,000 Shakopee Juvenile, a two-turn turf race at Canterbury Park, or take advantage of his Ontario-bred status in the $150,000 Vandal on Aug. 11 at Woodbine.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the United Nations Stakes is run at 1 1/2 miles. It is run at 1 3/8 miles.