06/13/2012 11:12AM

Churchill Downs notes: Nates Mineshaft gets another shot in Stephen Foster Handicap

Amanda Weir/Hodges Photography
Nates Mineshaft will be allowed to use his speed in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The temptation was to think Nates Mineshaft was only effective at Fair Grounds, a horse whose meteoric rise from obscure claimer to multiple graded stakes winner coincided with racing over the same racetrack.

After four spectacular wins at Fair Grounds, including a New Orleans Handicap romp in which he earned a gaudy 113 Beyer Speed Figure, Nates Mineshaft thudded back to Earth when shipping north to Churchill Downs for the Alysheba on the May 4 Kentucky Oaks undercard and getting beat 20 lengths by Successful Dan.

But less than four weeks later, Nates Mineshaft was showing off again, this time in Texas, where he won the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap by 7 1/4 lengths and earned a 107 Beyer. That terrific effort has led trainer Austin Smith to forgive the Alysheba debacle and allow Nates Mineshaft a shot at some of the country’s best older horses in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on Saturday night at Churchill.

Smith reasons that Nates Mineshaft probably got discouraged in the Alysheba when not being permitted by jockey Jesse Campbell to free-wheel on the lead as has been his custom. This second chance at Churchill should yield a more representative effort, Smith said, and give everyone a better gauge of where Nates Mineshaft stands in the handicap ranks.

The Alysheba, said Smith, “was more my fault than the horse’s. There was some speed in the race, and I told Jesse to rate him. At Lone Star, we let him roll, and it worked out a lot better.”

Smith has bounced around from Ohio to Chicago to Kentucky, with the latest winter in New Orleans being his most lucrative stop yet. He currently has a small stable at Churchill, where Saturday night he hopes to win the first Grade 1 of his 14-year training career. He is ecstatic with how Nates Mineshaft has progressed since he assumed the training of the 5-year-old ridgling last fall.

“It took me a while to figure him out,” he said. “He’s a nice, quiet horse, and I think he needed some TLC and I learned to train him differently. He’s really blossomed.”

Nates Mineshaft will retain Campbell, who has ridden him in his last six races. Campbell grew up in Chicago as the son of trainer Mike Campbell and has seen his career thrive in recent years when riding primarily in Canada during the warmer months and at Fair Grounds in the winter. His twin brother, Joel, has been riding sparingly at the current Arlington Park meet.

No set plans for Stephanie’s Kitten

Ken Ramsey said he has “nothing in mind yet” for Stephanie’s Kitten after he and trainer Wayne Catalano decided Tuesday not to send the standout 3-year-old turf filly to England for the upcoming Royal Ascot meet as had long been planned.

“She started coughing Friday night, and we had her put in the hyperbaric chamber a few times and she stopped,” Ramsey said. “Her white blood-cell count also was high, but we got that down, too, but Wayne said she still wasn’t acting like herself Tuesday morning. That’s when we pulled the plug.”

Ramsey still will be among about a dozen friends and family members making the trip overseas. He will be represented by longshot Big Blue Kitten in the Group 1 Prince of Wales Stakes and by Hyper in the Wolverton Stakes. Both are already in England and are trained by New York-based Chad Brown.

“I was supposed to have eight horses in 10 different races,” including two races at the meet for 2-year-olds, Ramsey said. “But Wesley Ward [another trainer for Ramsey] advised against running because of how wet the ground has been over there. So now we’re down to just two, but we’ll try to make the best of it.”

Prince Charles gives away the trophy after the Prince of Wales, and Ramsey is ready just in case.

“I’ll say to him, ‘Charlie I didn’t really expect this, but thanks for the trophy,’ ” Ramsey said.

Flashy Dresser unlikely for Winn

Flashy Dresser, winner of his first three career starts before being soundly beaten in the May 4 American Turf at Churchill in his first try over grass, was nominated to the Matt Winn “but isn’t quite ready to run back,” owner-trainer Fred Seitz said early Wednesday from Lexington.

“We freshened him up a little after that last race,” Seitz said. “We’ve got plenty of options with him.”

In a span of six weeks, Flashy Dresser opened his career by winning a Gulfstream maiden race, the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway, and the $250,000 Hilton Memorial at Charles Town before finishing 11th in the American Turf.