07/10/2003 11:00PM

Fircroft gets another shot


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Rusty Arnold said handicappers might not be so willing to forgive Fircroft her fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Sands Point, but he will.

Arnold is throwing out Fircroft's non-effort and is looking toward Saturday's $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, a 1 1/2-mile race for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park on the closing weekend of the spring-summer meet.

Fircroft beat one horse in the off-the-turf Sands Point on June 15 and was beaten eight lengths by the winner, Savedbythelight. Fircroft, who won the Miss Grillo Stakes at Aqueduct last year, was the runner-up in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in her start before the Sands Point.

Arnold believes that Fircroft, a daughter of A.P. Indy, had a legitimate excuse for her Sands Point performance. He said the filly became so agitated in the paddock before the race, she worked herself into a lather.

"We couldn't hardly get the tack on her and she got really hot and fractious," said Arnold, who trains Fircroft for G. Watts Humphrey Jr. "Jerry [Bailey] said by the time she got to the gate, you could have given her a bath almost. We've already brought her over to the paddock four times since. I'm throwing out that race, myself."

In addition to Fircroft, the probables for the CCA Oaks are Spoken Fur, Yell, Savedbythelight, Little Bonnet, and She Is Raging. The racing office lists Danuta and Shapes and Shadows as possible starters.

Spoken Fur, who won the Mother Goose on June 28, could earn a $2 million bonus for her connections by winning the CCA Oaks and the Alabama at Saratoga Aug. 16.

Final Round to await Alabama or Gazelle

Final Round, another stakes-winning filly trained by Arnold for Humphrey, wasn't nominated to the Grade 1 CCA Oaks. She may run next in the Grade 1 Alabama or await the Grade 1 Gazelle here Sept. 6.

In her last start, Final Round finished third as the second choice in the Mother Goose. Spoken Fur beat Final Round by six lengths.

Final Round "is not a robust horse, so we are going to back off and wait for the Alabama or the Gazelle," Arnold said. "My gut feeling is we will gear up for the fall. I think we can have a good fall with her. She'll have her first breeze since she ran [this week]."

Allowance probably next for Roar Emotion

Roar Emotion, fifth in the Mother Goose after setting the pace for six furlongs, might return in an allowance race for her next start.

Roar Emotion, the Black-Eyed Susan winner, didn't sweat as much as she should have the day the Mother Goose was run, according to her trainer, Carlos Martin.

"She wasn't bone dry, but she wasn't really sweating," Martin said. "She tried to tie up after the race because her enzyme levels were low. Her enzyme levels have come back to normal."

Martin didn't rule out the Alabama but said it was more likely he would aim Roar Emotion for an easier spot at Saratoga. She is eligible for a third-level allowance race.

"We're going to look after her because she is such a good horse," Martin said. "By skipping the big races at Saratoga, we can keep her fresh and happy for the fall and look at the Gazelle."

Mineshaft to head to Saratoga

Mineshaft, the impressive winner of last Saturday's Suburban Handicap, will ship to Saratoga with the rest of trainer Neil Howard's Kentucky stable on Friday.

Howard is seriously considering the Grade 1 Whitney on Aug. 2 for Mineshaft's next start, but he said he wants to see how Mineshaft, the leader of the handicap division, trains before making a final decision.

In the Suburban, Mineshaft was making his seventh start of the year. Howard hasn't declared Mineshaft as a definite for the $750,000 Whitney because he might decide to give the colt a breather with an eye on the major races in the fall, particularly the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Oct. 25.

"Obviously, we want to be careful," Howard said from Churchill Downs on Friday. "He's been back to the track to jog and is feeling pretty good. I don't think we can get away with another day jogging. We might breeze him a half-mile the day before we go to Saratoga. So far everything looks good and we are leaning toward the Whitney."

A 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy, Mineshaft also has won the Pimlico Special, New Orleans Handicap, and Ben Ali this year.

If he runs in the Whitney, Mineshaft likely will meet Medaglia d'Oro, who won the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita and the Oaklawn Handicap this year. Medaglia d'Oro, trained by Bobby Frankel, hasn't run since the Oaklawn Handicap because of a foot injury.

* Trainer Patrick Biancone unveiled a good-looking 2-year-old filly in Friday's third race. Whoopi Cat, owned and bred by Richard Giacopelli, romped to a six-length win in the five-furlong maiden race. A daughter of Tale of the Cat, Whoopi Cat ($20) covered the distance in 57.57 seconds over a track labeled good.