09/06/2006 11:00PM

Me My Mine slow but gritty

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Me My Mine is not fast enough to win the $65,000 Phil D. Shepherd Stakes on Saturday at Fairplex Park. So say the speed figures.

But pity the poor horse that hooks Me My Mine in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race. Eight older horses entered the Shepherd, and several are faster than Me My Mine. But none have as much heart as the scrappy 6-year-old gelding that refuses to lose.

"He's a tough horse, he digs in and fights it out," trainer John Martin said. "That's a characteristic I like - when they get hooked in the lane and they want to win. A lot of horses don't have that in them."

Me My Mine has won 11 of 41 starts, earned $349,023, and has never lost a photo. His six photo finishes include wins in a maiden race at Calder by a neck, in which he was disqualified, claiming races at Bay Meadows (head) and Golden Gate (neck), two turf races at Bay Meadows (nose, neck), and the $138,000 Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park (head).

Martin and owner Richard Englander claimed Me My Mine in June for $40,000 from Jerry Hollendorfer, and were "out" on the horse a month later when he earned $82,500 winning the Claiming Crown. After a second consecutive win for Martin and Englander, plans were made for the Shepherd.

David Flores, the all-time leading stakes rider at Fairplex with 53 wins, rides Me My Mine, whose recent Beyer Figures in the low 90's are not fast enough to win the Shepherd. Over the past 10 years, the Shepherd par is 98.

A versatile style usually allows Me My Mine to be positioned just off the speed. There is plenty of it in the Shepherd. Yes He's a Pistol drops out of a Grade 2 sprint at Del Mar. Budget Surplus is a one-dimensional front-runner. Apalachee Tiger runs up front. Royal Price, Sunday Times, and Florida Keys also are entered, none of which will be favored.

Stormin Away is the likely chalk, following his powerful stakes win Aug. 17 on the Del Mar turf. Stormin Away won the $89,000 Harry Brubaker Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths in a quick 1:40.14, and he enters the Los Angeles County Fair meet in top form.

Trained by Jeff Mullins, Stormin Away's recent races were on turf, but he is effective on dirt. The 4-year-old gelding has won five races and $228,888 from 19 starts for Joey and Wendy Platts. Stormin Away is 3 for 9 on "fast" dirt. Aaron Gryder rides.