06/11/2003 11:00PM

Mineshaft best, but post hurts


NEW YORK - Churchill Downs and its sister track Hollywood Park pull out almost all of the stops Saturday with stakes-loaded programs. At Churchill, the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap heads a card that includes three other stakes: the $300,000 Fleur De Lis for fillies and mares, the $200,000 Regret for 3-year-old fillies on turf, and the $100,000 Northern Dancer for 3-year-olds. Hollywood Park, meanwhile, offers a stakes tripleheader consisting of the $400,000 Californian, the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial, and the $200,000 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks.

Churchill and Hollywood didn't corner the market on important stakes races on Saturday, however. Belmont Park is the site of a terrific renewal of the $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap, and also the $100,000 Hill Prince for 3-year-olds, scheduled on turf. If you are wondering where all the 3-year-olds who

didn't show up in last Saturday's Belmont Stakes went, a few of them landed in the $250,000 Leonard Richards at Delaware Park. And, there is a lucrative spot for female sprinters - the $175,000 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap at Arlington Park.

The Brooklyn, the Leonard Richards, and the Stephen Foster make up the first NTRA Summer Pick Three of the year. And, since each of these three races will be shown live on CBS beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern, I will make them my spotlight races of the week.


I'm against Saarland because a fast and contested pace aided his near miss in the Met Mile. I'm also against Harlan's Holiday, because I first want to see what his trip to Dubai may have taken out of him. I'm very afraid of Evening Attire, but I'm also going against him because I think he'll need a race making his first start since November. I am going with Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi.

Volponi had his comeback race - a near miss after a very wide trip, and after he produced a very fast second quarter - and looks set for his best now.

As a backup in the Pick Three I would include El Gran Papa, who ran well winning last time out, a rare Bobby Frankel-trained horse who will be a square price.

Leonard Richards

New York Hero is the pick in a great betting race where value should be demanded. New York Hero ran well winning the Lane's End four starts back, was overmatched against Empire Maker and Funny Cide when fourth in the Wood Memorial, threw in a dud in the Withers, and then was overmatched and taken out of his game when taken back off the early pace in the Preakness last time out. This is a much more suitable spot for New York Hero, and in a race where there isn't much early speed besides Don Six, and perhaps Christine's Outlaw, New York Hero would do well to return to his more effective pace-pressing running style.

Others to include in this leg of the Pick Three are Go Rockin' Robin, who capitalized on a perfect set-up winning the Peter Pan last time out, but who is also much improved; Don Six, who would be dangerous if able to get loose early; and Christine's Outlaw, who will likely be ridden more prudently than he was when he engaged in an insane speed duel in the Peter Pan.

Stephen Foster

I hate picking favorites, especially heavy favorites marooned in the 12-hole going two turns like Mineshaft here. But, Mineshaft is so much the best on paper that, for purposes of record keeping, he is my top choice.

However, because Mineshaft is so poorly drawn, I would also use two others in the Pick Three - Perfect Drift and Proud Citizen. Perfect Drift makes a meaningful turf to dirt move, and Proud Citizen finished just ahead of Perfect Drift when second in last year's Kentucky Derby over the track. Both are making their third starts following layoffs, meaning they should be primed for peak performances.

To recap, here's my Pick Three play: Volponi and El Gran Papa; with Go Rockin' Robin, New York Hero, Don Six, and Christine's Outlaw; with Perfect Drift, Proud Citizen, and Mineshaft. That's a $24 play for a $1 base ticket.