09/28/2003 11:00PM

Mineshaft finished?

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Mineshaft (above) after victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. As of now, neither Mineshaft or Hawthorne Gold Cup winner Perfect Drift will commit to run in the BC Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. - After a whirlwind roundtrip from London to New York last weekend, Will Farish, the United States Ambassador to Great Britain, was back at his job on Monday morning, but he was still savoring the victory of his colt Mineshaft in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and struggling over what to do next.

Mineshaft, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 115 on Saturday at Belmont Park, is the front-runner for Horse of the Year, and would be the favorite for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 25. But Farish, who bred and owns Mineshaft with partners James Elkins Jr. and Temple Webber Jr., is still not sure if Mineshaft will head west for one more start. Regardless, Mineshaft will go to stud at Farish's Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky., at year's end.

"I don't have any answer at this point," Farish said Monday from his office in London. "We're going to bring him back to Churchill Downs and see how things shake out, and get back with the partners by the end of the week. I've read all kind of reaction to what I said over the weekend, but the fact of the matter is I'm totally open. I'd like to go, but we want to be sure he's in A-1 shape, and that it's best for him and the partners."

Farish was a founding member of the Breeders' Cup. He had to resign from the board of directors when he accepted his position as ambassador, but was able to appoint his son, Bill, to replace him on the board. Does Farish feel obligated to run Mineshaft because of his relationship with the Breeders' Cup?

"No, I don't," Farish said. "I have to be totally objective about this and stick with the plan from the beginning, which was to get him to the Jockey Club Gold Cup. We're so lucky to get where we are. Except for one short break, he's run every month since last November. I don't know how many have done that since last year, with such consistency. We've gotten to this point. Now the question is - do we go one more? Is he going to move forward? We have to make that decision in the cool light of day, not 48 hours after the race and with jet lag."

Neil Howard, who trains Mineshaft, said Farish is "wrestling with it more than people think he is."

"People don't realize there's so much more of it at stake with the other side of it now," Howard said, referring to Mineshaft's breeding career. Lane's End already has announced that Mineshaft will stand for a $100,000 stud fee next spring. "There's a lot of people involved that come into play now. The breeding industry, that's where it all starts."

Mineshaft is scheduled to go to Kentucky on Wednesday. Howard is based at Churchill Downs. Howard said he is going to train Mineshaft "on the premise that he's going. If we pull the plug, we pull the plug."

Asked if he would be disappointed if Mineshaft did not run in the Classic, Howard said, "I wouldn't say disappointment would be the right word. Maybe a little bit of a letdown."

The Classic already has lost such top prospects as Candy Ride, the winner of the Pacific Classic, and Empire Maker, the Belmont Stakes winner. Funny Cide, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, is also not going to run. Mineshaft's participation is in doubt, as is that of Perfect Drift, though trainer Murray Johnson - who had been adamant in saying Perfect Drift would not run in the Classic - opened the door just a crack after Perfect Drift's victory in Sunday's Hawthorne Gold Cup. Perfect Drift got a Beyer Speed Figure of 112.

The Classic more often than not decides Horse of the Year, and the status of runners for the race could conceivably impact the status of others. If, for instance, Perfect Drift decides to run, a victory by him could make him Horse of the Year. Might that possibility in turn force Mineshaft to go?

Medaglia d'Oro is definite for the Classic, and if both Mineshaft and Perfect Drift pass the race, they could forfeit year-end championships to Medaglia d'Oro should he win the Classic.

One horse who seemingly took herself out of the race for Horse of the Year this past weekend was Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, who lacked any spark in Sunday's Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap here at Santa Anita. Azeri crossed the wire third, then was moved to second on a disqualification that did not involve her. Azeri finished 2 1/4 lengths behind the race's winner, Got Koko, who received a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

Laura de Seroux, who trains Azeri, on Monday said that Azeri was found to have bled.

"But she was flat, too. Usually she gets very aggressive after two strides, but she didn't carry Mike at all yesterday," de Seroux said, referring to jockey Mike Smith. "She was climbing going down the backstretch. She's going to a clinic tomorrow for a nuclear scan, a lung scan, and a blood test."

De Seroux said she did not know Azeri's status for the Breeders' Cup.

"I can't make any plans other than getting to the bottom of a flat performance," she said.

De Seroux was philosophical regarding Azeri's 11-race win streak coming to an end.

"I appreciate everything she's done," De Seroux said. "I didn't expect her to go on forever."

- additional reporting by David Grening