09/01/2003 11:00PM

Mineshaft gallops toward Woodward


ELMONT, N.Y. - The steady stream of horse vans returning to Belmont Park from Saratoga tied up traffic in the backstretch on Tuesday morning, but the scene on the main track and training track was much quieter.

Heavy rain kept horse traffic to a minimum on both tracks. Only one horse, the Neil Howard-trained Oneofacat, worked on the main track, which was listed as sloppy. No horses worked on the training track.

Howard, who trains Mineshaft, the likely favorite for Saturday's $500,000 Woodward, said it's possible Mineshaft would work Wednesday if the weather conditions were to improve, which seems unlikely according to the forecast.

On Tuesday, Mineshaft, who won the Grade 1 Suburban at Belmont on July 5 in his last start, skipped a scheduled breeze and galloped 1 7/8 miles over the main track instead.

If Mineshaft is unable to work before the Grade 1 Woodward, Howard said he won't be concerned, and would put a strong gallop into the colt instead. Mineshaft worked at Saratoga last Thursday, covering six furlongs in 1:11.42. He was shipped to Belmont the following day.

"He's a big colt and he needs to train," Howard said. "But from a fitness standpoint, he doesn't have to work. He'll be okay."

A small field is taking shape for the 1 1/8-mile Woodward, a weight-for-age race. Expected to join Mineshaft are Puzzlement and Hold That Tiger. Northern Rock, Jersey Giant, and Thompson Rouge are also possible.

Euro invasion of weekend stakes

Hold That Tiger, trained by Aidan O'Brien, is one of seven European-based horses running in stakes at Belmont this weekend. Hold That Tiger and stablemate Carpanetto, who is scheduled to run in Saturday's $500,000 Man o' War, arrived from Ireland on Sunday and were quarantined at Belmont. Five other European horses, Buy the Sport, Baie, Campsie Fells, Acago, and Dimitrova, were quarantined at Aqueduct.

The horses were expected to clear quarantine by Tuesday afternoon and be at Belmont on Wednesday.

Buy the Sport, a New York-bred Devil's Bag filly, is being pointed to Saturday's Grade 1 Gazelle, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race for 3-year-old fillies. Dimitrova, Baie, Campsie Fells, and Acago are all headed to Sunday's Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup, a 1 1/8-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies.

Dimitrova, who won the American Oaks at Hollywood Park in her last start on July 5, is the 122-pound highweight in the Garden City. Trained by Dermot Weld, Dimitrova returned to Ireland after winning the American Oaks and was shipped to New York on Monday.

The Garden City is attracting a large and competitive field. In addition to Dimitrova, the other expected starters, with assigned weights, are: Sand Springs (120), Acago (120), Baie (119), Ocean Drive (118), Petionville Indeed (116), Campsie Fells (116), Andover Lady (114), Fortuitous (114), Sarie Marais (114), and Indy Five Hundred (113).

Sherpa Guide back quickly

Sherpa Guide, who posted a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107 in his last race, is among the probables for Friday's $100,000 General Douglas MacArthur, the opening-day feature of the Belmont fall meet.

The MacArthur is a seven-furlong race for New York-bred males.

In his last start, Sherpa Guide finished fourth at odds of 61-1 in the Grade 3 Philip Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park on Aug. 23. Sherpa Guide was stuck on the rail and, according to his trainer, Tom Bush, the gelding prefers to be on the outside. He was beaten 3 1/4 lengths by the winner, Tenpins.

Bush said 13 days between starts is less time than he normally would give the 5-year-old.

"But I'm not concerned because the way he is acting; he's acting fresh," Bush said. "He ran terrific in the Iselin. I knew he had a good race in him, but we were not quite as lucky with the trip. We were hoping to carve an outside trip."

The horse to beat in the MacArthur will be last year's winner, Well Fancied, the 123-pound highweight.