06/02/2003 11:00PM

Mineshaft reloads


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Mineshaft put in another strong work Tuesday at Churchill Downs in preparation for his next Grade 1 assignment, the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap, a race that already has his trainer Neil Howard thinking about strategy.

Mineshaft is expected to face Aldebaran in the Foster, which at 1 1/8 miles represents something of a new frontier for Aldebaran. In his last two races, Aldebaran won the seven-furlong Churchill Downs Handicap and the Met Mile, furthering his status as a premier sprinter-miler.

There are no doubts about distance for Mineshaft, who comes off a victory in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special at 1 3/16 miles.

"Two good things about my horse are his tactical ability and the unbelievable turn of foot he's been showing at the end of his races," said Howard. "Aldebaran obviously is a quality horse, the kind that everybody will have to keep an eye on. Fortunately, I think our horse has the running style that could hold him off."

Mineshaft and the Bobby Frankel-trained Aldebaran appear to tower over the prospective field for the $750,000 Foster, for which nominations were released Tuesday. Perfect Drift and Proud Citizen could be the next wagering choices, while the balance of the field could include Crafty Shaw, Slider, Unbridled Vision, and maybe another horse or two.

In the Tuesday work, which came over a sloppy track, Mineshaft went six furlongs in 1:14. It was his second work since he easily won the Pimlico Special on May 16.

"He's trained exceptionally well since the Pimlico Special," said Howard. "I feel like he's really holding his form, which isn't easy when you're running in these big races. He really finished up wonderfully today."

Mineshaft, a 4-year-old owned by Will Farish, has flourished in the U.S. since being imported from England last fall. Before the Pimlico Special, he easily won the New Orleans Handicap and Ben Ali Stakes.

Proud Citizen, fourth to Aldebaran in the May 26 Met Mile, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80 Tuesday at Churchill.

Take Charge Lady's foot 'a non-issue'

Take Charge Lady appears on track to be the favorite in the secondary feature on the Foster undercard, the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap.

Take Charge Lady had been plagued by a bruised foot since a few weeks after finishing a close second to Arazi in the April 5 Apple Blossom, her only start this year. But after the filly worked a sharp half-mile in 46.40 seconds Monday at Churchill, trainer Ken McPeek said the foot appears to have completely healed. Shane Sellers, her regular rider, was aboard.

The foot bruise, said McPeek, "seems to be a non-issue right now." The trainer said the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis remains "a good possibility," assuming Take Charge Lady continues to train forwardly for the race. Another breeze has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday or Monday.

Take Charge Lady, owned by the Select Stable of Jerry and Feye Bach, is a two-time Grade 1 winner, having captured the Ashland and Spinster last year at Keeneland.

Frankel is expected to run at least one of three nominees to the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis: You, Sightseek, or Wild Spirit. One other notable possibility is Affluent.

Senor Swinger fave in Jefferson Cup

With the Belmont Stakes being run just an hour or so later, Churchill officials had been hoping for a Triple Crown flavor for the Jefferson Cup, the live feature here Saturday. Kentucky Derby also-rans Domestic Dispute, Outta Here, and Lone Star Sky had been under consideration for the 1 1/8-mile turf race, but now none are expected to run - leaving Senor Swinger, the fifth-place finisher in the Preakness, as the lone Triple Crown holdover and a strong favorite.

Domestic Dispute, 10th in the Derby, is the most notable defection.

Andrew McKeever, who has been overseeing the colt's training at Churchill for California-based trainer Paddy Gallagher, said Tuesday that Domestic Dispute's next race will be on dirt.

"There are no definite plans, but they want to wait until later in the year to try the grass," said McKeever.

Willard Straight, a recent entry-level allowance winner on the turf at Belmont for trainer Todd Pletcher, could be the second choice in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup. Other prospective starters include Alterio, Moonshine Hall, Alterio, Rapid Proof, and Stroll.

Bayou Mist tries Lasix, turf

A pair of entry-level allowance races, both for 3-year-olds, share the spotlight on a 10-race card here Thursday.

In the eighth, for fillies at one mile, Bayou Mist will get first Lasix for Howard when she tries grass for the first time. Bayou Mist has been the beaten favorite at this allowance level in two of her last three starts.

In the ninth, which drew 11 colts and geldings at seven furlongs, City Desk stretches out for Pat Day and D. Wayne Lukas.

First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

* Howard also had Midway Road, the Preakness runner-up, out for work Tuesday. The colt went five furlongs in 1:01 in preparation for the June 21 Ohio Derby, which Howard announced Monday was the preferred choice for Midway Road in lieu of the Belmont.