07/06/2003 11:00PM

Mineshaft showed right stuff

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Very strong.

Championships are properly won on the track, but that was form of very fine quality displayed here by Mineshaft in capturing Saturday's $500,000 Suburban Handicap. He beat a good horse in Volponi, who trained up to the race nicely and gave a smart account.

It wasn't nearly good enough.

"It was a big performance," said Mineshaft's trainer, Neil Howard, "but there are several other outstanding horses in the handicap division, including Medaglia d'Oro. There is no decision yet on Mineshaft's next start. It could be the $750,000 Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 2 or we might give him a little freshener for the fall campaign and the Breeders' Cup."

Mineshaft, a 4-year-old colt by A.P. Indy who races for Ambassador Will Farish and a small group of friends, has started seven times this year, winning five and impressing consistently, even in the two races in which he finished second. He was impressive once again in the Suburban, stalking the pace to the head of the stretch and then drawing clear after disposing of Volponi's nicely timed challenge. A comfortable winner by more than two lengths under Robby Albarado, Mineshaft got the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.57.

"You have to love this horse for his great demeanor," Howard said. "He is perfect at the barn, never makes a fuss, and is cool in all kinds of weather. He is so quiet there are times you worry that something may be wrong with him, but when he goes to the post for a race, he gets his game face on soon enough."

Mineshaft represents some of the most successful bloodlines to be found at Farish's Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky. His sire, A.P. Indy, stood for a fee of $300,000 this year while the dam, Prospectors Delite, was a stakes winner of over $400,000 and is also the dam of Tomisue's Delight, a stakes winner of over $1.2 million.

Dwyer winner looking strong

Belmont Park presented some outstanding racing over the holiday weekend in addition to the Suburban, and one that may have cast a long shadow was the $150,000 Dwyer for 3-year-olds. The winner, after leading most of the way, was Strong Hope, another attractive son of Grand Slam, who notched his fourth consecutive victory from five starts.

Strong Hope, a $1.7 yearling purchase by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, was unraced at 2. He has made up for lost time with a series of sharp efforts, of which the Dwyer was probably the best. John Velazquez rode Strong Hope, who prevailed over the fast-closing Nacheezmo by a neck, with Sky Mesa, returning after a long absence because of injury, third.

Strong Hope, trained by Todd Pletcher, is being pointed for the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Aug. 3. Sky Mesa, who won the Hopeful at the Spa last Summer, is also a candidate for the Jim Dandy.

Aldebaran a force to be reckoned with

Sprinters with designs on the $250,000 Forego at Saratoga on Aug. 31 are advised to beware of Aldebaran. A 5-year-old Mr. Prospector horse, he stretched out to try a distance of ground in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, returned to sprinter ranks Friday, and won the $150,000 Tom Fool Stakes at seven furlongs by two lengths.

Jerry Bailey rode Aldebaran, who won the Metropolitan Mile here earlier in the meeting. Peeping Tom, winner of last month's James Moseley at Suffolk Downs, finished second in the Tom Fool.