07/17/2003 11:00PM

Mineshaft to sit out Whitney


ELMONT, N.Y. - Mineshaft, whose devastating victory in the Suburban Handicap vaulted him to the top of the handicap division, will skip the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 2 and instead make his next start in the Grade 1 Woodward at Belmont Park on Sept. 6, trainer Neil Howard confirmed Friday.

Mineshaft has already run seven times this year, including victories in the Suburban, Pimlico Special, New Orleans Handicap, and Ben Ali Handicap. Howard and owner Will Farish believe it best to freshen Mineshaft for a run at the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. According to Howard, Mineshaft will be pointed to the Woodward and then the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 27.

"You don't often see a horse go in every race and be there holding that fine an edge all the way through till November," Howard said Friday while driving to Saratoga. "If we don't skip a race, we're not being judicious to the horse."

Mineshaft, who also came up a head short in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, was flown to Saratoga from Kentucky on Thursday. Howard, who did not stable at Saratoga last summer for the first time in several years, will have 16 head at the Spa this summer.

"He'll be training, but I'm not going to breeze him for a couple of weeks," Howard said. "I hope this turns out to be the right thing to do. In the fall, when we start up in the Woodward and Jockey Club, I know I'll feel good about it."

Howard said he skipped Saratoga last year because he felt he didn't have the stock to compete. This year he feels better about his young horses, and he will also have Preakness runner-up Midway Road as well as Rock Slide and Quick Tip to run in stakes.

Among the 2-year-olds that Howard likes is Seattle Weekend, a daughter of A.P. Indy who finished fourth in her debut and whom Howard hopes to run in a seven-furlong race toward the middle or end of the meet. Grade Point is an unstarted colt whom Howard is also high on.

"I feel like we have a couple of horses that will fit this year and it merited going back," Howard said.

Before skipping last year, Howard had gone 11 for 60 in the previous three meets.

Pletcher has two for Schuylerville

A big reason trainer Todd Pletcher was able to set a record for most wins at a Belmont spring-summer meet - he had 39 through Friday - was his 2-year-old crop. Pletcher had won nine 2-year-old races from 24 starters.

If Pletcher is to defend the Saratoga title he won last year, he will again be relying heavily on his 2-year-olds. In Wednesday's opening-day feature, the Grade 2, $150,000 Schuylerville, Pletcher will send out debut winners Ashado and Hermione's Magic.

A field of eight to 10 was expected to be entered Saturday for the six-furlong Schuylerville.

Ashado, a daughter of Saint Ballado, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93 when she won her maiden by seven lengths in the slop on June 18. Hermione's Magic, a daughter of Forest Wildcat, recorded an 86 Beyer winning her maiden by six on June 25. Her final time of 56.82 seconds was the fastest of 19 five-furlong races run at this meet.

On Thursday, Ashado and Hermione's Magic worked five furlongs in company, with Ashado being given a time of 1:02.51 and Hermione's Magic a time of 1:02.45.

"We're probably giving up a little seasoning to a couple of fillies in there, but both of them deserve a chance," Pletcher said. "They worked in company together [Thursday], and they worked together a week ago. I'd have trouble separating them."

Edgar Prado will ride Ashado, while John Velazquez will be aboard Hermione's Magic.

Also expected for the Schuylerville are Bikini Wiggle, Feline Story, Maple Syrple, Sweet Vision, and the D. Wayne Lukas-trained duo of Be Gentle and Unbridled Beauty. Possible starters include Pierian Spring and Secret Romance.

Gygistar may return in Amsterdam

Gygistar, sidelined since February due to a knee chip, could make his return in the Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 2, trainer Mark Hennig said Friday.

Gygistar, who won last year's Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga, worked five furlongs on Friday in 59.78 seconds, the fastest of 16 works at the distance. In his only start this year, Gygistar finished fifth in the Deputy Minister Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 9. While training in preparation for the Dubai Golden Shaheen, Gygistar came out of a workout with a knee chip that required surgery.

"He's training better than he did in Florida," Hennig said. "I don't know if he's more comfortable here or if that knee was nagging him a little bit down there. He's switching leads comfortably; he's moving very fluid here."

Hennig reported that Gold Mover came out of her victory in last weekend's Princess Rooney Handicap in good order and is on target for the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 24.

Classic Endeavor gets freshening

Classic Endeavor was supposed to be in Minnesota this weekend, participating in the Claiming Crown at Canterbury. Instead, he is convalescing on an upstate New York farm, freshening up for a fall and winter campaign.

After finishing last in the Skip Away Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 4, Classic Endeavor was sent to Mill Creek Farm, where he will rest for about three months, according to trainer Scott Schwartz.

"Physically, he's perfect," Schwartz said. "He's just burned out. He needed the rest and he got it. He's been there 10 days, and we'll bring him back for the fall and the end of the year."

Classic Endeavor rose from the low-level claiming ranks to win five races this year, including the Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct and the ungraded Frisk Me Now at Monmouth. Schwartz said that if Classic Endeavor returns to that level, he would point him to the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream in January.