07/05/2008 11:00PM

Mint Lane stands up under pressure


ELMONT, N.Y. - Jimmy Jerkens may have lost his best 3-year-old filly for the summer, but he may just have a top quality 3-year-old colt for that division's elite stakes.

Mint Lane took some early heat from Ready's Image, but turned that rival back and kept on going to win Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 Dwyer Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park. Tizbig, a 33-1 shot trained by Allen Jerkens, Jimmy’s father, finished second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of Pascal in third.

Web Gem, Halo Najib, and Ready's Image completed the field. Fidelio was scratched.

It was the second straight stakes victory for Mint Lane, who last month won the Postponed here by nearly six lengths. That day, Mint Lane was allowed to coast on an uncontested lead. Sunday, he was not.

Jockey Eibar Coa kept Mint Lane in the four to five path down the backside and with Ready's Image prompting, Mint Lane ran fractions of 23.55 seconds, 46.59, and 1:11.01 for six furlongs. At that point, Ready's Image retreated, but Pascal, who was sitting in fourth early, and Tizbig, who was third, tried to run at Mint Lane.

Coa got into Mint Lane in upper stretch and the colt responded, opening up a 3 1/2-length lead by midstretch before settling for the 2 3/4-length score. Mint Lane covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.29, the second slowest Dwyer since the race was cut back to that distance in 1994.

"The way he won last time I didn't think they were going to let him do the same thing so they were going to go after him," Coa said. "He's been just good enough to hold that speed and keep going. I believe he's going to have a nice summer."

Mint Lane, a son of Maria's Mon owned by Headley Bell's Pinebloom Stable, has three wins and two seconds in his last five starts and is 4 for 9 overall.

"He's been clicking along at good fractions and turning bids back and keeps going and has something in the tank, its unbelievable," said Jerkens, who trains the 3-year-old filly Zaftig, sidelined for the summer with a stress fracture.

Both Jerkens and Coa were optimistic that Mint Lane could stretch out and Jerkens said he may look at the Travers, run at 1 1/4 miles, in Saratoga on Aug. 23.

"He didn't get him pulled up till all the way around the turn so maybe he will got a mile and a quarter," Jerkens said.

Jerkens has more immediate concerns, however, as next Sunday he will be getting married to Shirley Cochran in Louisville, Ky.

* Favored Banrock ($6.90) swept past the pace-setting Retribution outside the quarter pole and drew off to a 1 3/4-length win in the $78,700 Thunder Puddles Stakes for New York-bred turf horses. Gimme Credit finished second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Classic Pack.

The victory was the 4,997th in North America for jockey Kent Desormeaux.

* When Goo Goo Eyes ($13.80) won Sunday's fourth race it was the first win in 13 months for trainer Sal Russo. It was also his last. Beginning Wednesday, Russo will start work as the agent for jockey Mike Luzzi. Russo, who trained for eight years on his own after working as an assistant to Scotty Schulhofer, has worked previously as an agent for Jose Santos.

Russo said his stable was down to seven horses and they will be dispersed among Stanley Hough, Christophe Clement, Kiaran McLaughlin, and Neil Howard.