12/29/2010 2:41PM

Much-improved Mine Over Matter fits well in Alex Robb

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Mine Over Matter has run well in three of his last four starts heading into Friday's Alex Robb.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Among the pictures hanging on the wall in trainer Mike Hernandez’s Belmont Park barn office is one of him as a groom holding Big Ike in the Oaklawn Park winner’s circle following the 1950 Arkansas Derby.

Sixty years later, the 85-year-old Hernandez – the oldest active trainer on the New York Racing Association circuit – still enjoys getting to the barn by 5:15 each morning, looking for his next stakes horse. Mine Over Matter gave Hernandez his most recent stakes win taking the Salute Me Sir Stakes at Belmont in September.

Mine Over Matter will seek to give Hernandez – who turns 86 on Jan. 19 – another stakes win in Friday’s $65,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes for New York-breds at Aqueduct. A field of eight was entered for the Alex Robb, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the inner track.

The Robb, a race Hernandez won in 1981 with Adirondack Holme, will be the first around two turns for Mine Over Matter, a son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft.

In his last four starts, Mine Over Matter has two wins and a neck loss to Ruffino. Hernandez said he believes that Mine Over Matter had the physical tools to be successful, but that his mind held him back.

“The horse has changed completely,” Hernandez said. “It looks like his mind is on running right now. He’s settled down a lot; before he used to be rank.’’

In his only bad performance recently, Mine Over Matter was sixth behind stablemate Friend or Foe in the Empire Classic.

“That group of horses was a little tougher and the pace was different,’’ Hernandez said. “When he moved he looked like he was going to run okay. At the very end he couldn’t catch up to those horses.’’

Mine Over Matter, who will be ridden by Javier Castellano, is likely to be close to the pace on Friday.

The Robb was coming up a paceless affair before Writingonthewall was supplemented to the field. Though most of his success has come on turf, Writingonthewall has finished in the top three in six of seven dirt starts.

Icabad Crane has finished second in three of his last four New York-bred stakes. He overcame a disastrous start to finish second in the Empire Classic then fell a nose short against Ruffino in the Tinchen’s Prince, a one-turn mile race in which Mine Over Matter was third. Icabad Crane has just one victory in his last 17 starts.

Giant Moon, Ruffino, Spa City Fever, Stud Muffin, and Manteca complete the field.