08/02/2009 11:00PM

Our Minesweeper eyes turf stakes


Our Minesweeper and Shem, winners of the opening weekend stakes at Santa Rosa, could make their next appearances at Golden Gate Fields in September.

Our Minesweeper improved to 2 for 2 with a game victory in the six-furlong Cavonnier Stakes for 2-year-olds on Saturday, while Shem captured Sunday's Joseph T. Grace Handicap. Both were wire-to-wire winners.

Shem's victory was expected. He was pressed closer on the lead by Awesome Jared than expected, but he crawled through the first six furlongs in the 1 1/16-mile turf race and had too much left for late-charging Eager Pharisien to catch him.

The Steve Specht-trained Shem's next start could come in the $50,000 CARF Directors' Cup on Sept. 27 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Trainer Michael Lenzini says he'll point the undefeated Our Minesweeper to the $50,000 Bart Heller at one mile on the turf Sept. 12. Lenzini was particularly proud of the 2-year-old gelding's gameness in victory under jockey William Antongeorgi III.

"The dirt broke from underneath him and he went to his nose at the break," Lenzini said. "[Antongeorgi] did an excellent job getting his nose up."

Our Minesweeper had his head in front of Beyond Tempting during the opening half-mile. He opened up into the lane, got a little breather, and held off even-money favorite Time for Atonement by a half-length.

Our Minesweeper also won his debut in wire-to-wire style, but Lenzini says he's not a speedball.

"I don't like front-runners," he said. "He's always worked behind horses. I think he'll relax wherever you put him."

An Art and Betty Suitter Idaho homebred, Our Minesweeper hasn't gotten much respect at the mutuel windows, paying $18.60 in his debut and $19.60 in the Cavonnier.

He's the first foal of his dam, Rents Due, and the first runner for his first-year sire, Cause Ur Mine, an unraced son of Giant's Causeway that the Suitters bought from Jerry Dutton.

Cause Ur Mine has had three starters, and now he has his first stakes winner.

Lenzini believes Our Minesweeper will stretch out, and he's excited about running him on turf.

"Everything I've ever had out of Idaho has run well on turf," he said.

Luther Burbank in jeopardy

Racing secretary Tom Doutrich has been able to keep field size high throughout the fair season, but he'll be challenged to get Saturday's Luther Burbank to go. Only nine fillies and mares were nominated to the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

One of the nine is defending champion Wild Promises, who will be making her first start since a 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Honey Fox at Gulfstream on March 7. Prior to that defeat, she won the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf and the Grade 3 My Charmer.

Despite the five-month layoff, she figures to scare away most of the competition, even though she'll have to carry 126 pounds, three more than comebacking stablemate Victorina and nine more than Forest Melody were assigned.

Doutrich said he considered assigning Wild Promises 128, but settled at 126 given her poor effort in her last start and the five-month layoff. He said he hoped the weight assignments might make the race competitive and attract enough rivals to make the race go.

The Luther Burbank is the only Thoroughbred stakes scheduled for Santa Rosa's final week, but 3-year-old mules will race 350 yards Wednesday in the Wine County Futurity. Dashn Bobi McGee, with two wins since a debut loss by a head, and Coco Nelson, 3 for 5 with two straight wins, head the field.

Jockey, trainer races tight

Antongeorgi leads the jockey standings throught the first week of the meet with seven wins, while Frank Alvarado and Russell Baze each have six.

Billy Morey and Lloyd Mason are tied atop the trainer standings with five victories each.

Solano up ontrack

The Solano County Fair, which ran five days from July 22-26, showed a 2 percent increase in average daily ontrack handle compared to last yea. Average daily attendance of 971 showed a 60-percent increase over 2008 as the track heavily promoted group sales.

Total ontrack wagering at Solano was $988,623.

The all-source handle showed a 10-percent decline from last year. Handle on Solano from the Northern California satellite network was down 18 percent.