09/10/2009 12:00AM

Our Minesweeper faces challenges

Email

"We're all in the same boat," said trainer Michael Lenzini as he studied the eight rivals his undefeated stakes winner Our Minesweeper will meet in Saturday's $50,000 Bart Heller Stakes at Golden Gate Fields. The race is one mile on the turf, a distance and surface new to seven of the nine runners, none of whom has won on the grass.

Lenzini is optimistic Our Minesweeper will handle the distance and surface. Our Minesweeper went wire to wire to win his debut at four furlongs here in June and then captured the six-furlong Cavonnier on Aug. 1 at Santa Rosa in wire-to-wire style despite going to his nose at the start.

Our Minesweeper may not get the early lead Saturday. Court Mischief, who also has a pair of wire-to-wire victories, including a win in a key first-level allowance race at Del Mar, appears the one to catch. Court Mischief is one of three Jerry Hollendorfer trainees in the race, along with Time for Atonement, the beaten favorite in the Cavonnier, and Ironman, a runner-up on the turf in his only race.

The Idaho-bred Our Minesweeper was the first foal by the unraced Giant's Causeway stallion Cause Ur Mine to win and is the first foal of his dam, Rents Due, who was 4 for 14 but never raced on the turf.

"I know people will see the Idaho breeding and disregard him, but I've been very successful with Idaho-breds on the turf," Lenzini said. "I think they're used to running on grass because of the big grassy fields they're raised on."

Lenzini concedes that Court Mischief is likely to outrun his horse for the lead, and has been preparing Our Minesweeper to come from off the pace.

William Antongeorgi will be aboard Saturday. He rode the gelding in the Cavonnier and has worked him three times since then. Our Minesweeper has worked in company and was kept behind horses early before outfinishing his workmates, Lenzini said.

"I wanted him to realize this is not a speed-nut horse," Lenzini said. "I told him in Santa Rosa just to get him out of there. I've had him work the horse because I want to have that thought instilled in his mind that he has options. This horse responds to what the rider wants."

Trainer Bruce Dillenbeck has entered three maidens. The Lloyd Mason-trained Montauban, who won his debut and has turf breeding with Kris S. as a grandsire, could be a strong contender. The Rhoda March-trained Raptor Force, who has won 2 of 3 starts, rounds out the field.