Updated on 09/17/2011 11:21AM

A powerhouse back in action


ELMONT, N.Y. - Out of sight, out of mind.

Mineshaft, arguably the best older horse in training after impressive victories in the Pimlico Special and the Suburban Handicap, sat out the Whitney at Saratoga last month so he could be fresh and rested for Saturday's $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. In the interim, the undefeated South American star Candy Ride came to Del Mar and made light work of capturing the important Pacific Classic.

In the Breeders' Cup future bet last weekend, Candy Ride was favored at 7-2 for the $4 million Classic, to be run at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. But Mineshaft could regain the favorite's role with a strong performance in the Woodward, and the 4-year-old by A.P. Indy appears to be coming to his race the right way.

"We didn't stop on Mineshaft, but we gave him a chance to take it easy for a few weeks," trainer Neil Howard said. "He responded with some crisp works, and we're very happy with his progress. He is a very good horse - the best I've had.

"He has the speed to fit any kind of race and the disposition needed to rate off the pace. Ideally he'll be in the catbird seat, a few lengths off the lead and in good position to strike at the right time."

That's how he won the Grade 1 Pimlico Special and the Grade 1 Suburban. The Grade 1 Woodward has attracted a small but interesting field that should test Mineshaft's resolve. Puzzlement, the Saratoga Breeders' Cup winner, appears to have turned the corner and will be a threat to consider. Thompson Rouge wasn't very effective on the grass courses of Europe but showed quality on the main track at Saratoga and should improve off his last start. The 3-year-old Hold That Tiger has not yet reproduced his best 2-year-old form, but Ireland's hugely successful trainer Aiden O'Brien didn't ship him across the Atlantic to embarrass himself.

Howard respects them all but has considerable confidence that Mineshaft will be able to cope. Like Bobby Frankel, he is a product of the New York streets. Frankel grew up in Brooklyn and went west to make a reputation. Howard hails from the Bronx, where, improbably, he became interested in show horses. His employer drove to Waterford Park (now Mountaineer Park) in West Virginia on weekends to buy cheap Thoroughbreds for the show ring and occasionally brought Howard along. Howard was quickly captivated by the racing scene and found his way to the New York tracks.

His first post was with John and Mary Cotter, and he served with Woody Stephens and Joe Cantey before a seven-year association with Mack Miller that was particularly rewarding. Howard launched his own small stable in Ohio in 1980. Through farm manager Mike Cline, he met Kentucky breeder Will Farish, who hired him in 1983 to break yearlings. When Farish's trainer, Del Carroll, died tragically the following year, Farish asked Howard to take the post.

It has been a happy and profitable arrangement. In his first season with Farish's Lane's End Farm, Howard saddled Weekend Delight to win a stakes at Saratoga. In subsequent years he brought off a Kentucky Oaks with Secret Status; an Alabama Stakes with Runup the Colors; and a Ruffian Handicap with Tomisue's Delight. He also trained a Preakness winner, Summer Squall; an Acorn winner, Prospectors Delite; and many others with ability.

Farish, who is the United States Ambassador to England, races a small stable in Britain with John Gosden. Mineshaft was one of the homebreds sent overseas, but he wasn't effective on the turf. He was returned to the United States to see how he would do on dirt, and his earnings this season exceed a million dollars. His pedigree suggests the best is yet to come.