06/06/2010 11:00PM

Redding Colliery exciting addition to division

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Now that the long grind of the Triple Crown trail is over, handicappers can set their sights on other intriguing racing divisions. This summer and fall, there will be 2-year-olds that create early cases of Derby fever for their connections and supporters. Sprinters will dazzle the clock and turf runners will showcase their stamina over gut-busting distances.

But there's something about the handicap division that is always popular among racing fans. Perhaps we love the handicappers because we remember past greats like Skip Away, Cigar, Alysheba, Ferdinand, Forego, and Kelso. Perhaps it's because many of our current champions retire to lucrative careers at stud before they even receive an opportunity to race as mature horses. For the older stars, it's all about heartiness, courage, and longevity.

Whatever the reason, the handicappers usually take center stage before the racing season is over, whether it's in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, or the Breeders' Cup Classic, to be held this fall at Churchill Downs.

The undefeated Zenyatta, racing's reflection of perfection, leads the handicap division in 2010 with the uber-talented Quality Road nipping at her heels after victories in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park and the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont. With consistent performers such as Battle Plan, Blame, Misremembered, and Rail Trip forming a solid second string, it will be difficult for newcomers to break through into the upper echelon of the division.

Still, there is plenty of money to be made with a good older horse, and Redding Colliery, after his impressive victory in the Lone Star Park Handicap on Memorial Day, seems poised to grab some cash before the year is out.

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Redding Colliery earned a 111 Beyer Speed Figure in the Lone Star Park at 1 1/16 miles. Ridden by Rosie Napravnik, the gray son of Mineshaft prompted the speedy Euroears through quick fractions of 23.43 and 46.26. Despite running his second quarter in less than 23 seconds, Redding Colliery was strong on the final turn, collaring Euroears after six furlongs in 1:10.66. After that, it was simply a question of margin as Redding Colliery steadily widened his advantage. He stopped the timer in 1:42.13 with his 6 3/4 length win over the late-running millionaire Awesome Gem. Horse-for-course, and race favorite, Mythical Power faded to last.

Mineshaft, a son of Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy, won Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and champion older male in 2003. He ran off with such historic Grade 1 races as the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup with Beyers in those races ranging from 114 to 118.

Redding Colliery's dam, Joop, went 1 for 11 with her only victory coming in a Churchill Downs turf race at 1 1/16 miles. Joop is a half-sister to stakes winners Bare With Me (219,000 in earnings) and Grecian Touch (212,000), stakes-placed performers Devil's Touch (161,000) and Slew a Native (98,000), and Grade 2-winning sprinter Devilish Touch (397,000).

Besides Redding Colliery, Joop has also foaled the stakes-placed turf performer American Czarina as well as Joopy Doopy, a juvenile stakes-winning sprinter.

Redding Colliery sold for $170,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale of 2007. Exported to Europe, he was purchased the following year for approximately $640,000 at the Tattersalls Craven breeze up sale.

Mineshaft began his career in Europe, compiling a 7-1-1-1 record. Redding Colliery also didn't show his best form on the turf. He made his career debut for trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam on July 25, 2008 going seven furlongs at Ascot, showed speed after an awkward break, and tired very badly. He hasn't set foot on grass again.

Following an improved runner-up performance in a one-mile polytrack maiden at Great Leighs, his first start with blinkers, Redding Colliery won his maiden in gate-to-wire fashion going seven furlongs over the Kempton Polytrack.

Sent to trainer Herman Brown for the 2009 Dubai Racing Carnival, Redding Colliery took on good company in the Middle East, finishing third to Kentucky Derby-bound Desert Party in a pair of races before faltering to seventh behind Regal Ransom in the Grade 2 UAE Derby at 1 1/4 miles.

Redding Colliery raced without blinkers in the UAE Derby and he started without them in his first three races in the United States for McLaughlin. Following a trifecta of tough-trip fifth-place finishes, Redding Colliery was reunited with blinkers and the results were immediate and impressive.

He won an entry-level allowance race over a muddy Aqueduct main track on Oct. 29. After breaking a half-step slowly, Redding Colliery pressed the pace while in between horses and drew off in the stretch despite being a bit late to make his final lead change.

Following a fourth-place finish to the promising Haynesfield in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at 1 1/8 miles, Redding Colliery reeled off a pair of two-turn victories in front-running fashion. As is his habit, he broke awkwardly in a second-level optional claimer over the Aqueduct inner track on Jan. 2, but soon rushed up along the inside to grab the early advantage. He professionally rated while on the lead that afternoon, fended off a stiff challenge from Icabad Crane in upper stretch, and inched away in the final sixteenth.

He then defeated a pair of next-out winners in the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap going 1 1/8 miles at Laurel on Feb. 15. Under wintry conditions, Redding Colliery broke flat-footed, but was sent up to make an easy lead under Napravnik. The pair stole the race on the front end and never faced a serious stretch challenge.

In his final start before the Lone Star Park Handicap, Redding Colliery finished third in the $1 million Charles Town Classic around three turns on April 17.

He has now earned four straight triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures and has the versatility to succeed in both sprint and route races. McLaughlin has mentioned sterner challenges for Redding Colliery's next start, including a possible tilt in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. Whether he will be up to the challenge of facing a horse of Quality Road's caliber is questionable, but Redding Colliery is very sharp right now and rates a long look in Grade 2 or Grade 3 competition.