08/28/2003 12:00AM

Velazquez ties record with 55th win


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - When John Velazquez guided Classy E. T. to a 3 1/2-length victory in Thursday's seventh race, it was his 55th win of the meet, equaling Saratoga's all-time single meet record for wins by a jockey set by Jerry Bailey in 2001.

Velazquez, 31, is a virtual lock to break the record as he has four racing days remaining.

"It was really great to do it," said Velazquez, who went into Thursday in a 1-for-25 slump dating back to the middle of last Saturday's card. He won two races Thursday. "Hopefully, it continues. I got to say it's something special. I think Angel is going to be more proud than anybody else."

Velazquez was referring to Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., who won 14 Saratoga riding titles in his career and who is now Velazquez's agent. Earlier in the meet, Velazquez set the 24-day record for most wins with 45. Manny Ycaza won 41 races during the 1959 meet, which was 24 days. It wasn't until the mid 1990's that the meet was extended beyond 24 days.

"Both of them mean a lot to me," Velazquez said. "It means a lot more for Angel. He chased that 24-day record for many years and I didn't know about it. He had to come to the jocks' room and tell me about it. I said 'Don't worry about it, if it happens, it happens.' Same thing about this, if it happens, it happens. I'm happy to be here and get it done. It's real special."

Of more importance to Velazquez is winning the riding title, also a virtual certainty. Velazquez owned a 16-win lead over Jerry Bailey with 42 races left in the meet. Velazquez won the 1998 riding title, but only after Mike Smith, who was leading at the time, missed the final week due to injury.

"This one definitely counts a lot for me. It's something I really wanted to get done with no doubt in my mind," Velazquez said. "Hopefully, I get it done. We got a few more days to go. Hopefully, I win more than 55."

Carolyn Hine back in winner's circle

Carolyn Hine, the owner of 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away and widow of recently inducted Hall of Fame trainer Sonny Hine, was back in the winner's circle Thursday after longshot Soaring Away ($63.50) rallied from last to win a maiden turf race.

Soaring Away, a gray 2-year-old son of Skip Away, was making his first career start. Soaring Away is one of five horses Hine owns in partnership with Gene Stevens, Carl Bowling, and Harvey Chaplin. Four of the horses are offspring of Skip Away, and three of those are gray, the color of Skip Away.

Hine broke down and cried in the paddock and again after the race. Soaring Away, ridden by Mark Guidry, ran in the familiar red and gold-striped silks that Skip Away wore during his 38-race career.

"I tried to psyche myself that I wouldn't fall apart, but I fell apart when I saw my silks in the paddock," said Hine, who said she has Skip Away's original silks at home. "I prayed to Sonny, 'It's one of Skippy's babies, help him,' and he answered my prayers. My husband's with me all the time."

The last time Hine was in the winner's circle with one of her horses was in 1998 when Skip Away won the Grade 1 Woodward at Belmont Park. Skip Away won 18 of 38 races and earned $9,616,360 in his career.

Iron Deputy, Oz injured

Iron Deputy, who won the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap in June and finished third in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap earlier this month, had surgery on Monday to remove a chip from his left front ankle and will miss at least the major handicap races during the Belmont fall meet, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said.

Jerkens said he hoped Iron Deputy could make it back to the races during the Aqueduct fall or winter meet.

"The joint is in excellent shape. He's supposed to be able to recover in no time," Jerkens said.

Meanwhile, Oz, an impressive New York-bred maiden winner for Jerkens earlier this meet, developed filling in the tendon of his left foreleg and will not run again this year.

"I think it's safer to give him the rest of the year off," said Jerkens, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens. "My father said you got a shot at bringing back horses off tendon trouble when they're young."

Jerkens said Smokey Glacken, a half-sister to 1997 champion sprinter Smoke Glacken who won her maiden by five lengths here on Monday, will be pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Astarita Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 12.

Mineshaft readies for Woodward

Mineshaft drilled six furlongs in 1:11.40, handily, Thursday over Saratoga's main track, his final serious move before the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Belmont on Sept. 6. Saratoga clockers caught Mineshaft in fractions of 25.20 seconds, 47.60 and had him galloping out seven furlongs in 1:25 and pulling up a mile in 1:41.40. Annie Finney was aboard for the move.

Trainer Neil Howard gave Mineshaft what he called "a busman's holiday" during the Saratoga meet. Still, he got six solid workouts into Mineshaft, who has won 5 of 7 starts this year, including the Pimlico Special and Suburban handicaps. On Aug. 13, Mineshaft worked six furlongs in 1:13.

"I told Annie to work him similar to the other day and let him gallop out to his satisfaction," Howard said. "Everything's gone smoothly. What better place to be on vacation than Saratoga. It went well."

Mineshaft was scheduled to van to Belmont Park on Friday and he could have an easy half-mile workout on either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Puzzlement works toward Woodward

Puzzlement, who upset Volponi in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup, worked four furlongs in 51.51 seconds on Thursday and is likely to be one of Mineshaft's challengers in the Woodward.

Puzzlement made three starts at the meet, winning an allowance race and the Saratoga Cup and finishing fourth in the Whitney in between. Trainer Allen Jerkens said he was happy with all three of Puzzlement's races here.

"He just got good," Jerkens said. "He was threatening to get good. [The Whitney] was a good race. He was forced out on the turn and he still kept trying."

Mike's Classic, also trained by Jerkens, worked five furlongs in 59.76 seconds in preparation for Sunday's Grade 1 Forego Handicap. It was the fastest of 13 works at the distance by one full second.

"He's run all his best races when he worked hard," Jerkens said.

Mike's Classic is coming out of a third-place finish in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.

Meanwhile, Jerkens said he is considering stretching Shine Again out in the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont on Sept. 13. Shine Again is coming out of a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Ballerina. Passing Shot, who upset Wild Spirit in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, could run next in either the Ruffian or the Beldame on Oct. 4.

* Imperial Gesture, who has not run since finishing third in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, worked five furlongs in 1:02.87 Thursday. Tom Albertrani, Godolphin's New York-based trainer, said he would look for an allowance race for the Grade 1-winning filly at Belmont.