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Talkin' 'Bout Shaft

Dada, dada, dadaa, da, da, daa….Who's the horse with hot three-year-old crop? Shaft! Mine Shaft!. With due apologies to the late Isaac Hayes, we think there are plenty of reasons to be "talkin' 'bout" Mineshaft (TrueNicks,SRO), who missed an historic double at Saratoga on Saturday by about an inch.

The only Horse of the Year by A.P. Indy (TrueNicks,SRO); bred on the same cross as Pulpit (TrueNicks,SRO) and Malibu Moon (TrueNicks,SRO); and from a great family, Mineshaft looked to have all the goods when he retired to stud. However, when his first crop (foals of 2005) did not initally come up to expectations, he quickly fell from fashion. He actually started rebuilding his reputation rather quickly – we’ve been touting him as a good value proposition for some time – and in reverse of the normal order of events, one could argue that each of his first three crops has been better than the last.

The first crop, now five, has produced four stakes winners, including grade II winners Cool Coal Man, Casino Drive (who might well have won the 2008 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) but for an injury prior to the race), and grade III winner Coal Play. The second crop did better numerically, with seven stakes winners, including graded winner Redding Colliery. It's the third crop, now three, that has really been writing the headlines. This crop is headed by Discreetly Mine, who has established himself as the best three-year-old sprinter in the country with three straight wins, the most recent in Saturday’s King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I), and Fly Down, who won the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) and finished second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) earlier in the year, and who missed giving his sire a remarkable Saratoga double by about a nostril in the Travers Stakes (gr. I).

Mineshaft is out of a mare by Mr. Prospector, and so one of the first questions one is bound ask is how has he done with Mr. Prospector inbreeding. Despite the paranoia in some quarters about this pattern, for Mineshaft it has done just fine. From 31 starters out of mares by sons and grandsons of Mr. Prospector line mares, he has four stakes winners (Cool Coal Man out of a mare by Rubiano; Platinum out of a mare by Rubiano’s sire, Fappiano; Mineralolgist, out of a mare by Seeking the Gold; and Strut the Canary, out of a mare by Seeking the Gold’s son Petionville (TrueNicks,SRO)). Incidentally, graded-placed Miner’s Reward, who lead the Travers to the 3/16 pole, but came out with a foot bruise, is out of a mare by Forty Niner (similar Mr. Prospector/Tom Rolfe cross to the dam of Mineshaft). Overall, Mineshaft he has nine stakes winners from only 56 starters with Mr. Prospector inbreeding (16% stakes winners to starters, compared to 5.6% stakes winners to runners for the sire overall). Oh, and it doesn’t seem to compromise their stamina either, since Fly Down, who has Mr. Prospector 3 x 3 has a second in the Belmont at 1½ miles, and would have won the 1¼ Travers Stakes in another stride or two.

Funnily enough, the far more outcrossed Discreetly Mine, who we would have expected to get the Belmont Stakes trip, has been a revelation since dropping back to sprints. He’s out of a mare by Private Account, with a second dam by Believe It, a third dam by Tom Rolfe, and a fourth dam by Northern Dancer (Private Account and Northern Dancer won over ten furlongs; Believe It at nine furlongs; and Tom Rolfe, at 9½ furlongs), so how he turned out to be a sprint star is a little bit of a mystery at this stage. His closest inbreeding or line breeding is a 5 x 4 x 5 cross of Buckpasser, and a 5 x 4 cross of Tom Rolfe.

Discreetly Mine is out of a mare by a son of Damascus, and Fly Down, who ranks as his sire’s second best son, is out of a mare by a grandson of Damascus. Fly Down’s maternal grandsire, Fly So Free, is by Time For A Change. Fly So Free’s dam is by a son of Nashua out of a mare by Native Dancer, and so Fly Down has a double of Mr. Prospector (Native Dancer/Nashua) with a horse bred on a reverse cross.

Mineshaft has been less impressive with Northern Dancer line mares, but does have three stakes winners from 53 starters by sons and grandsons of Northern Dancer (5.6% stakes winners to starters). The black type-winning trio comprise graded scorers Casino Drive (out of the famous Better Than Honour, by Deputy Minister) and Redding Colliery (dam by Zilzal, a son of Nureyev), and the grade I-placed Bonnie Blue Flag (another sprinter) out of a mare by Dixieland Band (also inbred 3 x 4 to Mr. Prospector, and with a third dam by Damascus, who is in three of Mineshaft’s grade I performers.

Mineshaft appears well-suited to mares from the Roberto branch of Hail to Reason, siring graded winner Coal Play and Kiss Mine, from mares by Kris S., and La Mina, whose dam by is Red Ransom). He also has stakes winner Bottega, whose dam is by Sunday Silence, from the Halo branch of Hail to Reason.

Mineshaft’s other stakes winners are Rock Candy (out of a mare by Pleasant Colony); Platinum Girl (out of a mare by Kennedy Road, who is by Victoria Park, from the Chop Chop/Flares line out of a Nearctic mare, and something of a reverse cross to horses like Vice Regent, The Minstrel and Storm Bird); Miner’s Escape (out of a mare by Broad Brush, who gives a double of Hoist the Flag, combined with Ack Ack, who is from the immediate family of Hoist the Flag’s sire, Tom Rolfe); and A. U. Miner (by The Watcher, a grandson of Buckpasser, from the same La Troienne family as Buckpasser, and Mineshaft himself). Buckpasser is in the fifth generation of Mineshaft, and reintroducing Buckpasser with four generations on the distaff side of the pedigree has proved beneficial, with three stakes winners from 22 starters (better than 13%). We can see that Seeking the Gold, Miswaki, and Woodman, all Mr. Prospector/Buckpasser crosses, all appear in Mineshaft stakes winners. It might also be worth keeping an eye out for mares by Easy Goer, a Raise a Native/Buckpasser cross, out of a three-parts-sister to The Watcher, who we mentioned above as broodmare sire of a Mineshaft stakes winner.

Mineshaft might have to work through a quieter year or two, with crops where breeders were fighting shy of him, but he’s shown that he can get a talented runner, and at very least he's an interesting proposition for an owner-breeder who wants a shot at a classic-type runner.

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