Belmont Stakes Profile: Miner's Escape
by Trevor Whenham - 05/28/2009
Last race: Miner's Escape was successful in his stakes debut, winning the Federico Tesio at Pimlico on Kentucky Derby day. The only note in an otherwise insignificant race was the third place finisher, Tone It Down. That horse started in the Preakness next time out, finishing 12th in the 13-horse field. Miner's Escape pressed the pace early on in the Tesio before taking over at the midway point and pulling away for a victory of almost five lengths.
Career highlights: Beyond the Tesio there aren't many. He finally broke his maiden in March at Gulfstream, but he had tried five times before that. He'd never finished better than fourth before the win, and had rarely been a significant factor.
Jockey: Jose Lezcano. Lezcano has been working the horse in the mornings, so it seems as if he will get the Belmont mount. Lezcano rode the horse when he broke his maiden, so if he does ride him then he'll slow down a revolving door - the horse has had seven different riders in seven races. Lezcano is just 24 and in his fifth year as a pro, but he's had some good showings already, including meet wins at three different tracks and a six-win day at Monmouth last year.
Trainer: Nick Zito. Zito has made the Belmont his personal playground for unlikely horses in recent years. He won with longshot Birdstone, the sire of both Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, in 2004 to end Smarty Jones' Triple Crown hopes. He smashed the Crown again last year when Da' Tara came from nowhere to win when Big Brown faltered badly. Beyond the two wins, he has been second six times and third three times in 20 tries at the race.
Pedigree: Miner's Escape is the son of Mineshaft, the Horse of the Year in 2003 as a four year old. Mineshaft was sired by the great A.P. Indy, the 1992 Belmont winner and Horse of the Year. A.P. Indy in turn was sired by Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner. Miner's Escape's dam was sired by Broad Brush. That horse, who died the day before the Preakness this year, was third in the both the Derby and the Preakness in 1986. Miner's Escape might not have shown much on the track yet, but he sure is bred to run.
Racing style: Miner's Escape is at his best when he is pressing the pace from right behind the leader. He might be forced to alter that approach and set the pace himself in this race -- if Rachel Alexandra doesn't enter the race then there isn't any other horse likely to seek out the lead early on.
Belmont prognosis: There's not much beyond his breeding to suggest that he is ready to compete here. His pedigree tells us that he can handle the distance, though, and sons of Mineshaft are typically slow to develop. Even so, it's hard to imagine this horse winning the Belmont. Of course, I said the same thing about Birdstone and Da' Tara, too, and Zito proved me wrong in both cases. Miner's Escape may end up on the bottom of my exotics, but I'll exclude his chances of winning.