Monday, May 4, 2009
Mine That Bird to run in Preakness
Mine That Bird was proclaimed ready for the Preakness on Monday after a spirited early morning jog, while his trainer remained groggy from two nights of little sleep after a startling Kentucky Derby victory.
"The horse will be the judge, but as good as he looked this morning, we plan on being at the Preakness," Bennie Woolley Jr. said.
Although Woolley has tried to make sure the horse's routine has remained normal since the 50-1 shot's win Saturday under Calvin Borel, it has been a far from normal period for the trainer in the black cowboy hat.
Woolley estimates he has totaled five hours of sleep in two nights. Every time he has tried to doze off, there seemed to be another interview request, visitors at the barn or time for Mine That Bird to be walked or fed.
Woolley said the horse will remain at Churchill Downs in Louisville at least until May 12 before shipping to Baltimore. He jogged a mile at Churchill on Monday morning and will have light jogs each of the next two days.
Woolley said there are no plans for the horse to have a full workout before the Preakness.
"I've never been to Baltimore, but it looks like I won't be able to say that in a few days," he said.
A Preakness trip wasn't looking quite as likely on Sunday. Woolley said then there's "no obligation" to go to the Preakness and added: "You've got to do what's best for the horse and the horse has got to come first."
Woolley said he still feels no obligation but acknowledged horse racing can always use a shot at the Triple Crown -- something not accomplished since Affirmed in 1978. Should he win the Preakness, Mine That Bird must also take the June 6 Belmont to do that.
"The horse came back and he's bouncing -- feels good, doing good," Woolley said. "This Triple Crown thing is good for racing. If you don't have the Kentucky Derby winner, there's no Triple Crown."
Borel expressed confidence this could be the horse to do it, long shot or not. Mine That Bird won the Derby by 6¾ lengths -- the largest since Assault in 1946. Borel said he'll be more than happy to take a shot at history.
"He's plenty of horse," Borel said.
Co-owner Leonard Blach, a veterinarian, said he observed nothing in the horse Monday that would keep him out of the second leg in two weeks.
"We never ruled the Preakness out," Blach said. "This horse had to let us know. We had to make sure he's doing good. We're not going to do anything to hurt this horse and this horse has to tell us he's all right. We got the best vets and trainer, and I know a few things about horses. The way he tracked today, looks like he's going."
The last Derby winner to skip the Preakness was an injured Grindstone -- Mine That Bird's grandsire -- in 1996. The last healthy Derby winner to miss it was Spend A Buck in 1985.
Other Derby horses expected to take on Mine That Bird in Baltimore are fourth-place finisher Papa Clem and possibly runner up Pioneer of the Nile, third-place Musket Man, Join in the Dance (seventh) and General Quarters (10th).
David Fawkes, trainer for Delta Jackpot winner Big Drama, said he also would be joining Mine That Bird at Pimlico. Withers winner Mr. Fantasy, Take the Points and Miner's Escape also are possible.
"We are ready to roll," Fawkes said. "He is the kind of horse where you can put him anywhere you want. He can sit off the lead and he has a huge turn of foot. When you push the gas pedal, he goes."
Woolley was surprised by Mine That Bird's Derby victory, and he says he doesn't expect him to be the top choice for the Preakness either, considering the field.
"He's not going to just jump up and be the favorite off one win," Woolley said. "But I'll bet he's not 50-1."