Watch The Birdie

by Ed Meyer

posted on May 4, 2009 in Kentucky Derby, News, Other Events | 1 Comment >>

The diminutive gelding returned to the track today and jogged a mile to trainer Chip Woolley’s satisfaction.

Afterward, the decision was made to go to Baltimore’s middle leg of the Triple Crown, which hadn’t even been considered until Mine That Bird pulled off the stunning victory at 50-1 over Pioneerof the Nile.

“Perfection. The horse looked super,” Woolley said. “… At this point it’s a go for the Preakness. Unless the horse tells me something different between now and then, we’ll go to the Preakness.”

Mine That Bird will train at Churchill Downs until next Monday or Tuesday and will not have a workout before the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, Woolley said.

The pre-Derby plan had been to train up to the June 6 Belmont Stakes, as had the gelding’s sire, Birdstone, before his 2004 upset victory in New York. But Woolley said other considerations are coming into play now that Mine That Bird is a Derby winner.

“The horse pulled up great, looks good right now,” he said of the decision. “The Triple Crown is good for racing, good for the sport. And if you take the winner of the Derby out, there’s no such thing.”

“As long as the horse decides he’s ready and doing right, it’s the right thing to do for the sport of racing. If he shows at any time he’s not ready, then we’ll have to pass it. But I think there’s a lot more to horse racing than just running. There’s sportsmanship.”

“Like the owner of Curlin (Jess Jackson) wanted to run him in the Breeders’ Cup, even though they were pretty sure he didn’t like the poly (surface). But they ran him because it was good for the sport.”

The Preakness decision came a day after Woolley and co-owner Mark Allen handed out roses from the Derby blanket to fans visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum and the new Barbaro statue.

“I thought it was something good for the sport, something to give back,” Woolley said. “I mean, the sport has given us a lot now, of course. So it was cool to give something back, and people really responded great to it… You follow other people’s leads, too. Over the years when you see people in this position do something good for the sport, when it’s your turn, you think about it yourself.”