Edited NYRA release
Mine That Bird had his first serious move for the grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Travers at Saratoga Race Course when he zipped a half-mile over the main track in :48.22 on Monday, Aug. 10.
The move by the winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), with Jamie Theriot aboard, was the seventh-fastest of 27 at the distance and admittedly faster than trainer Chip Woolley had planned.
"I’m happy with it," said Woolley, who started laughing when he looked at his stopwatch. "It was a little more than I hoped for. He worked a little sharper than I wanted; I was looking for something around :50. But he looked super. Horses who are fast are going to work fast sometimes. He got over the ground good, and I couldn’t ask for much more than that."
Woolley said he caught Mine That Bird going the first quarter in "just under 25" as he began preparations for the 1¼-mile "Mid-Summer Derby" on Saturday, Aug. 29.
"It looked like the first quarter Jamie had him well in hand, but when he switched leads turning for him, he kind of opened up a little," said Woolley. "It reminds me a lot of the way he worked at Churchill Downs before the Derby, the way he was getting over the ground. It didn’t look like Jamie was asking him, and it didn’t surprise me."
Theriot, a jockey who has worked Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach’s gelding several times, said he was delighted with the way Mine That Bird traveled over the main track.
"I couldn’t have asked for a better work," said Theriot. "He was going so easily. I didn’t want to knock his stride down. It was his first time working on this racetrack and he got over it smooth as could be. I’m telling you the difference between today and the works leading up to West Virginia – he’s got more life to him, he put on some weight, he looks a whole lot better than his last race. I knew when he hit the wire he wasn’t going anywhere near 50."
Mine That Bird followed his Derby win at odds of 50-1 with a second to Rachel Alexandra in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I), a third to Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and a third in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II), his most recent start. Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who replaced Calvin Borel in the Preakness, was also board for the West Virginia race and will ride Mine That Bird in the Travers.
"Mine That Bird was a little too fresh going into the West Virginia race," said Woolley. "He didn’t get his best trip. With his running style, he has to have a particular trip to be at his best. In all the races he’s been beat in, he’s been beaten by an early move. We’ve talked several times, and Mike [Smith] sees now what it takes for this horse to be at his very best. These races at a mile and a quarter give you the opportunity to set up on a horse."
Woolley said Mine That Bird, who has earned nearly $1.9 million, would work twice more before the Travers, most likely on Monday, August 17, and again on Tuesday, August 25.
"We’ll work probably five-eighths Monday (Aug. 17); I’ll decide that a little later, see how fresh he is," said Woolley. "Then, we’ll probably move the last work to Tuesday, a little closer to the race, see if we can’t get him settled a little more."
Also working toward the Travers Monday was Stonestreet Stable’s Kensei, who entered the picture with a victory in the grade II Jim Dandy on Aug. 1. He covered a half-mile in an easy :51.02 on the Oklahoma training track.
Exercise rider Dominic Terry was aboard for the move, the 22nd fastest of 30 at the distance.
"It was a nice easy work, he was moving beautifully, and his attitude is good," reported Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "He’s improved so much his last two races. Physically, he’s coming into his own now. The main thing is, he came out of the race in great shape and he’s moving in a positive direction."
Kensei, who also won the grade II Dwyer on July 4 and was third to Munnings in the grade II Woody Stephens, is 2-for-2 at Saratoga, having broken his maiden here last year on Aug. 6.