It was a day for racing royalty at Churchill Downs on May 20 as Blackberry Preakness (gr. I) and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Rachel Alexandra returned to track for a gallop, and Mine That Bird, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and a fast-closing runner-up in the Preakness, continued to show his spirit during his first gallop since the race.
Rachel Alexandra, the first filly in 84 years to win the Preakness and the second Kentucky Oaks winner in three years to defeat males in a Triple Crown race in her next start, galloped a mile over a “fast” track for trainer Steve Asmussen. It was her first trip from the track since her dazzling victory in the Preakness and her return to Churchill Downs on May 17.
Assistant trainer Scott Blasi said Rachel Alexandra would stand in the starting gate before she gallops on May 21, so she will go to the track around 7:15 a.m. EDT. She normally heads to the track with Asmussen’s second set of horses around 6:15 a.m.
Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to work on Monday, May 25, and a decision as to whether she will run in the upcoming Belmont Stakes (gr. I) is expected to come shortly thereafter.
Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s Mine That Bird galloped 1 1/2 miles in his second trip to the one-mile oval at Churchill Downs since he returned on May 18. Exercise rider Charlie Figeuroa was in the irons as the Birdstone gelding went through his energetic gallop and appeared to be none the worse for wear after huge efforts in the first two races of the Triple Crown.
“The horse is just doing super – he’s on his game,” said trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. “We’re really surprised that he’s as fresh as he is after two good, hard races. The fortunate thing for us is he only runs three-eighths of a mile, so he doesn’t use himself as hard as a lot of horses. So we’re pretty happy with where we’re at.”
Mine That Bird has been playful in both trips to the track since his return from Baltimore and Woolley said the Derby winner clearly loves his surroundings at Churchill Downs.
“Yesterday we just jogged him backwards and he was fresh and bright-eyed,” said Woolley. “But today he was really froggy out there, wanting to buck and play. And that’s kind of unlike him, because he’s more of a laid-back kind of horse. But I think he’s just really on his game right now and feels good. So we’ll figure out this week, and let him be the judge, and set up a work here pretty soon.”
Woolley said Mine That Bird would not work before early next week.
Regarding his search for a rider for the June 6 Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown, Woolley said he and co-owners Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach have decided to wait until early next week before they make that choice. Calvin Borel was aboard for his 6 3/4-length romp in the Kentucky Derby, but chose to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Mike Smith rode Mine That Bird in the Preakness, but has a previous commitment on June 6 that will knock him out of the Belmont.
Mine That Bird is set to return to the track for a gallop on May 21. He usually heads to the track between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m., which would put him on the track at approximately the same time as Rachel Alexandra during training that morning.