Haskin's Belmont Report: Love That Bird

Haskin's Belmont Report: Love That Bird
Photo: Mathea Kelley
Mine That Bird
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Ok, I am officially smitten with Mine That Bird. I admit to being one of those misguided souls who paid no attention to him before the Kentucky Derby other than to comment what a beautiful mover he was. After the Preakness and seeing him on the Belmont track Thursday morning, I have to say in simplest of terms this is one cool horse.

 

At Pimlico, I was impressed with how well he went over the track, as if he’d been on it his whole life. For a little horse he generates so much power, yet barely touches the ground. His ears are always straight up, he holds his head perfectly still, and he never takes the slightest misstep. He looks as if he is totally focused on what he’s doing and enjoys every minute of it.

 

His introduction to Belmont came on a gooey, sloppy track that prevented a number of horses from galloping. Mine That Bird, however, just glided over it, barely making a sound, while again galloping with great purpose. As at Churchill and Pimlico, he had his ears up the whole way and was in his usual zone out there.

 

“That’s just what I wanted to see,” said trainer Chip Woolley.

 

As Mine That Bird walked to the track, he had his head up and was taking in the new scenery along with all the cameramen and photographers who were waiting for him as a light drizzle fell. Walking the shed afterward, he would stop at his water bucket, but had no interest in any liquid sustenance at that point.

 

“Look at him,” said exercise rider Charlie Figueroa. “He’s not even thirsty.”

 

It’s not often you see a horse take to every track he runs on and handle each one in the exact same manner. It’s as if nothing fazes him. He just goes out there in machine-like fashion and does exactly what he’s supposed to.

 

It makes you keep asking yourself, “Where in the world did this horse come from?” Has a mere change in running style turned this solid Canadian stakes winner and two-time beaten horse at Sunland Park into one of the most exciting horses in the country? At this point it’s probably better to put all questions aside and just enjoy the show he puts on in the mornings and afternoons.

 

So, do we have a new equine hero in this diminutive son of Birdstone  ? We’ll have a better idea after the Belmont Stakes. If this is how good Mine That Bird really is we should have a lot of fun to look forward to over the next several years. Even if he doesn’t win on Saturday, you can’t put a price on the enjoyment he’s provided over the past five weeks. And with a different turn of events, he most likely would be going for a sweep of the Triple Crown.

 

After several days of walking and jogging since his work last Sunday, Dunkirk   finally had to be let loose for a gallop this morning, and he looked strong over the sloppy going. Whether he’s ready for a mile and a half we have no idea, but trainer Todd Pletcher has him in the right frame of mind and primed for a big effort.

 

Wayne Lukas’ pair of Flying Private and Luv Gov continue to impress from a physical standpoint, and Flying Private seemed like a content horse as he grazed this morning. He and Luv Gov also have been feeling good each morning.

 

Tim Ice, trainer of Summer Bird, did not want to take a chance and gallop his horse over the slop this morning and opted to jog him instead. That’s not the decision Summer Bird would have made, judging by how much more he wanted to do.

 

“I jogged him a mile and half,” Ice said while watching the colt graze, “but I wish I had jogged him three miles as good as he was feeling.”

 

All the Belmont starters appear to be doing extremely well. The connections of Chocolate Candy strongly feel this is the best the horse has ever been, and he too has been on the muscle, looking for more action. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer had not seen him in a while, and after arriving Wednesday afternoon, he liked what he saw.

 

Speaking of liking what you see, if the Belmont were a beauty contest, the winner hands down would be Mr. Hot Stuff, who drew accolades from those seeing him for the first time when he was schooling in the paddock before the seventh race. Almost black and built like the proverbial battleship, the full-brother to Colonel John   looked spectacular as he schooled with no problem.

The Belmont Stakes is featured on this week's That Handicapping Show.

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