Mine That Bird, stunning 50-1 winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) this spring, has hooked a highly contentious field for his first try against older horses in Oak Tree's $350,000 Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 10.
The 3-year-old Birdstone gelding is reunited again with Calvin Borel by trainer Chip Woolley for the 1 1/8-mile Goodwood, which attracted a field of 10. The race, the seventh on the program, is one of four Breeders' Cup Challenge events on the Oak Tree program and guarantees the winner a place in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita. Mine That Bird, who will be the first non-Southern California-based Derby winner to run at Santa Anita since Spectacular Bid in 1980, drew the far outside post.
Woolley says he has been pleased with how Mine That Bird has been training at Santa Anita for the Goodwood and thinks the bay's late closing kick will be advantageous on the Pro-Ride racing surface. But he also is mindful that this is Mine That Bird's first start since a third-place in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) at Mountaineer Park Aug. 1.
"You know it's a huge concern," he said. "It's going to end up being about ten weeks since we've run I guess. That's a big stretch but the horse is doing good and he's really had some super works."
Mine that Bird has had one race over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride, finishing last of 12 in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). But Woolley notes that he has won four times in six races on synthetic tracks overall.
"The horse just looks like he gets over it super," the trainer said. "If you go back and analyze his Breeder Cup race from last year, I've told everybody that we got the horse in here a little late and that wasn't really giving him his best shot. But also he chased the pace almost five wide all the way around there and really didn't get a real good trip. So we were a little disappointed but I think with a better trip the horse likes the racetrack okay."
Mine That Bird, who followed his Derby win with a second in the BlackBerry Preakness (gr. I) and a third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), has won five of 12 in his career with earnings of $2,196,581. He will be seeking to become only the third 3-year-old to capture the Goodwood in 27 prior renewals.
The Goodwood comes up tough with nine stakes winners, including five grade I victors. Included are Pacific Classic (gr. I) upsetter Richard's Kid , two-time grade I winner Colonel John and Tiago , who won the Goodwood in 2007 and finished second to Well Armed last year.
Arnold Zetcher’s Richard’s Kid ran the race of his career in Del Mar's $1 million Pacific Classic, which already qualified the 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt for the BC Classic for trainer Bob Baffert. With Mike Smith aboard, Richard's Kid rallied from 10th to defeat Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Einstein by a neck on Sept. 6. Smith, however, is committed to ride Tiago for Zenyatta’s connections, owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs, in the Goodwood. Baffert has named Alex Solis to replace Smith.
Privately purchased by Zetcher and transferred to Baffert in mid-summer, Richard’s Kid won his first graded stakes in the Pacific Classic. It was his second start over a synthetic surface after having finished second by a nose to Unusual Suspect in the Cougar II Handicap over Del Mar’s Polytrack. “I bought him for the synthetics,” said Baffert.
His overall record now stands at 6-2-4 in 19 starts with earnings of $759,370.
WinStar Farm's 4-year-old Colonel John, unable to overcome traffic problems on the final turn, finished a troubled fifth in the Pacific Classic and will attempt to get back on course for trainer Eoin Harty. Winner of the Santa Anita Derby and Travers Stakes (both gr. I) last year, the Tiznow colt has banked $1,559,012 from an overall record of 6-2-1 in 13 races.
Tiago has had a difficult 5-year-old campaign, recently returning from a six-month absence to run sixth in a minor stakes at Del Mar Aug. 26. Tiago was third in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, but has had problems returning to form this season, Shirreffs said.
"Tiago had some stomach issues early on so his racing hasn't been as consistent as it was last year," he explained. "So I think that the Goodwood is going to be a big test for Tiago."
A newcomer to American racing, British-bred import Gitano Hernando makes his United States debut in the Goodwood for Team Valor and trainer Marco Botti. The 3-year-old chestnut colt, with a 3-2-0 record in six English starts, will be ridden by six-time British champion jockey Kieren Fallon. Gitano Hernando won both his starts over synthetics in England.
A third 3-year-old in the line-up is the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Chocolate Candy. Second in the Santa Anita Derby, the grade III winner returned from a three-month freshening after the Belmont Stakes to run second in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 5.
Others are Monzante, winner of the 2008 Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) for trainer Mike Mitchell and most recently a close second in Del Mar's Windy Sand Handicap; Phipps Stable's Parading , who turned in a decent fourth in the Pacific Classic for New York-based Shug McGaughey; the speedy Tres Borrachos, who finished second in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 11; and Informed , winner of the Californian (gr. II) and San Diego (gr. II) this year.
$350,000 Goodwood Stakes (gr. I, Race 7, 3:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Chocolate Candy (KY), V Espinoza, 121, J Hollendorfer
2. Tiago (KY), M E Smith, 124, J A Shirreffs
3. Richard's Kid (MD), A O Solis, 124, B Baffert
4. Colonel John (KY), G K Gomez, 124, E G Harty
5. Tres Borrachos (KY), J Talamo, 124, C B Greely
6. Monzante (KY), J Rosario, 124, M R Mitchell
7. Parading (KY), R Bejarano, 124, C R McGaughey III
8. Gitano Hernando (GB), K Fallon, 121, M Botti
9. Informed (KY), M C Baze, 124, D F O'Neill
10. Mine That Bird (KY), C H Borel, 121, B L Woolley, Jr.