Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) upset winner, zipped five furlongs in a "bullet" :59 2/5 over a muddy track at Churchill Downs on June 28 as he completed preparations for his first start of 2010, possibly this weekend.
Following the work, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he was considering several options in which the 4-year-old gelded son of Birdstone would make his first start of the year over the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend. If Mine That Bird returns to competition this weekend, it would be the first for the classic winner since finishing ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). It would also be the first start for Mine That Bird sent he was sent to trainer D. Wayne Lukas from the barn of Chip Woolley.
The June 28 workout was the fastest, or "bullet" work, of the day among 26 horses working the distance. Jockey Calvin Borel was aboard as the posted fractional times of :12 1/5, :24 1/5, :36 1/5 and :47 2/5. Mine That Bird galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 3/5, which was just a shade slower than the 1:14 2/5 workout time of Friesan Fire, the only horse working six furlongs at Churchill the same morning.
"I told Calvin we needed to let him do it with no prompting today, just let him do it on his own," Lukas said of the workout over a track that had earlier been labeled sloppy. "I told him I’d like to see him finish up and if he’d get it in a minute to 1:01, that would be about right. Once I turned him loose and I rode over by the rail to see how deep it was, I thought ‘If he does that, he’s going to be really going good’. And then he goes 59-and-four.
"I couldn’t be happier," Lukas continued. "Every step has been right down the line. I like the way that he’s changing--mentally and physically. That’s the big thing. We know he can run if everything’s right. Physically, he’s so much stronger--he might be 150 pounds heavier than he was last year. And mentally, he’s really getting good."
"He’s just blossomed out," said Borel. "How good is he? I don’t know – but we’re going to find out. I think he’s a good horse. I don’t care what anybody says--he wasn’t a fluke."
Lukas said the races he is considering for Mine That Bird’s return this weekend are a 1 1/16-mile allowance race on the main track at Churchill Downs on July 3 or the track’s closing-day $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) at a mile on turf on Sunday, July 4. He also has the July 3 Salvatore Mile (gr. III) at Monmouth Park as a possibility.
"We’d like to start him here," Lukas said at Churchill Downs June 28. "I used that Firecracker as a back-up. I know he’s never been on the turf. I really don’t want to ship him. I have the Salvatore Mile, but I’d like to just leave him in his own stall and try him. If he gets beat, this first one is a means to an end.
"We’ll wait and see how the next two days look. I have no reason to believe he won’t bounce back from this work. He does every one of them so easy. He has amazing efficiency of motion. I’ve had some pretty good horses that I thought could get over the ground. I don’t know if any of them got over it lighter than he does."
Owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s, Mine That Bird is winless in five starts since his upset victory at 50-1 odds in the 2009 Derby. His career record stands at 5-2-2 in 14 races with earnings of $2,196,581.