Nothing seems to faze Mine That Bird, and lately, nothing seems to faze his trainer, Chip Woolley, either. There is a reason.
"It helps when you have a good horse," Woolley said the morning of June 5 while leaning on his crutches outside Barn 18 at Belmont Park. Nearby was Mine That Bird, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and second-place finisher in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
"Every one of these races is contested. There are nine other horses in this race. But I’m confident because I’ve got a good horse," Woolley said. "Hopefully he will like the surface."
An hour earlier, under exercise rider Charlie Figeuroa, Mine That Bird certainly seemed to like the surface, happily galloping once around the huge Belmont oval in his final preparation for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
On race day, Mine That Bird will walk the shedrow, get a bath, and head to the detention barn.
"The detention barn is a concern," because the son of Birdstone has never had to go through that process before, but "being the type of individual he is, I don’t think it will hurt him," the trainer said.
Mine That Bird took a while to settle at Pimlico prior to the Preakness, but Woolley said he has settled well at Belmont. "He’s froggy, he’s bucking, he’s playing," he said. "It’s amazing, in the two races (Derby and Preakness), he hasn’t lost a pound."
Mine That Bird, owned by Mark Allen’s Double Eagle Ranch and Dr. Leonard Blach’s Buena Suerte Equine, is certainly bred for the 12-furlong distance of the Belmont. His sire won the final leg of the Triple Crown in 2004, and he is out of a Smart Strike mare (Mining My Own).
But, Woolley said, pedigree is not everything.
"You can have all the pedigree in the world and the horse still can’t run. They are still athletes. But with his pedigree, the distance (of the Belmont) would seem to work in his favor."
As Woolley spoke, Mine That Bird stuck his head out of his stall. He seemed unfazed.
His trainer does, too.