Mike Smith, who rode Mine That Bird in the Preakness, will not ride the colt in the Belmont.

Mike Smith, who rode Mine That Bird in the Preakness, will not ride the colt in the Belmont.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Mine That Bird Loses Another Rider

For the second race in a row, Mine That Bird’s connections must look for a different rider, as Mike Smith has decided to honor his commitment and ride Jerry and Ann Moss’ Madeo in the Charlie Whittingham Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park the same day as the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).


Smith’s defection and the uncertainty of Rachel Alexandra’s status for the third leg of the Triple Crown has left open the possibility that Calvin Borel may be reunited with Mine That Bird, making this year’s Triple Crown one of the most unusual in history. If Rachel does run, then Mine That Bird will have his third rider in as many races.


John Shirreffs, trainer of Madeo, said Smith had been scheduled to ride the horse in the Whittingham, but then came an alleged casual commitment from Smith’s agent Brad Pegram to ride Chocolate Candy in the Belmont Stakes prior to Smith getting the mount on Mine That Bird for the Preakness.


“Here is Mine That Bird, who won the Derby and was second in the Preakness, and probably is going to be the favorite in the Belmont. As a trainer you naturally assume the jockey is going to stay with your horse,” Shirreffs said.


“However, Mike is really loyal to our program, and he committed to Madeo before he rode Mine That Bird. He has never approached Jerry (Moss) and said he wanted to ride Mine That Bird. I’m sure Jerry wouldn’t make him stick to that call. Brad asked me if I’m still going to run Madeo in the Whittingham and I said ‘Yes.’ He said he’d better call Jerry (Hollendorfer, trainer of Chocolate Candy) and let him know.


“Then along came Mine That Bird, which put Mike in a very awkward position. The fact that Mike never asked to be released from his commitment on Madeo says a lot about his character.”


Smith explained on “At the Races with Steve Byk,” “They are my first call people, and they have done so much for my career. This is an important race (grade I) for Madeo, and I need to be there. I would never ask them to get out of my commitment.”


Bennie "Chip" Woolley told the Churchill Downs communications department the search is on for a replacement.


"It's kind of funny," Woolley said Monday. "You'd think if you get a horse this good, you'd keep one, but apparently not."


The trainer said he's heard from the agents of several riders who are interested in taking over the mount, but he hasn't made up his mind. Woolley indicated that he won't wait to see whether Rachel Alexandra goes on to the Belmont.


"We're going to make a decision pretty quickly," he said. "Patience is probably the No. 1 concern. Is somebody patient and will they wait and see how things develop? We'll just have to see how it goes."