The chance of rain and potential for a wet racing surface don’t bother trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. But he said dry and fast conditions wouldn’t hurt the chances of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird.
“It wouldn’t bother me,” Woolley said in reference to a wet track. “But (the surface at Pimlico Race Course) looks super to me; it might be a little laboring right now. Either way, this is a pretty good surface.”
Woolley made his comments May 14 after Mine That Bird galloped about two miles on a dirt surface made just a tad moist by morning rain. Mine That Bird, by Birdstone , won the Derby with a last-to-first move on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
Woolley said he respects the filly Rachel Alexandra, blowout winner of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) who drew post 13 in the Preakness, but he won’t dismiss the rest of the competition.
“There’s 12 other head in there I have to beat, and she’s just one of them,” Woolley said of the filly, the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Preakness.
Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird in the Derby, opted for Rachel Alexandra, who he rode in the Oaks. Woolley said he’s not disappointed by the decision.
“We’d love to have him on our horse in the Preakness, but that’s part of the business,” Woolley said. “This is a business, and Calvin has to look out for himself.”
Mike Smith gets the call aboard Mine That Bird.
“Mike was at the top of our list,” Woolley said of replacement riders. “Mike seems to be the fit I was looking for. He’s very comfortable laying back. He’s a patient rider.”
If the Derby is any indication, Mine That Bird does his best with one big run. But he has shown good early foot, which he displayed in the $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino Feb. 28. He ran hard throughout and lost by a nose, and returned to finish fourth in the Sunland Park Derby after a middle move.
Woolley indicated the plan for the Preakness is to rate the 3-year-old gelding.
“If he had dropped back at Sunland Park, he would have won (both those races),” Woolley said.
Mine That Bird, owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine, has won five of nine starts thus far. He was Canada’s champion 2-year-old male in 2008.