(Edited Churchill Downs release)
A trailer carrying Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Serte Equine’s Mine That Bird, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), departed Churchill Downs the morning of July 24 on an approximately seven-hour journey to West Virginia’s Mountaineer Racetrack Casino and Resort.
Mine That Bird is scheduled to return to competition for the first time since a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the final jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II) on Aug. 1. Churchill Downs had been home to Mine That Bird and trainer Chip Woolley since the 3-year-old gelding’s arrival a few days before his 50-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby, and Woolley was at the wheel of the pick-up truck that was connected to Mine That Bird’s trailer when the team pulled away from Barn 42 just before 7:10 a.m. (EDT) on Friday, July 24.
"We’re ready to go," said Woolley. "You get to looking forward to going to run again and it gets kind of drab after you’ve been a while not running. I’m kind of excited about going and being to a new place we hadn’t been. So I think it’ll be a lot of fun. As much as I hate leaving Louisville and Churchill, it’s going to be fun to move on down the road."
Mine That Bird had an active morning before he stepped onto Woolley’s van. He spent about 20 minutes in a hydrotherapy treatment that has been part of his local routine over the past several weeks, then the Derby winner walked under the shedrow until just before it was time to leave. Several well-wishers dropped by bid farewell to Woolley and Mine That Bird, and a few offered a peppermint as a farewell gift to the Derby winner.
"Even from day one, before we won the Derby, the people here were great," Woolley said of his extended stay in Louisville. "Everybody here has just treated us so well and made every door open to us. So leaving is kind of a hard thing. You like staying here – I’d like to stay here. But you’ve got to move to where the races are at. But we’ve really enjoyed it and it’ll be an experience a man will never forget."
The West Virginia Derby is the first step on a summer-fall campaign for Mine That Bird that is also expected to include a bid for the $1 million Shadwell Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga on Aug. 29 and the ultimate goal of a run in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) on Nov. 7 over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.
Woolley liked what his saw from Mine That Bird on Friday as the son of Birdstone bucked and played as he walked under the shedrow minutes before his departure.
"He’s doing great," Woolley said. "He’s really climbing that peak that we’re looking for and really doing good. So I’m glad I trained him here and the horse stayed healthy and sound over this racetrack, so we’re ready to roll on, I guess."
Mine That Bird is scheduled to work on Monday at Mountaineer, a move that Woolley said would be a "soft half-mile or five-eighths."
The Kentucky Derby winner embarks on the second-half of his 2009 campaign with a record of 5-2-1 in 11 races and earnings of $2,121,581.