The owners of 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird have taken the son of Birdstone away from trainer Chip Woolley in New Mexico and shipped him to Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas in Kentucky.
Woolley, who was a popular figure on the Triple Crown trail last year when he hobbled the stable areas on crutches due to a broken leg while wearing his trademark cowboy hat, said May 19 that he was informed the previous day by owners Dr. Leonard Blach and Mark Allen that a change was in order.
"They said they just felt it was better for the horse," said a noticeably disappointed Woolley. "It is devastating. It is hard to comprehend. After what I did with him, I felt I earned the right to keep him. It is a tough time. But I appreciated the opportunity to train him."
Woolley said his association with the owners is through Allen, for whom he still has horses in training in New Mexico.
The trainer switch was first reported by the Daily Racing Form.
Mine That Bird, who upset the Derby at 50-1 odds, has not started since finishing ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita last Nov. 7. The 4-year-old gelding has won five of 14 starts and earned $2,196,581.
Since the Breeders’ Cup, Mine That Bird was rested at Allen’s Double Eagle Ranch in New Mexico before being prepared for a return to competition with gallops at the farm. Woolley said the gelding earned the extended break because he had a long, hard campaign as a 3-year-old.
"He is healthy and ready to roll, and I wish nothing but the best for the horse," the trainer said. "I hope he has a long, successful career."
"It will be challenging in a lot of ways," Lukas said by phone from his barn at Churchill Downs, where Mine That Bird is expected to arrive Thursday, May 20. "We are looking forward to having him in our barn. He is a Derby winner. From what I have heard so far, we should be able to go forward with him once he gets here. They have been galloping and putting a lot of miles on him."
Lukas said he has had a long-term friendship with Blach, dating back to his career as a Quarter Horse trainer before making the transition to Thoroughbreds.