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Mine That Bird Back to Track and Preakness Bound/General Quarters Possible for Preakness/Einstein Eyes Foster 'Cap
KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER MINE THAT BIRD RETURNS TO CHURCHILL DOWNS TRACK – “I have never been to Baltimore, but it looks like I won’t be able to say that in a few days,” Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. said Monday morning at Churchill Downs after his Kentucky Derby 135 winner Mine That Bird jogged a mile on a sloppy race track.
With owners Mark Allen of Double Eagle Ranch and Dr. Leonard Blach of Buena Suerte Equine on hand, Mine That Bird went to the track at 6:40 with exercise rider Charlie Figueroa up.
“He was just bucking and playing out there,” Figueroa said. “The outriders were surprised to see that yellow (Derby) saddle towel come jogging by.”
A short time later, the Mine That Bird team informed officials with the Maryland Jockey Club that the 50-1 winner of the Kentucky Derby would compete in the $1 million Preakness (GI), the second jewel of the Triple Crown that will be run at Pimlico on May 16.
Woolley had said Sunday he wanted to see how Mine That Bird came out of the race before committing to the Preakness and a possible run toward the Triple Crown.
With Allen leading Mine That Bird to the track, Woolley watched the exercise from the viewing stand at the six-furlong chute.
“Perfect. He tried to buck Charlie off in front of the grandstand and doesn’t normally do that,” Woolley said. “Tomorrow he will back-track to the three-eighths and then ‘lope’ around one time and the next day two times.
“It will be two rounds a day. I might walk him one day, maybe the day we ship, but he will have no breezes before the Preakness.”
Woolley said the Triple Crown pursuit factored into the thinking of going on to Pimlico with the gelded son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone.
“The Triple Crown is good for racing, and without the Derby winner (in the Preakness) there is no chance to have one,” Woolley said.
Mine That Bird gave jockey Calvin Borel his second Kentucky Derby victory and Woolley lauded the popular rider’s effort on Saturday that was the 4,729th win of Borel’s career.
“Calvin has given two of the greatest rides in Kentucky Derby history,” Woolley said of Saturday’s score and a near-identical run two years previous with Street Sense. “To come from last and go by 18 head, that’s just incredible.”
Mine That Bird is expected to remain at Churchill Downs until at least May 12.
McCARTHY COULD CONSIDER PREAKNESS BID FOR GENERAL QUARTERS – After being dragged around the shedrow at Barn 37 by General Quarters on Monday morning, owner-trainer Tom McCarthy began to think a bit about a Preakness bid with the 10th-place Kentucky Derby finisher.
“He came out of the race a lot better than I thought,” McCarthy said. “His legs are cold all the way around, so maybe things aren’t as bad as I thought.”
McCarthy said he would try to walk General Quarters one more day before returning to the track Wednesday.
“The way he walked this morning, dragging us around the barn … I’m going to try to give him another day,” McCarthy said. “I will gallop him a few days and see where we are, but I want to get a Pimlico condition book so I can see what all the fees are.”
PREAKNESS HOPEFULS WALK MONDAY AT CHURCHILL DOWNS -- Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile walked the shedrow at Barn 33 at Churchill Downs for a second morning after his runner-up finish in Kentucky Derby 135.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who was leaving Louisville later Monday and scheduled to return Saturday night, said Pioneerof the Nile would return to the track Wednesday morning.
Bo Hirsch’s Papa Clem walked the shedrow at Barn 10A, led by exercise rider Mundo Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said Papa Clem, the fourth-place finisher in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, would return to the track to jog Tuesday morning. Trainer Gary Stute is scheduled to return to Louisville on Saturday or Sunday from his Southern California base.
Jake Ballis, Rashard Lewis and Reagan Swinbank’s Join in the Dance, who finished seventh after the setting the pace in Kentucky Derby 135, walked for a second straight morning at Churchill Downs.
“He came out of the race real good and probably will return to the track Wednesday,” said Mike McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, as the son of Sky Mesa eagerly attacked the grass behind Barn 41.
Pletcher had indicated Sunday that there “was a chance” Join in the Dance could come back in the Preakness.
HISTORY-MAKING EINSTEIN LOOKS FOR GRADE I ON DIRT IN STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP – Two-time Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) winner Einstein was doing well on Monday, tearing aggressively a hay rack and pleasing trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi with his quick recovery from Saturday’s hard-fought victory over Cowboy Cal in Churchill Downs’ top race for older turf horses.
Einstein edged Cowboy Cal by a head after a stretch-long duel to win by a head and become the first horse to win the 1 1/8-mile turf test for older horses. It marked the fourth consecutive year in which Einstein had competed in the Derby Day race.
“It took him four years, but that’s all right,” smiled Pitts-Blasi.
The victory was his second of the year and came on the heels of his biggest career victory in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (GI) on March 7, his debut on a synthetic surface in which he turned back nine rivals on the Pro-Ride surface.
Now a Grade I winner on synthetic and turf surfaces, Pitts is pointing Einstein toward the Grade I, $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap on June 13 at Churchill Downs in hopes notching a Grade I win on traditional dirt for the 7-year-old Brazilian-bred son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck. Einstein finished second to two-time “Horse of the Year” Curlin in the 2008 Stephen Foster, then won the Clark Handicap (GII) on the Churchill Downs dirt in late November.
“I just think if we’re going to try to get a Grade I on the dirt, this is the place to do it,” said Pitts-Blasi. “He loves this track. We’ll try it if he’s good. We want him on top of his game, but we’ll give it a shot.”
A victory in the Stephen Foster Handicap would allow Einstein to join California-based Lava Man as the only horses to score Grade I stakes victories on dirt, turf and synthetic courses.
BARN TALK – Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss’ champion Zenyatta was scheduled to fly back to her home base at Hollywood Park on Monday. The 2008 Eclipse Award winner as champion older filly or mare was scheduled to make her 2009 debut in Friday’s Louisville Distaff (Grade II), but was scratched by trainer John Shirreffs because of track conditions.
The Louisville Distaff was won by Domino Stud of Lexington’s Miss Isella, now a winner of four of six starts under the Twin Spires including last fall’s Falls City Handicap (Grade II).
“Can you write some more races for her here,” trainer Ian Wilkes said with a laugh, adding that the $300,000 Fleur De Lis (Grade II) on June 13 at a mile and an eighth would be the next likely start for Miss Isella.
Chocolate Candy, fifth-place finisher behind Mine That Bird in Kentucky Derby 135, will leave Tuesday for Belmont Park to begin preparations for the June 6 Belmont Stakes according to Galen May, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.