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Kentucky Derby 135 Sunday Wrap-Up: Mine That Bird Well After Upset

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/04/2009 #
  • Jockey Calvin Borel visits Mine That Bird, the 3-year-old gelding that carried him to victory in Kentucky Derby 135, at Barn 42 on Sunday at Churchill Downs.

The morning after the stunning victory in the $2,177,200 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) by Mine That Bird was a busy one for his owners and trainer – and for the 3-year-old gelding that won the roses with his last-to-first rally along the rail on Churchill Downs’ one-mile dirt oval.

Visitors to trainer Chip Woolley and owners Mark Allen of Double Eagle Ranch and Dr. Leonard Blach of Bueno Suerte Equine included three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, trainer of Derby 135 runner-up Pioneerof the Nile; winning jockey Calvin Borel; and Tom McCarthy, the owner-trainer of General Quarters the winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) and 10th to Mine That Bird in Saturday’s race.

There was also a live appearance by Woolley, Borel, Allen and Blach on NBC’s “Sunday Today” that included an appearance by the Kentucky Derby winner, as the horse stood behind the winning connections grazed in front of Barn 42 while wearing the winner’s saddle towel that bore the official Kentucky Derby 135 logo and the images of roses in the area that covered Mine That Bird’s withers.

Woolley, whose stable is based at New Mexico’s Sunland Park, said Mine That Bird was doing well after the race, and the gelding validated that assessment as he nibbled at the Churchill Downs grass and never turned a hair as a sizable crowd of reporters, videographers and well-wishers looked on.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Woolley.  “It’s actually a little bit hard to get your arms around right at the moment.  It’s hard to believe that you actually came in here and won this thing.”

The 45-year-old Woolley admitted to getting little more than an hour of sleep after the biggest win of his training career.  Allen, when asked about how the night of celebration had gone, said “It’s still going,” and drew a hearty laugh from media members present on the morning after America’s greatest race.

Woolley said it will be a while before a decision is made on a possible bid for the $1 million Preakness (GI), the second jewel of the Triple Crown that will be run at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course on May 16.

“We’ll decide that today or tomorrow,” Woolley said.  “Me and the owners will meet and have a little discussion.  It really wasn’t something that was on our radar, so we’ll decide on it.  We were looking to run the horse farther anyway, so we’ll just have to see what it brings today.

“You’ve got to do what’s best for the horse, and the horse comes first.  So we’ll just see what happens.”

Blach and Allen agreed that the condition of Mine That Bird would be the basis for the ultimate decision on a Preakness bid, but Allen was most enthusiastic about the notion.

“We’re going to let the horse tell us that,” he said.  “This horse is doing good and comes off this race good, you bet we’ll run, but he’s going to have to tell us.”

All three credited the patient, ground-saving ride by jockey Calvin Borel as being the key to the upset victory by the 50-1 shot, the second-largest upset in the 135-year history of the “Run for the Roses.”  Mine That Bird was last in the field of 19 on the first run through the stretch after being jostled shortly after leaving the starting gate.

“The one-run was definitely the plan and we had talked about being eight-to-10 (lengths) from the lead,” Woolley said.  “I had felt all along that’s where the horse needed to be, but we had just never gotten that trip.  When he got annihilated leaving there – this is a little horse, he’s not very big – and when he got banged around leaving there, we were really concerned right away about that.  I had told the press before that he couldn’t take a bunch of beating, so when he got shuffled that far back, I actually wasn’t too high on my chances when he came by me at the grandstand way last.  But the horse responded and Calvin done a super job of riding the horse.  So we’re just lucky to have been there.”

“It’s truly an honor to be a part of it, but I’m telling you guys that this horse never got nearly enough credit for his ability.  You earned your way here.  It’s not like we just paid him in here and brought him.  The horse earned his way here and he deserved a chance to run in the Derby.  He was doing super, the horse was training good and we just felt like he had earned his spot here and we had to come and take ‘em on.  He anted up, I’m telling you.  He’ll leave it on the track every time.”

Baffert, who spent more than a little time racing in New Mexico and at Sunland Park, dropped by the barn and said “Where’s that cowboy who beat me?”

After offering best wishes to Woolley, Allen and Blach, Borel arrived and receive a hearty handshake from Baffert, who told Borel that this weekend, which began with Borel’s 20 ¼-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks aboard Rachel Alexandra and reached its peak with his unlikely romp in the Kentucky Derby, had earned the Louisiana native a spot in racing’s Hall of Fame.

“He’s the only one who could have pulled that off,” Baffert said of Borel’s ride.  “What he did was just incredible.  He won that race.  He sat back there and I watched the replay – and he’s last at the three-eighths pole – you just don’t do that.  He weaved his way through there and everybody knows that the rail’s the place to be, but everybody gets off of it.  I think he deserves a lot of credit, but that guy that trained him (Woolley), he did a great job with this horse.  This horse was ready and he trained him, and even though he vanned him here an it was like “Casey’s Shadow,” they got here and they won the biggest race.”

PIONEEROF THE NILE (2nd) – Trainer Bob Baffert was noncommittal about a run in the Preakness for Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile.

“He looks good this morning, but I want to give him a couple of days and see how he comes out of it,” Baffert said.

The Zayat Stables color bearer had his four-race win streak snapped Saturday when he finished 6 ¾ lengths behind Mine That Bird.

“I saw Garrett (jockey Garrett Gomez) at the three-eighths pole and he was loaded and at the quarter pole he was still loaded,” Baffert said. “I didn’t see anything coming and I thought ‘Mine!’ Then that horse (Mine That Bird) went by me and I was like ‘What happened?’ My horse was battling with the others (Musket Man and Papa Clem) … it was a shocker.

“If he had won, I thought he had a shot at the Triple Crown. He can get the distance and he runs his race every time, Maybe the ‘Bird’ is for real.”

MUSKET MAN (3rd) – Eric Fein and Vic Carlson’s Musket Man was scheduled to leave for Monmouth Park on Sunday.

“We will give it a few days,” trainer Derek Ryan said about making a decision on the Preakness. “I am sure the owners are looking at it.”

Musket Man now has a career record of five wins and two thirds in seven starts and Ryan was happy with the colt’s effort Saturday.

“I can’t complain. He had the two hole and I wish he could have stayed there, but he got bumped out of there,” Ryan said. “The rail was golden.  You need the right kind of horse for a race like this. He has great temperament. He never schooled in the paddock and he might have been the best one in there. He’s got class and (Oaks winner) Rachel Alexandra, she never went to the paddock or gate.”

PAPA CLEM (4th) – Trainer Gary Stute said Sunday morning that Bo Hirsch’s Papa Clem would remain on the Triple Crown trail after his fourth-place finish Saturday behind Mine That Bird.

“With a little luck, I think he could have been second,” Stute said. “We will probably stay here a few days but we will go to Baltimore when there is a flight.  He may go back to the track here, but I want to get him to Pimlico and have a work over the track before the Preakness.”

Papa Clem was in a three-horse photo for second with Pioneerof the Nile and Musket Man, finishing a head in back of Musket Man after being bumped near the sixteenth pole by Pioneerof the Nile.

“I thought we might get put up,” said Stute, who noted Papa Clem came out of the race with “one little scratch.”

CHOCOLATE CANDY (5th) – Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was on a plane Sunday morning jetting back to California, but his right-hand man – Galen May – was keeping a watchful eye on his Kentucky Derby runner Chocolate Candy, who had finished fifth in the mile and a quarter run on a “sloppy” track Saturday.

“He was trying to bite me this morning, so you know he’s fine,” May noted.

The Candy Ride colt had taken his share of flying mud racing on the inside for most of the trip, a point both Hollendorfer and May said they thought affected the good-sized bay.

“It’s too bad he couldn’t have gotten clear to do some running,” May said, “but sometimes things work out that way.”

Chocolate Candy had gone off at odds of exactly 10-1 and had picked up a check for $60,000 for running fifth, beaten 13 lengths.

May said the horse had come back without any nicks or cuts and had no problem cleaning his feed tub Saturday night. He also noted that he was likely to head back to California shortly and train up to the Belmont Stakes on June 6.

“His breeding and style say he should like that mile and a half,” May said.

SUMMER BIRD (6th) – K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman’s Summer Bird was scheduled to ship Monday morning at 5 o’clock to Louisiana Downs, according to trainer Tim Ice.

“We have never thought about the Preakness; maybe the Belmont,” Ice said. “I have no interest at all in the Preakness because that track doesn’t suit his style of running.”

Ice said Summer Bird came out of the race in good order.

“He came back playing last night,” Ice said. “He galloped out second after the wire; the only one ahead of him was the other Birdstone (winner Mine That Bird).  I was happy with his race. It was only his fourth race and he can only improve. He got lots of experience yesterday. He beat some nice horses and it proved we were not totally out of our minds.”

JOIN IN THE DANCE (7th), DUNKIRK (11th), ADVICE (13th) – Trainer Todd Pletcher reported some minor wounds, but no major damage, to his heralded Kentucky Derby runner Dunkirk, while stating at the same time that his other two competitors – Advice and Join in the Dance – had come out of the eventful renewal none the worse for wear.

“Dunkirk took the worst of it,” the five-time Eclipse Award winner said. “He’s got his share of nicks and cuts and he also grabbed a quarter on his left hind (leg). I think someone had to do it to him during the running. Where it is, it isn’t likely he did it to himself.  He stumbled coming away from there, then he stumbled for several jumps just after they got running heading up the straight. Then he got caught in some of the jostling you always get in this race going through the stretch the first time. Add in the fact that that track was just what we didn’t want it to be – drying out and heavy – and it never allowed him to get a real grip on it. He just never got a chance to get in a rhythm.”

Dunkirk had gone off in Derby 135 at 5-1 and had finished 11th, beaten 19 lengths by 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird.

Pletcher said Dunkirk and his stablemate Take the Points would ship to his barn in New York at Belmont Park. Dunkirk’s next start was up in the air at the moment, but Take the Points, who was eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby but took a pass, would be prepared for a go in the May 16 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Both Advice and Join in the Dance returned to Barn 38 after their Derby adventures in good shape and both “would be staying in Kentucky for right now,” according to Pletcher.

Advice had gone off at 49-1 in the mile and a quarter race and had finished 13th, 21 lengths behind the winner. Join in the Dance had performed the best of the barn’s runners, setting the pace in the race into the stretch, then holding on to finish seventh, beaten just over 14 lengths, despite his 51-1 odds.

“Join in the Dance was still bouncing after the race,” the trainer said. “He’s such a high-energy horse and we were proud of how well he did yesterday. There’s a chance he could come back in the Preakness. I’ll have to talk to his owners and see what they want to do.”

Join in the Dance, a Sky Mesa colt, is owned by Jake Ballis, Reagan Swinbank and Orlando Magic pro basketball player Rashard Lewis.

REGAL RANSOM (8th), DESERT PARTY (14th) – Both of the Godolphin colts, Desert Party and Regal Ransom, were fine Sunday morning, said Henry Spiller, an assistant to trainer Rick Mettee.

The colts are scheduled to be shipped back to Belmont Park on Tuesday. They are not being pointed toward the Preakness.

Regal Ransom, winner of the UAE Derby in his final start before the Derby, attended the pace set by Join in the Dance in the opening mile of the race. The Distorted Humor colt, sent off at odds of 22-1, finished eighth, 14¾ lengths behind the winner, Mine That Bird.

Desert Party, who was bumped at the start, was forwardly placed, about three lengths behind the leaders, by jockey Ramon Dominguez for a mile. He dropped out of contention in the second turn and finished 14th.

WEST SIDE BERNIE (9th), ATOMIC RAIN (16th) – George and Lori Hall’s West Side Bernie and Atomic Rain were scheduled to return to Monmouth Park on Sunday after their Kentucky Derby efforts.

“They came out of the race fine,” Breen said. “We are going to regroup and see what happens, but we are not looking at anything in two weeks.”

GENERAL QUARTERS (10th) – Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy said that General Quarters came out of Derby 135 in good order, but with no plans to continue on to the Preakness.

“The only excuse I can find for him was that he was not getting over the ground good,” McCarthy said. “I think we will go ahead and regroup and see what direction to go in. The Northern Dancer (on June 13 at Churchill Downs) is a possibility.”

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) winner raced in midpack most of the way around in splitting the field.

“He got bumped coming out of the gate and pushed to the inside, which is where we didn’t want to be,” McCarthy said. “He just wasn’t striding out like he usually does and one thing I learned yesterday is that I will keep him off wet tracks.  He is better than what he showed yesterday.”

HOLD ME BACK (12th) -- Elliott Walden, vice president and racing manger for WinStar Farm, said Sunday that Hold Me Back was fine and would be given a break. Walden wasn’t sure whether the colt would stay with trainer Bill Mott or be sent to the farm during his hiatus.

“He’s good,” Walden said. “He scoped good and looks like he came out of it OK. We’re going to regroup and go from there. He’s had a pretty solid six weeks.”

Hold Me Back won the Lane’s End (Grade II) on March 21 and finished second to General Quarters in the Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) on April 11.

In the Derby, he was squeezed at the start and pinched back. Jockey Kent Desormeaux quickly rode him into contention – they were two lengths off the pace after a mile – but he could not sustain his run in the stretch and finished 12th, beaten 20 ½ lengths.

MR. HOT STUFF (15th) – Things were quiet Sunday morning at Barn 41 where the 15th-place Derby finisher Mr. Hot Stuff had spent an uneventful Saturday night following his little-impact journey in the 135th Run for the Roses.

“He’s fine,” reported groom Martin Rodriguez. “He was OK after the race; no cuts or bruises. He ate all his food last night."

Rodriguez also reported that the dark Tiznow colt would be headed back to his Southern California base “in the next day or two.”

Mr. Hot Stuff, who went off at 28-1, was steadied, bumped and squeezed back at the start and never managed to make much headway on the “sloppy” racing strip. He was beaten 23 lengths.

NOWHERE TO HIDE (17th) – The Nick Zito-trained Nowhere To Hide wasn’t feeling any negative effects on the morning after his 17th-place Kentucky Derby finish.

“He came back perfect,’’ assistant trainer Stacy Prior said. “The jockey said after the race that he was just spinning his wheels out there.”

FRIESAN FIRE (18th) – Cindy Jones, the wife and assistant of trainer Larry Jones, reported that their Louisiana Derby winner was feeling reasonably well Sunday morning, considering that the 7-2 beaten favorite had suffered cuts in his left front foot while getting bumped shortly after the start of the Kentucky Derby.

“He grabbed his quarter. He’s got a pretty good cut on his quarter,” Jones said of Friesan Fire, who faded to 18th after his troubled start. “Mentally, he’s fine. He’s got a few cuts and scrapes, but we’ll get him healed. He ate up. He’s walking very well this morning. He’s not pulling, but he’s walking well. He did clean up (his feed tub) this morning.”

Friesan Fire, who was squeezed on both sides after bumping with Papa Clem out of the gate, got back into the race under Gabriel Saez but was hindered by traffic.

“I couldn’t see it at all. Larry said he got hit hard at the start. You can’t see anything. Larry said he couldn’t find racing room and everywhere he went sort of closed up on him,” Jones said. “I think he and Gabe had enough before the race was over with.”

Jones said the groom Corey York summed up the mood at Barn 45 perfectly.

“He said, ‘We’re very disappointed this morning, but we’re not heartbroken like last year,’ ” said Jones, whose stable was devastated by the death of Eight Belles, who suffered a fatal breakdown while pulling up from a sensational runner-up finish behind Big Brown in last year’s Derby.

FLYING PRIVATE (19th) – The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Flying Private was reported to have come out of his last-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in good order Sunday morning.

“The horse came back fine,” assistant trainer Gary Neece said. “He’s no worse for the wear.”