Mine That Bird Near Return After Sharp Five Furlongs; Rachel Alexandra Has Easy Move, Now Prepares to Move

Jun 28, 2010 John Asher

MINE THAT BIRD ZIPS IN WORKOUT, COULD RACE THIS WEEKEND – Mine That Bird, upset winner of the 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), turned in a sharp five-furlong work on Monday at Churchill Downs in preparation for a possible return to racing at the historic track this weekend.

Jockey Calvin Borel was in the saddle as Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s 4-year-old Birdstone gelding zipped over a muddy track for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in a “bullet”:59.80, the fastest work of 26 at the distance.

Churchill Downs clockers caught Mine That Bird in fractional times of :12.20, :24.20, :36.20 and :47.80 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.60.  The track had been listed as sloppy earlier in the morning following overnight rains, but was drying out by the time Mine That Bird stepped on the one-mile oval at around 8:30 a.m. (all times EDT), just after the mid-session break for track maintenance.

“I told Calvin we needed to let him do it with no prompting today, just let him do it on his own,” Lukas said.  “I told him I’d like to see him finish up and if he’d get it in a minute to 1:01, that would be about right.  Once I turned him loose and I rode over by the rail to see how deep it was, I thought ‘If he does that, he’s going to be really going good’.  And then he goes 59-and-four.”

“He’s just blossomed out,” said Borel.  “How good is he?  I don’t know – but we’re going to find out.  I think he’s a good horse.  I don’t care what anybody says – he wasn’t a fluke.”

“I couldn’t be happier,” Lukas said.  “Every step has been right down the line.  I like the way that he’s changing – mentally and physically.  That’s the big thing.  We know he can run if everything’s right.  Physically, he’s so much stronger – he might be 150 pounds heavier than he was last year.  And mentally, he’s really getting good.”

Mine That Bird has not raced since a ninth-place run behind unbeaten Zenyatta in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) over Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface, but Lukas is ready to see the winner of Derby 135 wear one of his signature white bridles for the first time.  The closest opportunities for a return to racing come this weekend at Churchill Downs: a 1 1/16 mile allowance race on the main track at Churchill Downs on Saturday, July 3 and the $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) at a mile on turf on Sunday, July 4 – the closing day of the 42-day Spring Meet.

“We’d like to start him here,” Lukas said.  “I used that Firecracker as a back-up.  I know he’s never been on the turf.  I really don’t want to ship him.  I have the ($250,000)  Salvatore Mile (GIII on dirt on July 3) at Monmouth, but I’d like to just leave him in his own stall and try him.  If he gets beat, this first one is a means to an end.

“We’ll wait and see how the next two days look.  I have no reason to believe he won’t bounce back from this work.  He does every one of them so easy.  He has amazing efficiency of motion.  I’ve had some pretty good horses that I thought could get over the ground.  I don’t know if any of them got over it lighter than he does.”

Mine That Bird has failed to win in five races since his 50-1 shocker in the Kentucky Derby.  He finished a length behind eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness (GI) and finished third to eventual 2009 3-year-old champion Summer Bird after grabbing a clear lead in the homestretch in the Belmont Stakes (GI).  But he faltered in his final three starts of the year, finishing third in the West Virginia Derby (GII) at Mountaineer Park and sixth in the Goodwood (GI) at Santa Anita before his dull effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

His career record stands at 5-2-2 in 14 races with earnings of $2,196,581.

HORSE OF THE YEAR RACHEL ALEXANDRA CRUISES OVER WET FOOTING, PREPARES TO TRAVEL – Reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra completed a solid body of work during the spring and early summer at Churchill Downs with an easy five-furlong workout over sloppy footing on Monday at Churchill Downs.

Rachel Alexandra covered the distance under jockey and regular work partner Shaun Bridgmohan in 1:03 in her final major training before she travels north on Wednesday to summer at New York’s Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick, Rachel Alexandra worked over the wet track around 6:30 a.m. She covered the distance in fractional times of :12.80, :25.60, :38.40 and :50.60 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:17.

Trainer Steve Asmussen was pleased with the move and the said the sloppy track condition after overnight rains was no reason for concern as Rachel Alexandra stepped onto the one-mile main track for Monday’s training move.

“She handles it really well,” Asmussen said.  “She went good.  We’ve got travel plans this week and want everything to go smoothly.”

Asmussen had originally planned to ship Rachel Alexandra and most of his Churchill Downs division to Saratoga next week, but moved those plans up a week because of the heat wave that has settled over the Ohio Valley in recent weeks.

'It’s time,” said Asmussen.  “I’ll be very happy when she’s settled in there and we can get into our routine up there.”

Rachel Alexandra is coming off a 10 ½-length victory in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis (GII) at Churchill Downs on June 12, her first victory of 2010 following back-to-back upset losses in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds and the La Troienne (GII) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, April 30.  Her 12-4-0 record in 17 races includes earnings of $3,216,730.

WORK TAB (Track: SLOPPY before maintenance break, MUDDY after break) – Acoma, defending winner of the Locust Grove (GIII), breezed a half-mile in :49 over sloppy footing. … Macho Again, winner of the 2009 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) breezed four furlongs on a muddy track in :51.60. … Kensei breezed five furlongs in 1:02 on a sloppy track. … Friesan Fire breezed six furlongs in 1:14.80.                                                  

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