Mine That Bird Returns, Makes Turf Debut In Sunday's Closing Day Firecracker Handicap

Jul 01, 2010 Gary Yunt

Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s Mine That Bird, winner of the 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), will race for the first time in 2010 and make his career debut on the grass in Sunday’s 20th running of the $175,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII) Presented by Thorntons.

Calvin Borel, who guided Mine That Bird to his 50-1 Kentucky Derby shocker last spring, will be aboard Sunday when the 4-year-old gelding makes his turf debut from post position two under high weight of 122 pounds.  Mine That Bird faces 13 foes in the 10th race (approximate post time 5:26 p.m., EDT) on the 11-race program. First post time Sunday’s program that wraps up the 42-day Spring Meet is 12:45 p.m.

Now trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Mine That Bird has not started since finishing ninth to the unbeaten Zenyatta in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.

Mine That Bird, who would become the first Kentucky Derby winner to race at Churchill Downs since 2005 Derby winner Giacomo ran fourth in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), was made the 3-1 morning line favorite by Churchill Downs linemaker Mike Battaglia.

After the Breeders’ Cup last fall, Mine That Bird returned to co-owner Mark Allen’s Double Eagle Ranch in Roswell, N.M. Mine That Bird began galloping on the track at the ranch in March and arrived at Churchill Downs on May 20. Mine That Bird has had six works at Churchill Downs, the past three all bullets including a :59.80, five-furlong drill on Monday.

Mine That Bird’s will bid to snap a five-race losing streak in the Firecracker.  He followed his Kentucky Derby victory with a strong runner-up finish to Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner and eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness (GI) and a third-place run behind eventual 3-year-old champion Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes (GI).  But he tailed off later in the year as he finished third as a heavy favorite in the West Virginia Derby (GII) at Mountaineer and then finished sixth to Gitano Hernando in the Goodwood (GI) at Santa Anita before his dull run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

A run in the Firecracker would make Mine That Bird the first Kentucky Derby winner to compete on Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course. A victory in his comeback race would make Mine That Bird the first Kentucky Derby winner to return to Churchill Downs and win since Silver Charm.  The Bob Baffert-trained 1997 Derby winner took the 1998 Clark Handicap (GII) beneath the Twin Spires after runner-up finishes to Awesome Again in that year’s renewals of both the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The task of returning to the winner’s circle in the Firecracker will not be easy for Mine That Bird as he faces a field of accomplished turf runners that includes a trio that has prospered over the Matt Winn Turf Course.

Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu, the second starting high weight at 119 pounds and 4-1 on the morning line, won the Opening Verse overnight stake here on June 11 and two years ago won the American Turf (GIII) and Jefferson Cup (GII). Trained by Greg Fox, Tizdejavu will be ridden by Jesus Castanon and break from post position four.

Don Benge’s Wise River owns the Matt Winn Turf Course record for 1 1/16 miles of 1:39.83 and comes into the Firecracker off a victory in the Dallas Turf Cup Handicap at Lone Star Park on May 31. Wise River, who will be ridden by Francisco Torres, will carry 118 pounds and break from post position 13.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Inca King, second in last year’s Firecracker to Mr. Sidney, enters this year’s race on a five-race win streak. Inca King, who will carry 117 pounds, has a record of 6-1-1 in nine races on the Matt Winn Turf Course that includes a victory in the 2007 Jefferson Cup and two other stakes victories. Victor Lebron will ride Inca King, who breaks from post position nine.

The field for the Firecracker Handicap Presented by Thorntons, from the rail out, is as follows with morning line odds: Driving Snow (GB) (Freddie Lenclud, 115 pounds, 20-1), Mine That Bird (Borel, 122, 3-1), Attempted Humor (Corey Lanerie, 117, 8-1), Tizdejavu (Castanon, 119, 4-1), Unbridle’s Dream (Shaun Bridgmohan, 115, 20-1), Tybalt (Corey Nakatani, 116, 15-1), Public Speaker (Robby Albarado, 117, 8-1), Veiled Prophet (Leandro Goncalves, 114, 30-1), Inca King (Lebron, 117, 6-1), Pop Tarrt (Sal Gonzalez Jr., 114, 50-1), Euroears (Jamie Theriot, 115, 6-1), Skipadate (Alex Solis, 114, 15-1), Wise River (Torres, 118, 15-1) and Orthodox (Jon Court, 114, 20-1). Also eligible: Baryshnikov (Rex Stokes III, 113, 20-1).

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