That signaled the trip was not business as usual – no two-mile gallop under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.
“Are you working?” Woolley was asked upon arrival at a viewing stand.
“No. I’m just going to let him stretch his legs for a half-mile and let him finish the last eighth with Calvin (Borel) on him,” Woolley said.
As Mine That Bird back-tracked to the paddock runway, Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile appeared on the scene heading in the same direction.
“Are they going to work together?” one onlooker queried.
“They better not be,” Woolley said with a laugh.
Soon after, Mine That Bird came into view and went about his business, which was duly recorded as a half-mile work in :49.20 with fractions of :12.80, :25.20, :37 and out five-eighths in 1:02.80. The move ranked as the 17th fastest of 48 at the distance.
“That was no work for him,” Woolley said. “He didn’t flare a nostril coming back. Calvin did a great job.”
Woolley had intended to jog Mine That Bird in the morning before leaving for Pimlico.
“This way, I’ll be able to walk tomorrow and then get back on the track Wednesday at Pimlico,” Woolley said. “I would have possibly missed a day, so it worked better this way to do what we did.”
Borel, who won his second Kentucky Derby aboard Mine That Bird, would ride Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) winner Rachel Alexandra if she runs in the Preakness, leaving Woolley without a rider.
“Calvin has first call,” Woolley said. “Mike Smith has agreed to be the backup and he will be there to ride him (if Rachel Alexandra runs).”
Smith, who rode Chocolate Candy to a fifth-place finish behind Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby, won the 1993 Preakness on Derby runner-up Prairie Bayou.
Woolley said he hopes to have everything loaded and ready to go for a 9 a.m. departure Tuesday for Pimlico.
Mark Allen, who along with Dr. Leonard Blach owns Mine That Bird in the partnership of Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine, said that Indy Express, who he owns as part of Fourteen Enterprises, would remain at Churchill Downs and point for a race Friday.
Trained by Joe Merrick, Indy Express had been considered as a possible Preakness starter by Allen, who nixed the idea Sunday night. Indy Express, a well-bred son of A.P. Indy, is winless in nine starts. Indy Express worked five furlongs in 1:02 under Joe Johnson about the same time Mine That Bird went through his paces.
PIONEEROF THE NILE ZIPS, BAFFERT LOOKS FORWARD TO PREAKNESS AND MEETING WITH RACHEL ALEXANDRA – Zayat Stables LLC’s Pioneerof the Nile, runner-up in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and winner of the Santa Anita Derby (GI), was sharp in his final major training move for Saturday’s Preakness (GI) as he worked four furlongs in :47.60 on Monday at Churchill Downs.
Joe Steiner was aboard for the move, which was the fourth-fastest of 48 at the distance. The 3-year-old son of Empire Maker covered the distance over a “fast” track in fractions of :12.20, :24.20 and :36.20, then galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.20 and six furlongs in 1:14.40. The clocking of Pioneerof the Nile’s gallop-out for five furlongs would have tied as the fastest work of the day at that distance.
Trainer Bob Baffert, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and four-time Preakness winner, watched the work from the Churchill Downs clubhouse with Zayat Stables owner Ahmed Zayat
“I liked what I saw,” Baffert said. “He bounced out of that race well. He was full of himself and he really wanted to work…He looked great. I look for him to come back and run another big race.”
Baffert said he is looking forward to saddling Pioneerof the Nile for a rematch with longshot Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and a first meeting with Rachel Alexandra, the brilliant Kentucky Oaks (GI)-winning filly who is expected to be made a supplemental entry to the 1 3/16-mile second jewel of the Triple Crown.
“I think it’s going to be a really exciting race,” Baffert said. “She’s a great filly, but I think we have a great horse. There’s some other horses in there that are pretty good – Musket Man, Papa Clem and the Derby winner.
“There are going to be a lot of questions answered in the Preakness and that’s what it’s all about. We’ll just see what happens, but we looked great today. I really liked what I saw.”
Baffert downplayed Sunday’s controversy over the prospect that some owners, including Zayat, might enter other horses in the Preakness in an effort to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the race.
“That’s no issue – that was something that was just being mulled around and never really got any legs,” he said. “I think it stems from Calvin Borel – I’ve never seen a jockey take-off a Derby winner. So that’s where it all started. But it’s dead – it’s a dead issue, so we won’t even talk about it.”
Baffert does have experience running a high quality filly against colts in the spring classics. He saddled Golden Eagle Farm’s Excellent Meeting for a fifth-place finish behind Charismatic in the 1999 Kentucky Derby, and then sent out Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Silverbulletday in that year’s Belmont Stakes (GI). Silverbulletday will joint racing’s Hall of Fame this year with her trainer, but she faltered in the homestretch of that running of the Belmont Stakes to finish seventh behind the victorious Lemon Drop Kid.
“I was mad at myself for doing that,” Baffert said of Silverbulletday’s classic run against colts. “It just takes a lot out of them. The classics are so tempting. That’s probably why they (former owner Dolphus Morrison and trainer Hal Wiggins) never nominated Rachel Alexandra.”
But Baffert said the talented Rachel Alexandra could have some advantages against males that could set her apart.
“With her style of running she probably has a better chance because she’s out there away from the action,” he said. “If she was a come-from-behind type, it’s harder on them. I think the Belmont would probably suit her. She’d get out there with that long stride and cruise around there. But it (Rachel Alexandra’s presence in the Preakness) brings a lot to the race. It’s gonna be exciting, it’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be just as big as the Derby, having a great filly like that run with these colts. You’ve got the Derby winner and you’ve got all these horses, so it’s gonna be a big field – but you still need a lot of luck. But I’m really excited about it and it’s gonna be a great day for racing.
“Now that we can’t go for the Triple Crown, we’re running for glory now and that’s what it’s all about. There’s no shame in running second in the Derby, but there’s no glory. Now we get a chance to redeem ourselves.”
GENERAL QUARTERS WORKS EASY HALF-MILE – Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy was looking for something in the 50- to 51-second range for a half-mile from General Quarters on Monday morning and he wasn’t sure he got it.
“I’ll say 52,” McCarthy said. “He started off a little slow.”
“Fifty and one (fifth),” came the report.
“Perfect. Looks like he finished up better than he started,” McCarthy said. “That was just enough to put him on the van and go on over (to Pimlico).”
Clockers caught General Quarters in splits of :12.60, :25, :37.40 and out in 1:04.60 under exercise rider Justin Court in the move accomplished before the 8 a.m. renovation break. The move was the 28th best of 48 at the distance.
“It was the first time I had worked the horse and I was impressed with him,” Court said. “I had a lot of horse and I think he will do well over there.”
General Quarters, the 10th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to leave Churchill Downs on Tuesday before training hours begin at 6 a.m.
FLYING PRIVATE WORKS IN COMPANY FOR PREAKNESS – Robert Baker and William Mack’s Flying Private tuned up for his expected engagement in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes by working a half-mile in :48.20 in company with stablemate Sea Admiral after the renovation break Monday morning.
With jockey Jamie Theriot aboard, Flying Private clicked off fractions of :12.80, :24.80 and :36.20 en route to the :48.20 clocking that was the ninth best of 48 at the distance. Flying Private left his workmate seven lengths behind at the wire.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he was satisfied with the move and that Flying Private and four other horses from his barn would leave for Pimlico at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.
Alan Garcia has the Preakness mount on Flying Private, who finished 19th in the Kentucky Derby.
EASY MORNING FOR SUNDAY PREAKNESS WORKERS – The three Preakness possibles who worked Sunday morning at Churchill Downs remained in the barn Monday morning.
Terrain, who worked five furlongs in 1:02.60, is scheduled to return to the track in the morning as is Hull, who worked five-eighths in a bullet :59.40. Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra had worked a half-mile in :48.40.
BARN TALK – Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma returned to the work tab Monday morning, covering a half-mile in :50.40 over a “fast” track before the renovation break.
“It was her first work back since the Apple Blossom,” trainer David Carroll said in reference to Grade I race on April 4 race at Oaklawn Park in which Acoma finished third. “She has been training well, but I was just waiting for a fast track to work.”
Acoma is being pointed to the June 6 Early Times Mint Julep (Grade III) to be run at a mile and a sixteenth on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Also targeting that race is three-time Churchill Downs stakes winner Pure Clan, who would be making her 2009 debut.
With two days before entries are taken for Saturday’s eighth running of the $100,000-added Matt Winn, five 3-year-olds are considered as “probable” for the seven-furlong sprint.
Topping Racing Secretary Ben Huffman’s list of probables is Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s three-time graded stakes winner Capt. Candyman Can. Other probables include the undefeated Cash Refund, Conchacer, Loch Dubh, who ran sixth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I), and either Lyin’ Heart or Nuclear Wayne from the Steve Asmussen barn. Considered as “possible” is Dream of Kaylee.
Capt. Candyman Can tuned up for his likely Matt Winn start by working five furlongs Monday morning in 1:00.60, second fastest of 19 at the distance.
Sunday’s victory in the ninth race by Bold Start gave trainer Ken McPeek has 998th career victory. McPeek has two horses entered Wednesday, Marathon Moon in the sixth and Glittermans Cartel in the seventh and two on Thursday, Reagan’s Wildcat in the second and Mimi’s Kids in the fourth.
Julien Leparoux rode three winners Sunday to increase his career total to 999. Leparoux has seven mounts on Wednesday.
Tom Amoss, bidding to become the ninth trainer to record 300 victories at Churchill Downs, enters Wednesday’s card with 299 to his credit. Amoss has one entrant Wednesday, Belend in the fourth, and three on Thursday: Tenkiller Lake in the third, McGlamery Road in the fifth and Becky’s Express in the seventh.