WOOLLEY CHARTS COURSE FOR MINE THAT BIRD: WEST VIRGINIA DERBY AND TRAVERS – Trainer Chip Woolley said Friday morning that the West Virginia Derby (Grade II) at Mountaineer Park would be the next start for Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird.
“The West Virginia Derby fits our schedule the best and that’s the main thing,” Woolley said. “From there we will go to the Travers with the ultimate goal being the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”
The $750,000-guaranteed West Virginia Derby will be run at 1 1/8 miles at Mountaineer on Aug. 1. The $1 million Shadwell Travers (Grade I) will be run at 1 ¼ miles on Aug. 29 at Saratoga.
After the Travers, the route to the Breeders’ Cup to be run Nov. 7 at Santa Anita remains uncharted.
“The Breeders’ Cup is 10 weeks after the Travers,” Woolley said. “He does not need an out on the Pro-Ride. He has been on the artificial and he won four in a row over the synthetic last year at Woodbine. I’d like to fly him in there two or three weeks before and have two breezes over the track, but we can sneak a race in there if we need it.”
Owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine, Mine That Bird walked the shedrow at Barn 42 on Friday, a day after he returned to the track for the first time since his third-place finish to Summer Bird in last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes (GI).
“I may jog him Saturday rather than wait until Sunday because he is so fresh,” Woolley said. “I’d rather have him like that than the other way. I may go every other day, because I don’t want him to hurt himself.”
Woolley had planned to track Mine That Bird one day and then walk two. He said that Mine That Bird would resume full training next Sunday.
“That way he would have had two full weeks off,” Woolley said. “We may stay here all the way (before the West Virginia Derby) and then go straight up to Saratoga.”
Woolley, who has been on crutches since tearing his right leg up in a motorcycle accident this winter, was able to put a shoe on his right foot Thursday.
“First time I have done that in three months and three weeks since Feb. 22,” Woolley said. “The doctor said I can put 20 to 40 pounds off pressure on it and it feels good to be able to walk a little on it.”
RESEARCHER BEATS THE RAIN IN FIRST DASH AT THE DOWNS – Rutledge Farm’s Researcher beat the rain Thursday upon arriving at Churchill Downs. Now, the question is can he beat seven other rivals in Saturday’s 28th running of the $660,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I).
“We had just unloaded him at the barn at six o’clock when the rain started,” trainer Jeff Runco said. “We didn’t hit any rain at all coming in.”
Listed as the co-third choice at 4-1 on the morning line for the Foster, Researcher shipped in from his home base at Charles Town (W.Va.) for his first venture into Kentucky. Researcher will break from post position five under Calvin Borel, who won the 2006 Stephen Foster aboard longshot Seek Gold.
The Foster will be Researcher’s first start since he won the Charles Town Classic at 1 1/8 miles on April 18 in which he defeated $1.9 million earner Commentator and eight others. Runco would have preferred a race for Researcher between the Classic and the Foster, but couldn’t find the right spot for the 5-year-old Virginia-bred gelding.
“There was no race that would fit and then come back here in a timely fashion,” Runco said of Researcher, who has compiled a career record of 17-10-3-2 for earnings of $676,809. He shipped to New York to win last fall’s Queens County (GII) at Aqueduct.
Runco, who rode at Churchill Downs but never has saddled a starter as a trainer, explained Researcher’s only off-the-board finishes.
“The day he ran eighth in his third start, a horse bumped him and he hit the rail and came back with a nasty cut,” Runco said. “In the Stymie (in which Researcher was fifth), he was picking up nine pounds off a layoff and he had to steady two or three times and just flattened out.”
Researcher has a record of 8-4-3-0 at the Foster distance of 1 1/8 miles. Although he dodged Thursday’s rain, Runco would not mind seeing some more showers Saturday.
“He likes the mud,” Runco said. “Two races back when he won by 22, he broke the track record.”
MACHO AGAIN INDICATES HE COULD BE FOSTER FACTOR – After West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again won last year’s Derby Trail, trainer Dallas Stewart told one and all that the colt was sitting on a big effort going into the Preakness (GI).
Macho Again then ran second to Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown in the second jewel of the Triple Crown, one of the highlights in a year that produced three victories and two seconds from 10 starts and earnings of $731,427.
Fast forward a year to Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap at 1 1/8 miles and there is Macho Again, sitting with two bullet works in his holster.
“When he is on top of his game, he will show you,” Stewart said. “He has been doing great since the Alysheba and his last two works have been exceptional.”
A 4-year-old son of Macho Uno, Macho Again has a 4-2-1-0 record at Churchill Downs with his only off-the-board finish coming in the Grade III Alysheba on May 1, when he finished sixth, beaten 4 ¼ lengths by Stephen Foster rival Bullsbay.
“There was no pace in the race (:48.60 for a half and 1:13.40 for three-quarters), plus it was a mile and a sixteenth,” Stewart said. “He’s better at a mile and an eighth.”
Macho Again, who won the New Orleans Handicap (GII) earlier this year, will break from post position under Robby Albarado and will carry 117 pounds.
“We’re getting 7 pounds from Einstein,” Stewart said, referring to the likely race favorite and starting high weight. “He’s going to be tough and he’s been looking real good galloping.”
BEAUTICIAN MAY BE FOLLOWING IN BIG HOOFPRINTS – A couple of weeks ago, trainer Ken McPeek called Take Charge Lady “probably my favorite horse that I’ve had.”
A possible successor to the “Lady” may have been unveiled at Churchill Downs last Friday when Beautician won at first asking in taking a 5 ½-furlong race by 2 lengths in 1:04.71, one of the fastest times of the meet for the distance.
“She could be any kind of horse,” McPeek said, adding that Beautician could show up in the Debutante (Grade III), a six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies on June 27.
Take Charge Lady, who posted a career record of 22-11-7-0 with earnings of $2,480,377, is a daughter of Dehere out of the Rubiano mare Felicita. Beautician is also a daughter of Dehere out of the Rubiano mare Caroni.
“I picked them both out at Keeneland sales,” said McPeek, who got Take Charge Lady for $175,000 and Beautician for $110,000. “I had that (the breeding) in mind when I got her (Beautician). The two have a lot of the same qualities other than the coloring.”
Take Charge Lady, who was owned by Select Stable, is a bay and Beautician, owned by Peter Callahan, is a gray/roan.
The runner-up as the favorite to eventual 3-year-old filly champion Farda Amiga in the 2003 Kentucky Oaks, Take Charge Lady’s wins included Keeneland’s Ashland (GI) and Spinster (GI), and won the latter twice. She also won the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and Alcibiades (GII), and scored Grade III wins in the Dogwood, Silverbulletday, and. Arlington Matron.
MILESTONE WATCH – Greg Foley moved closer to the 300-win mark at Churchill Downs on Thursday when he bookended the card with Gerivello in the opener and Speak of Kings in the nightcap. Foley, now with 297 Churchill Downs victories, is third in the trainer standings with 12 victories this spring, He has one horse entered Friday: Valentine Fever in the fourth.
Trainer David Vance, who has sent out 299 winners at Churchill Downs, is represented by Citizen John in Friday’s seventh race as he bids to become the 11th conditioner with 300 victories at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Bill Connelly, who has saddled 998 winners in his career, has two horses entered in Friday’s sixth race: Button Dancer and Princesa Marin.
Jockey Calvin Borel, whose two victories Thursday gave him 924 winners in his career at Churchill Downs, is named on eight mounts Friday. He needs one victory to equal Don Brumfield’s total of 925 for second all time at Churchill Downs behind Pat Day (2,482).
WORK TAB – Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain, working toward the Iowa Derby on June 26 at Prairie Meadows, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 over a track labeled as “good” on Friday morning. The move was the sixth fastest of 27 at the distance.