Looking full in Baltimore
By Jay Privman / Barbara D. Livingston - Daily Racing Form
Mine That Bird, cooling off after his 50-1 Kentucky Derby stunner, now
moves on to Pimlico.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. 5/4/2009- As friendships go, the one between Bennie Woolley
Jr., the trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and Mark
Allen, one of Mine That Bird's co-owners, started in a most unusual
"We were in a bar and I started a fight and he helped me out," Allen said.
"We wound up on top," Allen said. "But it took us a while."
Those two, along with co-owner Leonard Blach, now find themselves atop
the sport with their small gelding, who shocked the racing world on
Saturday with his 50-1 upset at Churchill Downs. Heretofore virtually
unknown, the three men will now get all the glory, and scrutiny, that
comes from such prominence.
Their next stop is Pimlico Race Course, for the second leg of the
Triple Crown, the $1 million Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on May
16. Woolley on Monday said that Mine That Bird would run in the
Preakness, whose probable field swelled because of the improbable
Mine That Bird, who paid $103.20 and keyed a $2,074.80 exacta, was the
second-longest priced winner in Derby history. He was so lightly
regarded that he was part of the mutuel field in all three legs of the
Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which returned $5.80 for pool 1, $11.80
for pool 2, and $36.80 for pool 3. The Derby future exacta, offered
for the first time this year in pools 2 and 3, paid off to those who
had the mutuel field over runner-up Pioneerof the Nile. The exacta
paid $256.80 for poolo2 and $554.60 for pool 3.
The original plan for Mine That Bird, Woolley said here Sunday, was to
run in the Derby, then move on to the Belmont Stakes, the last and, at
1 1/2 miles, longest of the Triple Crown races. But plans changed once
Mine That Bird charged from last to first under jockey Calvin Borel to
win the Derby by 6 3/4 lengths, earning a career-best Beyer Speed
Figure of 105. He will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner
since Affirmed in 1978.
"It is good for the sport," Woolley said. "You cannot have a Triple
Crown winner without having the Derby winner in the Preakness. That
played into our decision, but the horse looks super."
Mine That Bird was doing so well on Monday that he went to the track
at Churchill Downs and jogged one mile.
Mine That Bird will be sent by van from Churchill Downs to Pimlico
next Monday or Tuesday, said Woolley, who has never run a horse at
Pimlico. The gelding will not have a workout between the Derby and
Preakness. Mine That Bird has been logging plenty of road miles. He
arrived at Churchill after a 21-hour van ride from Sunland Park in New
Borel had a glorious weekend. He also won the Kentucky Oaks on Friday
with Rachel Alexandra, who got a Beyer Speed Figure of 108. But
whereas the Oaks was a stroll, in the Derby Borel had to navigate his
way from far back, and then through a tight opening at midstretch when
squeezing between Join in the Dance and the rail.
"There wasn't any room in there," Chris Decarlo, who rode Join in the
Dance, said in admiration of Borel's derring-do. "My horse got tired
and started to drift to the right. He was able to get his horse's head
and shoulder in there and nudge my horse out of the way. I wouldn't
have gone through there. If my horse takes a step to the left, it's a
No controversy there, but there was scrutiny involving Allen. Allen is
the son of Bill Allen, the founder of VECO Corp., an oil-services
company based in Alaska and a key figure in last year's political
corruption trial of longtime Alaska Senator, Ted Stevens. According to
reports, as part of the trial - which has since been thrown out
because of prosecutorial misconduct - Bill Allen pleaded guilty in
2007 to bribing Alaska politicians, and as part of the his plea, he
won immunity for his family members, including Mark Allen. Bill Allen
has yet to be sentenced in the trial.
According to published reports, the conviction against Stevens was
thrown out in part because of questions regarding Bill Allen's
testimony in the case. In the 2008 trial, Allen said that he had paid
for improvements to a ski chalet owned by Stevens, and that Stevens
had not reimbursed him for the renovations.
As of Monday, the only Derby runner who was confirmed to challenge
Mine That Bird in the Preakness was Papa Clem, who finished fourth.
But there were a number of other Derby runners who were under
consideration, and several newcomers to the Triple Crown trail were
either committed to the race, or possible. The field on Monday
numbered 15, one more than the maximum allowed in the Preakness.
Pioneerof the Nile, who was second in the Derby, and Musket Man, who
was third, are possible for the race. So too are Join in the Dance,
who finished seventh, and General Quarters, who was 10th.
The most prominent newcomer for the Preakness is the speedy Big Drama,
who trainer David Fawkes confirmed would run after he worked six
furlongs in 1:14.03 on Monday at Calder.
"He worked phenomenal," Fawkes said. "He wasn't even blowing. As of
now we're heading to the Preakness. He'll train here at Calder on
Tuesday and then van to Pimlico. He'll have one work at Pimlico,
probably on Monday."
Fawkes said he is confident Big Drama can handle 1 3/16 miles despite
having just one seven-furlong race under his belt at 3. Big Drama
finished first, but then was placed second via disqualification, in
the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream 5 1/2 weeks ago.
"He's training well, he always runs well fresh, and he's always done
whatever we've asked him to do," Fawkes said. "My biggest question
marks about the Preakness is who will be there and how the race sets
up. I think he'll handle the distance just fine."
Eibar Coa, Big Drama's regular rider, was aboard for Monday's work.
Coa rode Musket Man to a third-place finish in the Derby. Musket Man's
status for the Preakness could affect where Coa ends up.
Also confirmed to the Preakness on Monday was Hull, the undefeated
winner of the Derby Trial. The Preakness will be his first start
around two turns.
Terrain, who was fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes in his last start, is
"under consideration" for the Preakness, trainer Al Stall Jr. said
Monday. Stall said he had to decide by Wednesday morning, when a plane
departs with Kentucky-based horses running in this Saturday's Lone
Star Derby near Dallas.
Todd Pletcher, who trains Join in the Dance, has been pointing Take
the Points to the Preakness since a decision was made last week to
skip the Derby.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said both Charitable Man and Mr. Fantasy
were being "strongly considered" for the Preakness.
Mr. Fantasy won the Withers Stakes in his last start. Charitable Man
was seventh in the Blue Grass in his lone start this year.
McLaughlin planned to have a conference call on Tuesday with the
owners of Mr. Fantasy, which include the West Point Thoroughbreds
headed by Terry Finley. One of McLaughlin's concerns regarding Mr.
Fantasy is the colt's temperament. He was hard to saddle before the
Withers as well as the Gotham, in which he finished third.