Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mine That Bird Flies Into Baltimore

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird arrived at Pimlico ahead of schedule May 12 with a Baltimore City Police escort at 6:44 p.m. after leaving Churchill Downs at 9:06.a.m.

“I called a friend on the way and said it’s the first time I’ve had the police leading me instead of chasing me,” quipped Woolley, who drove all the way in the Ford F-450 Lariat that towed the gleaming white van carrying his Kentucky Derby winner.

The Baltimore City Police met Mine That Bird, Woolley, and groom Charlie Figueroa at the intersection of Interstate 70 and the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), clearing the way for a non-stop finish to the trip that took less than 10 hours.

The New Mexico-based trainer, who saddled Mine That Bird for a stunning 50-1 upset by nearly seven lengths in the Run for the Roses May 2, reported that the van ride when “as smooth as silk” for the son of Birdstone, who will return to action in Saturday’s 134th running of the Preakness Stakes.

“He was calm all the way; ate his feed, cleaned up good; drank all his water,” said Woolley, a first-time visitor to Maryland.

The 45-year-old trainer allowed Mine That Bird to pose for photographers and cameramen for 15 minutes outside the Pimlico Stakes Barn only minutes after arriving. The Kentucky-bred horse stood calmly, unfazed by the frantic chorus of clicking camera shutters. Woolley seemed as relaxed as his colt just 10 days after running off with the Derby and four days before an attempt to add the Preakness on his unlikely Triple Crown campaign.

“I’m having a lot of fun now,” Woolley said. “It took a little while after the Derby to sink in, but now I’m starting to really enjoy it.”

Mine That Bird will bedded down in Stall 40, the traditional stall reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner in the Preakness Stakes Barn.

General Quarters had an eventful journey that began at 5 a.m. from Churchill Downs and concluded an hour past schedule at 4:45 p.m. due to his van’s involvement in a minor traffic accident near Pimlico. Van driver Maurice Poe missed the stable gate and was heading for the entrance to Interstate 83 when his van was clipped on the driver’s side by another vehicle as he attempted to find his way back to Pimlico. Fortunately, Poe, groom Billy Bass, General Quarters, and another unidentified Thoroughbred passenger were uninjured.

“He’s fine,” said owner/trainer Tom McCarthy, who left the track to investigate. “I think I’m more upset than he is. There was hardly any damage to the van.”

“It was pretty scary,” Bass said. “But he held all right. It didn’t throw him around, just the feed.”

The D. Wayne Lukas-trained duo of Flying Private and Luv Gov arrived at Pimlico 40 minutes later following a less stressful van ride from Churchill Downs.

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