Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mine That Bird enjoys rejuvenation

Jay Privman,
Daily Racing Form

ARCADIA, Calif. - A few weeks in California, and look how well Mine That Bird and Chip Woolley are moving. Mine That Bird, the Kentucky Derby winner, has progressed since running sixth in the Goodwood Stakes last month, and completed his preparation for Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic with a five-furlong work at Santa Anita on Monday morning that had Woolley beaming.

"He really looked smooth," Woolley said.

Woolley himself is moving a lot better, too. He has finally been able to ditch those ever-present crutches, made necessary by the horrible motorcycle accident that left him with a badly broken leg earlier this year. The black cowboy hat is still affixed, but without the crutches, Woolley has lost part of the signature look he has had since he became an overnight sensation on the first Saturday in May.

Woolley is hoping another 1 1/4-mile race, on the first Saturday in November, proves just as satisfying.

"He's really improved," Woolley said. "No doubt about it, he's progressed a lot since he's been out here. He was a little flat going into the Goodwood. He did a lot of traveling. He was at such a peak for the Travers, and he didn't get to run, which was detrimental, and then he really dropped off. But three or four days after the Goodwood, he started to bloom."

The Classic will be the 14th, last, and richest Breeders' Cup race to be run at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Friday and Saturday. Final entries for those races were to be submitted, and post positions drawn, on Tuesday.

This marks the fifth time Santa Anita has played host to the Breeders' Cup. It also marks the first time the Breeders' Cup has been held at the same site in consecutive years.

From a weather standpoint, conditions figure to be spectacular. It was a stunning morning at Santa Anita on Monday, with absolutely no haze to block a magnificent view of the San Gabriel Mountains, and a training-time temperature of about 60 degrees. Out of town horsemen and visitors were marveling at the scene. According to Weather.com, the high temperature each day through Friday here will be in the low to mid-80s, then dip to an ideal 78 on Saturday. The chance of rain is zero percent.

Mine That Bird was a 50-1 outsider in the Derby, and while he won't be quite that high a price on Saturday, he likely will be a longshot. Mine That Bird has not won a race since the Derby, and this Classic is particularly deep, with the likes of Colonel John, Einstein, Gio Ponti, Girolamo, Quality Road, Regal Ransom, Richard's Kid, Rip Van Winkle, Summer Bird, and, of course, the unbeaten mare Zenyatta all scheduled to participate.

Mine That Bird was timed by Daily Racing Form in 1:01.49 Monday with jockey Joe Talamo aboard. Calvin Borel has the mount on Saturday.

Woolley said Mine That Bird will need a strong pace, like he had in the Derby, to have his best chance in the Classic. The likelihood of a legitimate pace increased on Monday, when Godolphin Racing decided to run both Girolamo and Regal Ransom in the Classic. Those colts had been pre-entered in both the Classic and the Dirt Mile. The Classic was their first preference, and Godolphin stuck with it. Godolphin has both Midshipman and Pyro for the Dirt Mile.

According to Rick Mettee, the North American-based assistant to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor, both Girolamo and Regal Ransom trained well enough over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface to warrant taking a shot in the Classic.

"We couldn't eliminate either one based on works," Mettee said. "The intention with both of them is if they run well in this race you could justify taking them over to Meydan and point for the Dubai World Cup."

Meydan, the new track in Dubai, will utilize the synthetic Tapeta surface. The old track in Dubai, Nad Al Sheba, had dirt.

Girolamo has never raced on a synthetic surface, beyond one mile, or around two turns. He is 3 for 3 this year, and enters the race off a victory in the Grade 2 Jerome, a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.

"Girolamo has a lot to overcome," Mettee said. "Two turns, synthetic, and a mile and a quarter for the first time."

Regal Ransom comes off a gate-to-wire victory in the Super Derby. He was eighth in the Kentucky Derby in his only try at 1 1/4 miles.

Regardless of how Mine That Bird does on Saturday, Woolley said he will get a well-deserved rest.

"He'll be turned out in New Mexico," Woolley said. "He's been up all year. He needs a little rest, 45 to 60 days off. Then we'll see what to do in the spring."

Two other Classic runners - Colonel John and Richard's Kid - also completed their preparations on Monday morning.

Colonel John, with exercise rider Yuttah Lang aboard, covered five furlongs in 59.22 seconds for trainer Eoin Harty. He was second in the Goodwood in his last start.

"He worked really well," Harty said. "He worked like he normally does."

Richard's Kid, third in the Goodwood last time out after scoring an upset win in Del Mar's Pacific Classic, was timed by Daily Racing Form working five furlongs in 1:01.11 with ex-jockey Joe Steiner aboard.

"He went nice," trainer Bob Baffert said. "He finished up on his own. I think he's a lot better now than he was for the Pacific Classic. His last race, I didn't do a lot with him because he ran so hard in the Pacific Classic. But it's a tough race. You need a lot of luck."

Twice Over, who arrived over the weekend from Europe, got out of quarantine and went to the track for the first time, and merely walked Monday morning.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch

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