Preakness Stakes Profile: Mine That Bird
by Trevor Whenham - 05/06/2009
Mine That Bird History and Racing Profile
Last race: Mine That Bird paid out more in winning the Kentucky Derby than all but one horse in the 135-year history of the event when he stunned the field at almost 51/1. His 6 3/4-length margin of victory was the biggest since Assault in 1946, and he went on to win the Triple Crown. It was one of the most incredible Derby winning performances in history, and certainly the least predictable in modern times.
Career highlights: As a two year old he went on a winning streak on the synthetic surface at Woodbine in Toronto that earned him Canadian Two Year Old Champion honors. He was sold, and the new owners rushed him to the Breeders' Cup. He finished last in the Juvenile. This year he ran just twice, finishing second and fourth in ungraded stakes at Sunland Park n New Mexico, a low-level regional track just outside of El Paso. The only notable part of his last race, the Sunland Derby, was that his fourth place finish was one spot better than Advice, a Todd Pletcher horse that was also in the Kentucky Derby.
Jockey: Calvin Borel. The horse's saddle has been a revolving door, including top Canadian rider Chantal Sutherland, but Borel is the latest and obviously most successful. Borel, who won the Derby in 2007 on Street Sense, is nicknamed Bo-Rail because he is a master at taking late running horses through small gaps on the rail with a ferocity that few others are brave enough to try. Borel seems perfectly suited to the running style that Mine That Bird adopted for the Derby and will certainly continue to use.
Trainer: Bennie 'Chip' Woolley, Jr. There has never been a more unlikely Derby winning trainer. Based out of New Mexico, he's a quarterhorse trainer that has slowly switched over to thoroughbreds in recent years. He took over the training of this horse after the Breeders' Cup, and maintains a very small stable. Before the Derby it had been a rough year for Woolley - he had just one win in 32 starts. The Kentucky Derby was the first graded stakes race that Woolley had ever entered a horse in.
Breeding: The horse is well bred for Triple Crown success. His sire, Birdstone, upset Smart Jones bid to win the Triple Crown at the 2004 Belmont. Birdstone's sire, Grindstone, was the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner. He was injured at the end of that race and never ran again. Grindstone was sired by Unbridled, the 1990 Derby winner. Throw in the great Northern Dancer on both sides of his pedigree and you have a horse that has Triple Crown success in his blood.
Running style: This changed significantly for the Derby. Before the last race he tended to stay much closer to the front, and this year he had tired out in the stretch drives. In the Derby he hung way off the pace, trailing the entire field more about three-quarters of a mile. Then he exploded like he was shot out of a cannon, blowing by the entire field in a worst-to-first charge that took less than 20 seconds. His last quarter mile was run in 23 1/5 second, a truly world-class time for the end of a race that long.
Preakness prognosis: After the miracle he pulled in the Derby, anything is possible. He won't be the favorite at the Preakness, and he will be greeted with more than a little skepticism given the disappointing Preakness performance of Giacomo, another huge longshot Derby winner. Mine That Bird doesn't look like a typical Triple Crown winner, but you can't rule him out - especially if the Preakness sets up with a legitimate pace scenario that paves the way for a late charge. The surface could also be an issue - his success has either come on a synthetic track or the wet Derby surface, so he has never been successful on a dry dirt track.