2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, is getting ready for his next excursion onto the racetrack. The gelding is scheduled to run in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino on August 1. That would be nearly two months since his last start, a third in the Belmont Stakes. Mine That Bird worked a half-mile in 51 seconds at Churchill Downs under his Derby-winning jockey, Calvin Borel.
Therein lies the problem, Borel apparently has a prior commitment to ride Warrior's Reward in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga. Borel has already gotten off Mine That Bird once to ride Rachel Alexandra to victory (over Mine That Bird) in the 2009 Preakness. Mine That Bird's connections handled that difficult situation with a lot of class. However, if Borel asks off Mine That Bird once again to ride another three-year-old, trainer Chip Woolley ought to get himself another permanent rider.
Getting off the Derby winner to ride a different horse in the Preakness is rarely done, but Borel had committed himself to ride all of Rachel Alexandra's races in the future and it was just one of those coincidences that occur where he had to make a tough choice. Rachel Alexandra was a proven winner when he made that decision and she continues to prove herself as every day goes by as the best horse out there right now. To get off the Derby winner to ride a horse with significant promise is another thing entirely. Warrior's Reward really has not proved himself yet and Borel has to decide whether he wants to ride Mine That Bird or not. They were a great pairing in Kentucky, but Mike Smith certainly didn't shame himself when he rode Mine That Bird to a close second in the Preakness.
What is Woolley supposed to do? Have a bullpen of prospective replacements ready in case Borel decides he wants to ride someone else. Of course not. Either Calvin wants to keep the team with Mine That Bird together or he doesn't.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!