(The following was submitted by Jessi Pizzurro of Pennyroyal Stables. She is based at Mountaineer and spent part of the morning of July 29 watching Mine That Bird gallop. ... Thanks for the first-hand account.)
The racing surface at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort, normally closed for training on Wednesdays, was opened for Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird and the other grade II West Virginia Derby entrants, including Canadian invader Awesome Rhythm.
Double Eagle Ranch & Buena Suerte Equine's Mine That Bird returned to the track after hand-walking Tuesday. The Canadian champion 2-year-old male horse warmed up past the finish line, then galloped two miles around Mountaineer's one-mile track while trainer Chip Woolley watched from the rail.
The favorite for the West Virginia Derby was relaxed but eager for his morning exercise. Watched by a handful of racing fans and unconcerned by his surroundings, the 3-year-old son of Birdstone appeared in top condition, his bay coat shiny and slick.
When asked how he likes West Virginia, the soft-spoken Woolley replied with a nod to the Ohio River and the hills on either side of the track: "Everything here has been just fine, this is nice surroundings."
A former bareback rider easily spotted by his black cowboy hat, Woolley is readily approachable and willing to chat with residents and racetrackers alike as he enjoys the small communities on either side of Mountaineer. Local signs welcome Woolley and Mine That Bird to town, and both horse and trainer are receiving the VIP treatment from Mountaineer.
The weather forecast for the Northern Panhandle area calls for thunderstorms late in the week with partly cloudy skies on West Virginia Derby day (Saturday, Aug. 1). When wet, the Mountaineer strip does tend to favor speed types slightly more than closers, which plays into the hand of Boyd Gaming Delta Jackpot Stakes (gr. III) winner Big Drama, who pressed the pace set by Rachel Alexandra in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I) before tiring to finish fifth.
The only other graded stakes winner entered in the West Virginia Derby, the speedy dark bay or brown son of Montbrook recovered from that effort a month later to take the $250,000 Red Legend Stakes at Charles Town Races & Slots.
A proven runner on an off track himself, Mine That Bird unleashed a tremendous move on a sloppy, sealed racetrack to win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.