A Local's View of Mine That Bird

 (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.

56 Comments

Leave a Comment:

HaleyB

Wishing Mine That Bird the best for his upcoming race.  He is such a spirited horse and I for one am one of his fans.  Eyes on the "birds" this weekend.

29 Jul 2009 4:55 PM
Freetex

I will also be watching Mine That Bird this weekend and I can hardly wait.  He is a very game horse and exciting to watch, standing or running!

29 Jul 2009 6:17 PM
Toni Richardson

Great report Jessi!  Looking forward to more.  

29 Jul 2009 6:30 PM
da3hoss

Thanks jessi!

29 Jul 2009 6:31 PM
jamesb

This may not be Big Drama's best distance, but I just don't know if MTB can catch him while giving 11 pounds.

Mountaineer needs to do something about that.  I could see giving a filly a break, but the colts and geldings should at least carry 120.

Unreal Big Drama only gets 111.

29 Jul 2009 6:34 PM
Ida Lee

Love that Bird! Be safe sweet boy. I know you'll run a great race as you usually do.

29 Jul 2009 6:48 PM
Little Guy Breeder

Nice report. Thanks to Ms. Pizzurro for a nice report on Woolley and Mine That Bird.  Good luck to both!

29 Jul 2009 7:45 PM
Lmaris

Its a shame MTB chose this soft spot to land rather than face the creme of the 3 year old crop in the Haskell.

He's going to have to work overtime to catch Big Drama who should have an easier lead and not have to run the hot fractions in like the Preakness.

29 Jul 2009 7:56 PM
Saddle57

Go Get'm Birdie!! Have a safe trip!

29 Jul 2009 8:01 PM
Karen2

I'm with you jamesb.... That is crazy.  This will be an interesting race. I love BD and MTB....but still think MTB can pull it off even with the weight difference if he is running 100%. We will see.

29 Jul 2009 8:45 PM
Cindi

I am very happy the Bird will be on television this weekend.  

JamesB I agree MTB may not be able to catch Big Drama - especially if he is only carrying 111 lbs.  That's a big advantage.

29 Jul 2009 8:45 PM
Karen in Indiana

Best wishes for Mine That Bird and his team - a gutsy horse and guys who are good for the sport.

29 Jul 2009 8:51 PM
MRO

Come on Birdie!

29 Jul 2009 9:10 PM
mburry

I too like them both but with the weights like that I can see Big Drama winning. I think he will be long gone. Can't say it is an easy race for MTB. He probably would have been better off in the Haskell.

29 Jul 2009 10:07 PM
Abbie Knowles

Great blog; many thanks.  

I love Mine that Bird and Summer Bird but will be cheering for GODOLPHIN's ATOMIC RAIN if he is fit to race and he will not race if he is not because GODOLPHIN, DARLEY and SHADWELL, always put their HORSES first!

Many others do too of course!

God Bless

All the best and take care

Abbie

29 Jul 2009 10:08 PM
Freetex

I can't believe MTB is giving 11 pounds!  It doesn't make sense.  Big Drama is coming off a win and a credible win at that.

29 Jul 2009 10:23 PM
Gulchfan

jamesb 29, the weights are part of the conditions of the race (according to the Equibase entries list):

"Purse $750,000. For Three Year Olds. Money to be divided: $450,000 to Winner; $150,000 to Second; $75,000 to Third; $37,500 to Fourth; $18,750 to Fifth; $11,250 to Sixth and $3,750 for Seventh and Eighth. WEIGHT 122 Lbs. Winners of Two Grade I races at One Mile or Over in 2009. 3 Lbs. additional; Non-winners of a Grade I race at One Mile or Over in 2009. allowed 3 Lbs.; Non-winners of a Grade II race at One Mile or Over in 2009. 5 Lbs.; Non-winners of a Grade III race at One Mile or Over in 2009. 7 Lbs.; Non-winners of $150,000 at One Mile or Over in 2009. 9 Lbs.; Non-winners of a Sweepstakes at One Mile or Over in 2009. 11 Lbs. TROPHY TO THE WINNING OWNER, TRAINER AND JOCKEY. CLOSED MONDAY, JULY 20, 2009 WITH 37 NOMINATIONS. One And One Eighth Miles."

so MTB's people must have known what he'd be assigned, as well as the other entrants, when they chose the race

I agree that on class and ability that Big Drama should be at least at the 113 weight (I'd put him at about 116 or 117) two of the others are carrying, but it's not a handicap

29 Jul 2009 11:27 PM
Bellwether

gotta love those down to earth folks...& the littls guy n the plain brown wrapper...

29 Jul 2009 11:44 PM
Draynay

Big Drama should win this with no problem !  The Derby mud winner has not proven he can win on anything this year except Kentucky mud in May.

30 Jul 2009 12:32 AM
Lindi

Can anything be done to reduce or even out the weight that Mine That Bird is carrying? The system does not seem to be fair here.

30 Jul 2009 5:26 AM
Kathy from Cross Creek

Nice report Jessi. Isn't it great to have a couple of celebrities at our local track!  I DO think Little Bird will have his hooves full with Big Drama at this distance.  Best of luck and safe trip to all!

30 Jul 2009 5:43 AM
lecylue

I am also worried about him having to carry 9 to 11 pounds more than his competition. I do love the fact that his owners and trainers are running at Mountaineer, just adds to their commitment to run him for everyone, and not just run him for the money at the big name tracks. They are great. And to those that are saying they are running him at Mountaineer just to avoid Rachel, they chose Mountaineer weeks before Jackson even decided to run her in the Haskell, so if someone is avoiding someone, I would have to say it is the other way around. I still say the five pounds Rachel got in the Preakness was the real difference in the race results and I don't care who doesn't agree with me. I know he will give it his all though, and even if he doesn't win, he will still have my heart. You go Big Guy.  

30 Jul 2009 6:19 AM
John Boudreau

Jess>>>You have been witnessing the WINNER of the West Va. Derby and the TRAVERS Stakes>>>Good Luck!!

30 Jul 2009 7:52 AM
LACS70

Here's to the "Bird Brothers" making their old man, Birdstone, proud again this weekend!  

30 Jul 2009 9:09 AM
Jean

Weight is a great equalizer. As far as handicapping is concerned I think a pound equals a length or something like that.

30 Jul 2009 9:40 AM
Rita

We're with you Bird! Kudos to the connections for going to West Virginia. Bet they haven't seen a Derby winner in a while....and what a beautiful place to run! Go Bird!!! and God keep you safe!

30 Jul 2009 9:43 AM
Lyndacrnp

Great report, well written.  Looking forward to reading more from Jessi.

30 Jul 2009 10:01 AM
Karen2

Dray....you would think you would have come back a little more humble after the beating you took by the blog. Have a little respect for the gutsy gelding. After all, he accomplished far more than any horse you chose during the triple crown series. Sometimes you just have to bow down and admit you were wrong. You should try it sometime. Might make you a better person and build some character.

30 Jul 2009 11:04 AM
Candace Serviss

Coming in from Chicago to see this horse who proves that dreams can come true. Go Bird!

30 Jul 2009 11:11 AM
mtbfan

Can't wait to watch Mine that Bird make his move at the Mountaineer. This horse is very consistent and has a huge heart, two qualities a champion must have.

To the commenter who said that Mine that Bird isn't a proven horse: He was steps away from the Triple Crown.

30 Jul 2009 12:13 PM
Lucy

Handicaps seem so unfair sometimes...but it is a long standing tradition and the really good ones have found a way to win even when carrying heavy imposts.  I hope little Mine that Bird can win despite the fact he has a much heavier assignment.  

This was a nice report; I enjoyed reading it.

30 Jul 2009 1:50 PM
JudyLovesGeldingsLikeJohnHenry

Bellwether: "...plain brown wrapper..." Love it!

MTB is a little horse with a BIG HEART and willing to give it his all. Reminds me of another great "closer" gelding, John Henry.

Birdie ~ JH will be right there with you little guy. He'll help you along with that famous closing kick! :-) Come home safely. That's the number #1 priority.

30 Jul 2009 2:26 PM
sweet terchi

Go MTB!! Good luck and come in with a win!! As for Chip Woolley....as always, a gentleman .

30 Jul 2009 3:26 PM
Freetex

Emotional, I admit, but, I will betting on MTB to win.  I believe Wooley knows what he is doing or at least has committed to for this race.

GulchFan, I appreciate the information and your thoughts.

The 11 pounds still steams me!

30 Jul 2009 6:56 PM
Draynay

Karen2 I just don't get it.  The Derby mud winner won the Derby and that is it.  He is following the path of Giacamo and and it appears he will not win another race ALL YEAR.  So far since the Derby he is 0 for 2.  How many more can he lose before you say, "hmmm maybe he was a fluke winner?" By the way before the Derby from January through May 1st the Derby mud winner had 0 wins.

30 Jul 2009 9:37 PM
jamesb

Gulchfan:

That's what I mean.  The conditions need to be re-written.  They could even start the weights at 118 and add weight for "winners of" - I know that sounds crazy too but, but 2yo BACKTALK won the Sanford today carrying 121.

No good reason a 3yo coming off a stakes (albeit not graded) win should be carrying only 111 lbs in a Gr II in August.

Smart move by Fawkes to bring him here though.  Similar to Helen Pitts-Blasi getting Einstein a weight break on the KY Derby undercard because he hadn't won a turf race in X number of days.  Even though he had won the Big Cap.

Not so sure if MTB wouldn't have been better off in the Haskell though.  At least the weights would have been more equal.

We will find out more Saturday & Sunday though.

30 Jul 2009 10:19 PM
Asst. Hotwalker

MTB is for real. I never doubt, or like to bet against the Ky. Derby winner.

31 Jul 2009 3:24 AM
ABZ

Respect for Mine That Bird, but...I don't like his chances to beat Big Drama.  Big Drama should make it 8 for 10 finishing first.

31 Jul 2009 8:31 AM
schabelli

MTB giving 11 pounds to Big Drama? Did I see that right somewhere or is that a mistake? If MTB pulls this one off giving that much weight he'll really prove himself then to the "nay sayers". 11 pounds and an easy lead is nesr impossible to overcome. Go MTB!!!!!!!!

31 Jul 2009 8:53 AM
BArbara W

The Bird's still the word! He's proven he has the drive and the heart. If Big Drama manages to win, I'm betting MTB will be in the money alongside. God keep you safe, little man!

31 Jul 2009 10:03 AM
GunBow

The Bird team really can't cry about the weights. As Gulchfan pointed out, the West Virginia Derby is not a handicap; the wieghts were part of the conditions of the race. The weight assignments did not fall from the sky at the last minute, nor were the "Bird" team ambushed. Chip and the rest of the team had known since they committed to the race after the Belmont that Bird would have to carry 122 lbs(as a grade 1 winner in 2009).  They also knew that unless Summer Bird, Rachel, or Quality Road also started, Bird would be conceding weight to his West Virginia opponents.  Given that this information was known to the Bird team ex ante and that no one is forcing them to run, I do not see the weight spread as "unfair".

This is not to say that the weight spread will not have an impact, or that the Bird team was not unlucky that Big Drama is only going to carry 111 lbs. Big Drama just happens to be able to exploit the conditions of the race; although Big Drama was a graded stakes winner at 2 and crossed the wire first in the grade 2 Swale earlier this year, he is a non-winner of a Sweepstakes at one mile or over in 2009, and thus qualifies for the lowest weight assignment possible for the West Virginia Derby.  

As with most others, I do not believe there is an 11 lbs difference in the ability of Mine That Bird and Big Drama. Typically, I do not place too much importance on weight when handicapping, but 11 lbs. is a significant spread. Combine this weight advantage with what should be a fairly soft pace, and Big Drama looks very tough. I am not sure Big Drama wants 10 furlongs, but with no clear pace challenger and that featherweight assignment, he should have no excuse not to get the 9 furlongs of the W.V. Derby.

I fully respect Mine That Bird and think he is the frontrunner for the 3 year old male Eclipse. And while I think he will put in his typical late charge, Big Drama does appear to hold some huge advantages.

I also expect a solid run from Woodbine export, Awesome Rhythm, a winner of 3 straight non-graded stakes at middle distances on Polytrack before a loss on soft turf. He should be perfectly positioned to beat Mine That Bird to the punch and make the first run at Big Drama. Whether he can get to Big Drama and hold off the Bird remains to be seen.

Is anyone going to be at Mountaineer in person for the race?

31 Jul 2009 6:56 PM
william

m t bird will be your worst dream Draynay...sorry for you

01 Aug 2009 4:00 AM
tommy tabasco

MTB is in the WVDerby because the track sets up for him.  The Haskell was ruled out because Monmouth always has been a speed track.  

At 111, I think Drama gets it done today, and then goes back to his specialty which is sprinting.

No matter what happens today, the best 3YO will be running tomorrow, and MTB and Rachael are both prepping for a great re-match in Saratoga.

01 Aug 2009 10:35 AM
War Admiral

Cool blog.  Would have loved more reports from the backside.  It's so awesome of his connections to run him here.  Good luck  Bird - THE BIRD IS THE WORD!

01 Aug 2009 2:35 PM
Tiznowbaby

Interesting comments from Smith. It was a bit of a dilema.

I wonder if they've given any thought to trying him in a turf route. He ran very well on synth last year, and his style makes me curious to see what he would do on grass.

I can't help but like him. He's an honest, neat little horse.

01 Aug 2009 6:38 PM
kmb08

MTB is great!  Wasn't he the smallest horse in the field, and yet, carried the most weight??  If that is the case, he is the clear winner by any objective analysis!  I love his big heart!!! I'm a Rachel fan, but I love this little guy!! What a darn fine race horse he is!!!!I really dislike the way the racing assoc. determines weight imposts. I understand it makes the betting more challenging, but it certainly isn't fair, nor does it give an accurate assessment of which horse is best.

01 Aug 2009 7:53 PM
LuvTheHorses

I wish that Mine That Bird had won his race and I still love him, but it just wasn't his day

01 Aug 2009 9:21 PM
Karen in Indiana

Considering the weight differences and that it was his first race back after a break, I thought MTB did well. Mike Smith and Chip Woolley are two really upfront guys and earned respect after the race by not giving excuses. This horse will do better as time goes on and, hopefully, he'll be able to have the same jockey finish out the season on him.

I thought Fox Sports coverage was head and shoulders over ESPN, NBC or ABC's coverage of the TC races, mainly because they had people who actually work in horse racing tv being commentators.

01 Aug 2009 10:43 PM
Not a MTB Fan

Why can't people just come to accept and realize that MTB was truly a 50 to 1 longshot who was a fluke winner of the Kentucky Derby???  What has he shown us since his win in the KD?  Absolutely, positively nothing.  Until he becomes more consistent, he does not deserve to be called a great horse.  He is, quite simply, an adequate horse who got lucky in the Kentucky Derby.  He won because the 3 best 3yos this year didn't run the KD (Quality Road, I Want Revenge & Old Fashioned) and because the more talented horses had bad trips (Friesan Fire, Summer Bird) or didn't like the sloppy track (Pioneerof The Nile).  MTB did not win the KD because he is a talented horse, he won it because of a superior ride by the jockey and because the more talented horses either didn't run or didn't like the track.  

02 Aug 2009 12:52 AM
Rechelle

Draynay, I never thought I would see the day this happened .... I completely, 110% agree with you about Mine That Bird.  

02 Aug 2009 12:53 AM
JoeSchmo

Kudos to Mine That Bird, although he may not have came in first place, he does and has this year,so far, always comes in the money.

02 Aug 2009 10:40 AM
Karen2

Rechelle and Not a MTB fan...you don't have to "like" the horse but the horse deserves some credit. He is no where near a "fluke". BD should have smoked him by all rights considering the 11lb weight difference, but he only beat him  by a length. Please people, give the horse the respect he deserves. Although a jockey makes a big difference, last I saw, its the horse doing the running. Give me a break. The more talented horses had bad trips????? more excuses.

04 Aug 2009 5:48 PM
Michele-NM

Great blog! Thanks to all of you who love our New Mexico Kentucky Derber winner, Mine That Bird.  And, for the one person I have spoted on this blog criticizing him, that's your right, but why don't you just give him a break. Like some of you have said, he's a great horse, has wonderful spirit and a big heart.  And we in New Mexico are so proud he belongs to us.

04 Aug 2009 8:45 PM
Abbie Knowles

Mine that Bird's Kentucky Derby win was no fluke.  He was the best on the day!  Even Calvin Borel cannot win without the horse being capable of doing the racing. Both he and Mike Smith have admitted to riding him wrongly in subsequent races!

He and his team are lovely.  Stop criticizing them bigotted Draynay and co!

Mine that Bird rules ok!

C'mon boy show that jerk how good you are!

04 Aug 2009 9:03 PM
smartyjones1

i saw mind that birds work on 8-17-09...at the spa,,,no offense,,,he's not much to look at  and i still stand by my comments after the derby that this horse will not win another graded stakes in this country,,,or any other for that matter,,,

it's time for the owners to fess up and admit that all was not as it appeared to be  the first saturday in may...

24 Aug 2009 7:20 AM
Vet/Vet

It appears that Mine That Bird is a real challenge to any other horse currently racing (except, of course the great Rachel A.)if

a.  He doesn't get too excited in the trip from the backside to the starting gate,

b.  He gets settled until he's ready to unleash his 3 furlongs to win, and

c.  he doesn't get blocked on the rail or forces so far out on the turns that he's running tgtwice the distance as the rail huggers.

Would your experts please comment on these aspects of his performance and what they mean for the B.C.?

Thank you very much.

P.S. if you can send a copy to my e-mail address it would be much appreciated.  I'll look for it in the column but can't alwways get it.

Thanks again.

28 Sep 2009 6:08 PM

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