- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Watching his gelding’s one-mile jog Monday morning was enough to convince Mine That Bird’s trainer to commit the Kentucky Derby winner to the May 16 Preakness Stakes.

At odds of 50-1, Mine That Bird won the Derby by a commanding 6 3/4 lengths, but his connections declined to commit to the Preakness before deciding whether two weeks provided the horse with enough recovery time.

“The Triple Crown is good for racing, and without the Derby winner, there’s no chance to have one,” trainer Bennie Woolley Jr. said.

Ten horses have been confirmed or listed as probable starters for the Preakness, including four that Mine That Bird defeated in the Derby.

“We wanted to give him some time after the Derby before we made the decision on his future,” said Leonard Blach, co-owner of Mine That Bird. “He pulled up healthy and sound, and he’s in great spirits. All of his medicals came back clean, and we feel he’s good to go.”

The last Derby winner to skip the Preakness was Grindstone, who was retired because of injury in 1996. Mine That Bird is a grandson of Grindstone. Spend A Buck (1985) was the last healthy Derby victor to skip the Preakness.

Papa Clem, who finished fourth in the Derby, is committed to the Preakness, and other possible entrants include runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, third-place Musket Man, Join in the Dance (seventh) and General Quarters (10th).

Newcomers include Big Drama, Hull, Mr. Fantasy, Take the Points and Miner’s Escape. The most intriguing of the bunch is Hull, who didn’t race as a 2-year old but is 3-for-3 this year, including a win in the Grade 3 Derby Trial last month. Hull’s camp was initially considering the Woody Stephens next month at Belmont but changed course after watching the Kentucky Derby.

“I look at the Derby as like a heavyweight boxing match,” said co-owner Barry Irwin, who heads Team Valor International. “It’s tough under normal conditions, but the way that track was Saturday, it could compromise any of those horses headed to the Preakness.”

The 13/16-mile Preakness can have a maximum field of 14 horses. Ten or more have run in 14 of the past 17 races.

Mine That Bird will remain at Churchill Downs for at least a week before heading to Baltimore.

“He’s happy here and doing real well - we’ll just keep him here for as long as we can,” co-owner Mark Allen said. “We want him fresh and ready when we make our move to Maryland.”

No horse has won the Triple Crown in 31 years, but Mine That Bird will try to become the 12th horse during the drought to win the first two legs.

Mine That Bird was an afterthought entering the Kentucky Derby because he hadn’t won this year. His only previous Grade 1 start resulted in a 12th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and his final two prep races were in New Mexico - not exactly a hot spot on the Triple Crown trail.

Mine That Bird was last in the 19-horse field with a half-mile to go and 12th with a quarter-mile left. But jockey Calvin Borel expertly steered his horse along the rail, and he charged into the lead at the top of the stretch to post the largest margin of victory since 1946.

The $103.20 payout made Mine That Bird the second-biggest upset in Derby history. Purchased for $9,500, he has earned his connections more than $1.7 million in his nine-race career.

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