- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

BALTIMORE | Winning the Kentucky Derby hasn’t turned Mine That Bird into a diva.

No, the 50-1 shot who captured the first jewel of the Triple Crown is the same horse that lost at Sunland Park in New Mexico. That’s according to trainer Chip Woolley, who said he hasn’t let the success go to his head, either.

“It’s been a whirlwind. At first it was a little overwhelming and hard to get your head around,” he said. “He’s really handled things well. No matter what you do with him, he wants to go perform.”

Mine That Bird, who enters Saturday’s Preakness Stakes as the co-third choice on the morning line at 6-1, has performed no differently this week than before he won the Derby. But Mine That Bird knew he won an important race, Woolley said, because he had trouble settling down afterward and has acted more animated since.

Mine That Bird has been one of the stars this week at the Pimlico stakes barn with camera operators and photographers chronicling his every move. Still, much of the conversation has centered on filly Rachel Alexandra, who will have Mine That Bird’s Derby jockey Calvin Borel aboard and was installed as the 8-5 favorite Wednesday.

That’s OK with Woolley.

“I’m not all that big on the cameras anyway, so it doesn’t really bother me,” he said. “As far as being a celebrity, the horse is a celebrity.”

He earned that acclaim by performing beyond expectations in the Derby. In a field full of horses who had won elite prep races, Mine That Bird had last won Oct. 5 against lesser competition. As far as the race being a fluke, Woolley said his horse might have run “over his form” but preferred to take a wait-and-see approach.

Fellow trainer Larry Jones, who will run Friesan Fire on Saturday, echoed that sentiment even as he took pride in someone who wears a cowboy hat winning the Derby.

“I was shocked, but the guy wears a cowboy hat. He can pull rabbits out of a hat,” Jones said with a laugh. “He has to do it twice in a row to make me a believer. If he does it twice in a row, I’m gonna let him have my cowboy hat.”

Doing it twice in a row would buck expectations, especially given Mine That Bird’s pedigree and experience. He posted an excellent 105 Beyer Speed Figure in the Derby but hadn’t gone above 81 in any previous race.

Although those numbers, and factors like the sloppy track and Borel’s rail-hugging trip, could have led to a once-in-a-lifetime race, if Mine That Bird can capture the Preakness he would be a good bet in the longer Belmont Stakes. His sire, Birdstone, beat Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont to spoil that Triple Crown bid.

But that doesn’t seem to be in the immediate thoughts of Woolley - or Mine That Bird.

“You realize you got the Derby and you’re gonna keep it,” Woolley said. “And whatever happens after that’s gonna be gravy.”

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