Chip Woolley Jr. sees the glass as half full for Mine That Bird, in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic during Santa Anita Park’s Oak Tree meeting Nov. 7.
Detractors point to Mine That Bird’s disappointing sixth-place finish in the Goodwood Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 10, and the fact that he is winless in four starts since his startling 50-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby.
The Goodwood was Mine That Bird’s first race since Aug. 1, when he finished third in the West Virginia Derby. But his 45-year-old trainer remains optimistic that the 3-year-old gelded son of Birdstone will rebound in the 1 ¼-mile Classic. “If you go back and look at the Goodwood, he runs a 99 Beyer (speed figure),” Woolley pointed out. “Last year when he ran over this race track (12th in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, gr. I), he ran a 74 Beyer.
Figure it any way you want, but that’s a huge difference in the two races. “Up until I took the horse over, he had never run over a 79 Beyer, so changing his running style is the key. Even though he didn’t run as well as we’d hoped in the Goodwood, he runs a 99 Beyer, as opposed to running in the 70s every time before we changed his style.” Mine That Bird ran much closer to the pace prior to his victory in the Derby.
In that race, he rallied from 19th and last, 16 lengths behind at one point, to win by 6 3/4 lengths, the largest margin since Assault won by eight lengths in 1944, en route to a Triple Crown sweep for the legendary King Ranch. “With the Goodwood in him, and the added distance, it’s really going to help him, and there’s definitely going to be pace in the Classic,” Woolley said. Mine That Bird galloped two miles Oct. 18 and is scheduled to work a half-mile Oct. 19 under jockey Joe Talamo.