Belmont Park. Seven hours until the Triple Calvin.
The little horse, Mine That Bird, goes for his second win of the Triple Crown. His jockey goes for the Triple Crown. If it wasn’t for Rachel Alexandra . . . the over/under for the Belmont Stakes attendance would be 100,000 instead of 50,000. The game would be alight with tales of the New Mexican gelding turning the Sport of Kings on its bent crown. But, alas, Rachel Alexandra made her Triple Crown cameo appearance and spoiled Mine That Bird’s Triple Crown.
Spoiled in name only – two out of three ain’t bad.
Chip Woolley, trainer of Mine That Bird, still likes his seat at the wheel of the Triple Crown 2009.
“It’s been like a dream come true and a whirlwind mixed together, it’s been pretty wild, but a person couldn’t ask for more than to reach the pinnacle of the sport,” Woolley said from outside Mine That Bird’s stall on Friday. “It maybe puts a stamp on your career that you did do it right, it’s been a lot of fun, everybody waits a lifetime for the horse, ‘cause they’re the ones that do the work. You can get so much out of them, but you can’t get it out of them if they don’t have it in them. They take you where you’re going.”
Mine That Bird took Woolley to Woodbine last fall. Looking for a horse, Woolley liked the gelded son of Birdstone and bought him for Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine. Mine That Bird flopped in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then joined Woolley’s string at Sunland Park in New Mexico. From there, it was Louisville, Baltimore and now New York.
“I’ve had a couple fillies that at points looked like they might be the equivalent of this, but things happen, got hurt. This thing is a lot more about staying sound, staying healthy. I beat five horses in the Derby by just staying healthy when Quality Road and those horses fell out,” Woolley said. “I’ve been there before and lost horses that looked like they had chances of being stars. Finally stumbled on this one horse who’s the total package.”
Mine That Bird’s package includes demeanor, soundness and a kick that humbled 18 rivals in the Derby. You’d want to have a beer with him at your local bar. Maybe, a couple of beers.
“It’s amazed me, he’s never took a long breath, he cooled out after the Derby in 15 minutes and we couldn’t get him to stop playing that night to settle down to eat. Same way after the Preakness, he was wound up coming back to the barn trying to kick everybody,” Woolley said. “He’s a truly special individual, doesn’t lose weight, none of the things you hear about plaguing people have happened, obviously never been here before, but I know mine is just doing super. It’s a ride you just don’t want to end, it’s cool.”
In a sport that tends to get stale with top-heavy victories, Mine That Bird, Borel have added levity. The horse is a trier. The jockey is as a natural. The trainer hasn’t missed while playing under the lights for the first time. Asked for a message to the fans out there, Woolley nailed it again.
“Thanks to them, they’re the ones that made it great, they’re the ones that make racing great,” Woolley said. “Thanks to everybody who supports horses like him out there.”