Mine That Bird works swiftly at Saratoga
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Chip Woolley has told anyone who would listen how well his Kentucky Derby winner has been doing since he arrived in Saratoga. On Monday, Mine That Bird spoke for himself.
In his first workout over Saratoga's main track, Mine That Bird drilled four furlongs in 48.23 seconds under jockey Jamie Theriot, getting his last quarter in 23.48 seconds. Mine That Bird is preparing for a start in the $1 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 29.
The work was significantly faster than the 50 seconds Woolley was expecting.
"His first quarter he was kind of on cruise control, but he really picked it up when he switched leads turning for home," Woolley said. "He looked super. I was looking for a little softer work than that, but he is pretty sharp."
Mine That Bird arrived in Saratoga on Aug. 3, two days after finishing third to Soul Warrior in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack. Woolley said he saw a change for the better in Mine That Bird almost immediately.
"He's just settled in here better. His whole attitude and outlook just seem to be a little better," Woolley said. "He's really comfortable. It looks like he's picked up a little weight already. We're really happy with how he's doing as the work would indicate. I told Jamie just a soft easy half and he was really firing off the ground."
Theriot worked Mine That Bird on three occasions at Churchill Downs. He, too, verified that Mine That Bird likes Saratoga.
"He worked as well or better here I'd have to say," Theriot said. "Like I was telling Chip, he's not a great big horse. This racetrack being deep, he's going to get over it better than the majority of horses."
Mike Smith, aboard Mine That Bird for the Preakness and West Virginia Derby, is still expected to ride Mine That Bird in the Travers, owner Mark Allen said.
Allen was in town to watch the work and said he would like to see Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra in the Travers.
"Heck yeah, run against the best," Allen said. "She's the best. Going a mile and a quarter I'd like to try her."
If Rachel Alexandra opts for a different spot - perhaps the Grade 1 Woodward on Sept. 5 - then Jim Dandy winner Kensei, who hails from the same connections as Rachel Alexandra, could start in the Travers. On Monday, Kensei worked five furlongs in 51.02 seconds over the Oklahoma training track.
"I thought he worked very good, traveled great," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Kensei for Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables. "He came out of the Jim Dandy super."
Asmussen said Kensei would be nominated to the Travers, King's Bishop, Woodward. and the Pennsylvania Derby. Soul Warrior, winner of the West Virginia Derby, will be nominated to those same four races, Asmussen said. Soul Warrior worked four furlongs in 51.68 seconds Monday over the training track.
Vanderbilt rivals target Vosburgh
If you liked the battle between Fabulous Strike and Go Go Shoot in Sunday's Grade 2 Vanderbilt Handicap, then you will want to be at Belmont Park on Oct. 3 for the rematch in the Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes.
The connections of both horses said Monday that they will not run back in the Grade 1 Forego here on Aug. 29, but instead point to the Vosburgh, which keeps both horses at their preferred distance of six furlongs.
Fabulous Strike, who wore down Go Go Shoot late to win the Vanderbilt by one length, came out of the race in good order and was vanned back to trainer Todd Beattie's Penn National barn on Monday. Fabulous Strike, who won for the 14th time in 23 starts, earned a 112 Beyer Speed Figure after running six furlongs in 1:08.69.
"He polished his feed tub," Beattie said Monday morning before shipping the gelding back home. "That's a rare quality for a horse to eat after a race away from home."
Beattie noted that the Vosburgh is weight-for-age, meaning both horses will carry the same weight. In the Vanderbilt, Fabulous Strike spotted Go Go Shoot eight pounds.
Despite the weight shift, trainer Bruce Levine said he's looking forward to another crack a Fabulous Strike.
"My horse had run hard twice and the other guy had two months off," Levine said. "I'm going to get two months off and it's going to help my horse too."
Two fillies considered for start on synthetic
Game Face, winner of Sunday's Grade 2 Honorable Miss, and Elusive Heat, winner of the Geyser Spring Stakes on the same card, could both be headed to Presque Isle Downs and a start in the $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters over that track's synthetic surface.
The purpose for considering that 6 1/2-furlong race - in addition to the hefty purse - is to see how the horses handle a synthetic track given the fact this year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint will be run over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride on Nov. 6.
"I'm hoping she's one of those fillies that can transfer her first form to synthetic," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Game Face. "You never know till they run on it. We'll consider it. It would certainly open up some options in the fall."
Game Face beat Keep the Peace by 1 1/2 lengths in the Honorable Miss, running six furlongs in 1:10.70 and earning a 95 Beyer.
Elusive Heat, meanwhile, made a good-looking return to races Sunday, winning the $72,950 Geyser Spring Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths. It was her first start since winning an allowance race by 13 1/4 lengths on Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park. She ran six furlongs in 1:08.93 and earned a 101 Beyer.
"The filly ran a very good race. The time was excellent," said trainer Angel Penna Jr. "At one point it looked like she was getting tired, but Rajiv [Maragh] picked up the reins a little bit and she took off again."
Penna isn't convinced Elusive Heat wants to run beyond six furlongs, and the Presque Isle Masters is run at 6 1/2 furlongs. Another alternative could be the Grade 3, $100,000 Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs on Aug. 29.
Bribon likely headed to Woodbine Mile
Bribon's successful return to the turf in an one-mile allowance race here Sunday, likely earned him a spot in the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 20.
Bribon, winner of the Grade 1 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap on dirt in May, was making his first turf start since July 13, 2007. Under Alan Garcia, Bribon rallied from seventh position, split horses in deep stretch, and rolled to his first turf victory since Oct. 5, 2005 when he was racing in France. Bribon's final time of 1:33.69 for the mile was just .27 of a second shy of L'Oiseau d'Argent's final time of 1:33.42 on Aug. 5, 2004.
Trainer Robert Ribaudo ran him on the turf to see if he could transfer his excellent dirt form to that surface. His 103 Beyer Speed Figure is just 5 points lower than the figure he earned in the Met Mile.
"He's not Breeders' Cup nominated and you're not going to put up the money to run, so the $1 million Canadian race makes all the sense in the world," Ribaudo said.
by David Grening
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