Monday, August 17, 2009


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird will undergo throat surgery to free an entrapped epiglottis discovered after he breezed Monday morning at Saratoga Race Course. The 3-year-old gelding should remain on target for the Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Travers on August 29, trainer Chip Woolley said.

“After Mine That Bird’s work this morning, we scoped him, and he’s got an entrapment of the epiglottis,” said Woolley just three hours after the gelding worked five furlongs in 1:03.83 on the main track with Jamie Theriot aboard. “It’s enough that we’re going to take him to the city [Elmont, N.Y.] tonight and do surgery on him in the morning.

“The doctors think – there’s no guarantees – but the doctors think he’ll be good for Travers; he’ll be here and ready to run in the Travers,” he added. “But, it will be somewhat day to day. We will not run him if he’s not 100 percent, so we’re gonna see how things go with the deal tomorrow.”

Woolley said the brief procedure will be performed at about 8 a.m. Tuesday morning by Dr. Patricia Hogan at the Ruffian Equine Medical Center across the street from Belmont Park, after which Mine That Bird will immediately return to Saratoga.

“We could do it here, that’s not an issue, it’s the fact that the doctor down there has a full-day schedule tomorrow, and there was no way for her to come up here and get back and do her other surgeries,” said Woolley. “This horse transports well. It’s not that big a deal, we’ll just haul him down there, spend the night and do it, haul him back here tomorrow afternoon.”

Woolley said that the condition, in which the thin membrane lying below the epiglottis (the fleshy tissue that covers the windpipe when a horse swallows) moves up and covers the epiglottis, was discovered during a routine endoscopic examination by veterinarian Dr. James Hunt.

“Every time, two weeks out, we always scope him just to make sure we don’t have any problems,” said Woolley. “It’s just standard procedure with me, that’s how I’ve done it in every race. At his two week-out work, we scope him. We had no clue there was any problem. He came off the race track bucking and playing this morning. I never gave a second thought to it. He finishes up in eleven and three the last eighth of a mile. I mean, I would have never dreamed there’s a problem.”

The procedure, similar to the one Alysheba underwent 30 days before he won the 1987 Kentucky Derby, will take a matter of minutes, said Woolley, after which Mine That Bird should be able to resume training with little interruption.

“Basically, they’ve got a little hook with a kind of a sharp [piece] inside of the hook, and they just reach in and they hook the little piece that’s grown up over the top and slice it in two,” he explained. “And that thing will kind of draw back away, and, for the most part, it will be gone.”

Mine That Bird, who was second to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, third to Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes and third in his most recent start, the West Virginia Derby, is scheduled to have his final tuneup for the 1¼-mile Shadwell Travers next week.

“That’s our plan,” said Woolley. “I can miss a couple days of training without any worry about the work. I mean he can still work on Tuesday if he misses a day or two of training, that’s not going to make or break him. But he does need the work and like I said, if he’s not ready, he won’t run.”

Woolley was clearly shaken by the turn of events but expressed optimism that Mine That Bird would be able to keep his engagement in the “Mid-Summer Derby,” in which he is expected to face Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, track-record holder Quality Road and perhaps the Preakness-winning filly, Rachel Alexandra.

“It’s pretty routine – I’ve done a number over the years with great success,” he said. “This horse, in particular, it’s a big deal no matter what you’re doing to him. [The timing] stinks. You’d have loved to have another week, but we don’t have that, this is what we’ve got, and this is what we’ve got to deal with.”

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