As trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley and a gaggle of media looked on, the 3-year-old gelding by Birdstone walked to Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic main track at 8:05 a.m. and jogged counter-clockwise on the outer rail under Talamo, who deputized Tuesday morning for regular rider Calvin Borel.
“I told Joe to just ease him off from the pole and that’s what he did,” said Woolley. “I told him the main thing is, that last sixteenth (of a mile) to gig him a little and let him bounce to the wire. It went just right. I had him in 1:01 and change and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.
“He’s gone to the track every morning since we’ve been here (Friday) and I really like the way he’s striding out on this racetrack. We’re real happy with the Pro-Ride here. It seems really kind and he’s getting a good hold of it,” he added.
Talamo, fresh off a late-night appearance on Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show, was impressed with the Derby winner. “I was really looking forward to coming out and working this horse and I’m glad I did,” said Talamo. “He’s very professional and he did just exactly what Mr. Woolley told me he would. He went off real easy and then around the (far) turn he went to picking it up. He’s a small horse, but when he gets into stride he really covers a lot of ground.
“Mr. Woolley obviously knows him better than anyone, but I’d have to think he’s sitting on a big race. He just seemed effortless this morning. He seems to do things very easily. What a classy horse,” he added.
As for Mine That Bird’s next work, Woolley indicated the last-to-first winner of the Derby would come back in one week. “We’ll see how he comes out of this and we’ll just walk him tomorrow. If everything remains fine, the plan is to come back and work five eighths next Tuesday. He’s training good and I’m glad we got out here early. He’s acclimated beautifully,” said Woolley.
In addition to Mine That Bird, Chocolate Candy, Colonel John, Parading, Tiago and Richard’s Kid are all listed as possible Goodwood Starters.
The Goodwood Stakes is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race and the winner will be automatically eligible to run in the Gr. I, $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 7.
Looking past the Oct. 10 Goodwood, Woolley is optimistic about his horse’s chances in the mile and a quarter Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“A big field with lots of speed is excellent for him,” said Woolley. “That would set up good for him and give him a chance to close. That’s his game and that’s what we’re looking for. The good thing out here (Southern California) is, there’s always plenty of pace--always.”
Although Mine That Bird finished last in a field of 12 in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Oak Tree, Woolley is inclined to dismiss that result.
“He won four straight races on Polytrack at Woodbine last year, and he handled the synthetic here well last year,” Woolley said. “The situation was, we bought the horse late last year and we got him out a little late for Dick (Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, who saddled Mine That Bird for the Juvenile). We just didn’t really have enough time with him.
“He didn’t get a very good trip in the Juvenile. He was wide all the way around there and he pressed the pace. This year, we’ll change things up. Hopefully, it’ll work,” he added.
The 41st Oak Tree meeting gets underway Wednesday at Santa Anita, with first post time at 1 p.m. All attendees will receive a beautiful collectors’ item stein with their paid admission. For more information, fans are encouraged to visit http://www.oaktreeracing.com.