Thursday, June 24, 2010
Mine That Bird’s Comeback
(BUFFALO, NY – June 24, 2010) D. Wayne Lukas has never been short of optimism. Yet, after his newest trainee – the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird - returned from his fifth workout following an excruciatingly long layoff, Lukas revealed a reserve of emotion that was rare for even him. “We’re going right into the deep end,” Lukas told anyone who’d listen, targeting Saratoga’s Whitney Handicap on August 7 as his main objective.
Mine That Bird has looked good to Lukas from the day he stepped hoof in the Hall of Fame trainer’s Churchill Downs barn. Built up to a bigger size and well-rested from lengthy inactivity, the popular gelding seemed to have benefited a ton from the time off and long gallops that his former trainer gave him. That former trainer would be one Bennie L. “Chip” Woolley, Jr., who, two years ago, for one day in spring, was the luckiest man in America.
If the number of races won is a standard by which you judge trainers, Lukas has it all over Woolley. But both Woolley and Lukas have some things in common worth noting. For example, they are trainers that have worked long spells with quarter horses as well as thoroughbreds. They represent themselves and their sport generously. Moreover, they have shown an unusual willingness to take chances when everyone else says it is hopeless. Lukas once said, “If there are only one or two horses that are better than yours in a race, you run.”
But, here’s the key question now. Who gets the credit if Mine That Bird turns into a bona fide threat in the handicap division? Should things go as planned, a new and improved Mine That Bird will start back on the comeback trail over the 4th of July weekend. Once that prep is done, Quality Road awaits Mine That Bird in the Whitney. The re-engineered model will race closer to the pace, and maybe better, under Lukas’s guidance. But had Woolley not given his horse time to recuperate, he’d be in no shape to compete in the first place.