Some updated news on three of the most notable horses in training, courtesy of the Churchill Downs publicity staff:
WOOLLEY EAGER TO TAKE NEXT STEP WITH MINE THAT BIRD – The countdown to the Belmont Stakes (Grade I) is on for trainer Chip Woolley and his Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird.
“I am definitely looking forward to it,” Woolley said of the June 6 Belmont Stakes. “He is starting to bloom already again. He is going to stretch his legs in the morning, working an easy three-eighths.”
Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby, could be aboard for the work. Mine That Bird is scheduled to work after the mid-morning break for track maintenance.
After his Kentucky Derby victory, Mine That Bird ran second to Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness in an effort that validated his Derby score to many.
Woolley already was convinced the Derby victory was no mirage.
“It was not a fluke in my mind,” said Woolley, sporting a huge new belt buckle acknowledging the Derby victory. “He got past 18 super horses in a quarter of a mile. That validated him to me. That was not impossible, but right next to it.
“The only other trainer I heard say it was not a fluke was Bob Baffert. He said flukes don’t win the Derby.”
Woolley is comfortable with Mine That Bird’s conditioning heading into the Belmont and not feeling any pressure.
“(Owners) Mark (Allen) and Doc (Leonard Blach) told me that at this point it is just a race at a time,” Woolley said. “Everything is gravy from here on out and just enjoy it.”
PREAKNESS, OAKS WINNER RACHEL ALEXANDRA SET FOR MONDAY WORK – Stonestreet Stable and Harold McCormick’s Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Preakness (GI) and Kentucky Oaks (GI) in her last two starts, is scheduled to work for the first time since her May 16 Preakness victory on Monday at Churchill Downs.
The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is scheduled to head to the track with the second set of horses for trainer Steve Asmussen around 6:15 a.m.
Rachel Alexandra galloped early Sunday morning under exercise rider Dominic Terry.
The filly’s status for the June 6 Belmont Stakes has not been decided. She has won six consecutive races. All of those wins came in stakes events in a string that started with last fall’s Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs.
EINSTEIN RETURNS TO WORK TAB WITH DRILL FOR FOSTER – Midnight Cry Stable’s Einstein (BRZ) worked a half-mile in :49.40 with jockey Julien Leparoux up before the renovation break over a fast track on Sunday morning. It was Einstein’s first work since winning the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (Grade I) on May 2.
“He was ready to do something,” trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi said. “This was perfect this morning. He’ll work again next Sunday.”
The work, the first of three in preparation for the June 13 Stephen Foster Handicap (Grade I), was the highlight of the weekend for Pitts-Blasi, who celebrated a birthday Saturday and nearly got a victory in the final race when Fundy ran second in a maiden special weight race.
So, Helen, which was the most exciting aspect of the weekend: celebrating her birthday or watching Einstein work?
“Watching him work,” Pitts-Blasi said without hesitation.
In the Foster, Einstein will be trying to achieve a unique feat of sweeping three consecutive Grade I events on different surfaces. He won the Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 over a synthetic surface and took the Derby Day race on turf. The Stephen Foster is run on the main track.
That first-ever sweep of consecutive races on the different surfaces would also make Einstein only the second horse to collect Grade I victories on traditional dirt, turf and a synthetic surface. Lava Man is the only horse to achieve that feat.
Einstein finished second to two-time “Horse of the Year” Curlin in last year’s Foster and returned in November to win the $500,000 Clark Handicap (GII) on dirt.