Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird went into Saturday’s Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meet off a 10-week layoff. He had no pace to run at and jockey Calvin Borel said he was struggling over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface.
Still, he managed to close from 10th to finish sixth, beaten about four lengths, and the extra quarter mile of the Breeders’ Cup Classic figures to play in his favor if his connections decide to go that route.
“He looks OK this morning,” trainer Chip Woolley said. “He came back good, I think. I haven’t talked to the owners much since we’ve run, so I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do from here, but the horse ran pretty good. There was not quite enough pace in the race to set it up for him, and we might have been a little too far out of it. It’s kind of hard to say.
“It’s never a good thing when your horse is off 10 weeks and coming into a Grade 1 race like that. It’s kind of hard to be maybe as sharp as you want to be. I tried to tell his owners last night, it’s not like you got beat a fading 10 lengths or something. You were the only horse left running in the race, you were still closing ground. From the head of the lane to the wire, he makes up about six or seven (lengths).”
What might be most troubling were Borel’s words immediately after the race.
“He had a perfect trip, but he got to struggling a little,” he said. “When I asked him to go get them, he was struggling over the track a little bit. Maybe a little bit firmer ground where I can just let him break and pick him up easy – instead of this quick – will be better for him. I don’t know if that will work. But I do know one thing. He’s a lot better horse on the dirt. When you ask him here, he goes to struggling instead of just running. I don’t know. We’ll have to work on that a little bit and see what happens. But I think he’ll be all right.”
It’s tough to work things out if a horse doesn’t like the track, although the way he came running late seems to indicate he didn’t dislike it that much. He’ll probably run in the Classic on Nov. 7 and get a better pace to run at. Then it will just be a matter of if he’s good enough.