The Brock Talk

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Day Of Unexpectations In West Virginia

When jockey Dale Beckner woke up this Saturday, he must have been looking forward to watching Mine That Bird run in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby from the comfort of the jockey's quarters at Mountaineer Park. But he later found himself at the top of stretch in that race aboard longshot Soul Warrior about to run down a tiring Big Drama and fighting off the heralded late kick of the Kentucky Derby winner.

Moments later he and Soul Warrior crossed the finish line in front to give trainer Steve Asmussen the first half of his stakes double and topping off was is sure to be one of the better days of his life.

But that was about it as far as jockeys in West Virginia having a good Saturday - or jockeys that never made it to West Virginia as it were.

Jockey Miguel Mena was schedule to fly from Saratoga to Chester, West Virginia to ride six races - all stakes, two for Asmussen including Soul Warrior. And as Facebook friend Ian Lozada pointed out, the other five horses Mena was scheduled to ride at Mountaineer produced two wins, a second and a third.

After getting the return mount on Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby - despite leaving the gelding after an admittedly sub-optimal ride in the Preakness, depite not being able to commit to ride Mine That Bird past the Travers Stakes in late August, jockey Mike Smith again has a questionable ride.

As expected Big Drama went straight to the lead in West Virginia Derby. But what was somewhat unexpected was the size of the lead and the apparent ease at which he galloped down the backside. It even appeared as though he may have extending his lead going into the far turn. Add to that the fact that Smith saw winner after winner that day run on or near the early lead so now Smith had an apparent track bias working against Mine That Bird's closing style. So he made the decision to move Mine That Bird closer to the pace than desirable, not wanting Big Drama to run away from the pack. By the time Big Drama began to tire mid-way around the turn, Mine That Bird was racing along side Soul Warrior. By the time the team passed Big Drama in the stretch, Mine That Bird was spent from the altered running style and faded to third.

"The way the racetrack played all day, whoever made the lead was winning," Smith told Daily Racing Form.

"Mine That Bird doesn't want to run that way," Smith said. "I used too much of him on the backside."

Even if Mine That Bird had raced from his usual place further back in the early stages of the race, there's no guarantee he would have been able to catch a sharp Soul Warrior. So the hard luck and strange tales of Mine That Bird continues. But I wouldn't be jumping off any bandwagons if I were a Mine That Bird fan just yet.


ReneC said...

Mine that Bird needs a rest it looks like.

Maddie4361 said...

If Rachel Alexanda gets somebody that can run with her early, Mine That Bird will win the Travers. She's had it easy so far.