The Brock Talk

Friday, September 10, 2010

What To Do With Mine That Bird

As the career of 2009 Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands winner Mine That Bird continues to plunge further downward with his last-place finish in the grade 1 Woodward, one has to wonder several things about the diminutive gelding. Was his Kentucky Derby a fluke? If he wasn’t a fluke, what has gone wrong with Mine That Bird since winning the Kentucky Derby? And what can be done, if anything, to get him back on track?

The answer as to the validity of Mine That Bird’s victory in Kentucky is obviously influenced by the fact that he has not won in eight starts since. Not only has he not won, but in his three starts this year in the Firecracker (gr. 2) at Churchill Downs and the Whitney (gr. 1) and Woodward at Saratoga, he has been beaten more than 41 lengths.

To be fair to the horse, that eight-race losing streak is riddled with legitimate excuses. In the eight races since the Derby, Mine That Bird has had five jockey changes, a trainer change, traffic in the Preakness and a bad ride in the Belmont. Two starts came at Santa Anita over a synthetic surface he obviously did not like and his first start this year was a last-second entry into the Firecracker Handicap on turf. In the Woodward he again ran with a new jockey, and blinkers for the first time, and a failed attempt at a new, closer-to-the-pace running style.

Regardless, the fluke label and been attached to Mine That Bird and the armor has worn thin among his defenders. After all, 0-for-8 is 0-for-8.

Now on to the third question: What can be done, if anything, to get him back on track? It is difficult to imagine that he would need another lay-off with only three starts year after his eight month vacation between the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. 1) in November and the Firecracker in July. It would appear that the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Breeders’ Cup Classic or any other grade 1 race are no longer short term options for Mine That Bird.

Perhaps the grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup is a viable option. The 10-furlong distance is suitable to Mine That Bird’s come-from-behind running style and the Oct. 2 date may also fit. The Monmouth Cup Stakes (gr. 2) at 1-1/8 miles Oct. 9 or the $100,000 Spend A Buck Handicap (gr. 3) at Calder the following week are other options.

But make no mistake. Mine That Bird may be just one loss away from retirement. Some might say he should be on his way back to Roswell, New Mexico now. But that is a difficult decision to make on a grade 1 winning, 4-year-old gelding. It is difficult to watch the Kentucky Derby winner flounder around Saratoga in embarrassment, but there has to be more left in the tank and some hope that what may be left isn’t sour.

That might take some wins at a lower level for a few races to help Mine That Bird regain his confidence and his competitiveness. Neither of which he currently seems to have. In no way are we suggesting Mine That Bird ever be dropped below allowance level racing. That seems obvious to racing fans but sometimes escapes certain trainers or owners.

But if all else fails and trainer D. Wayne Lukas can’t find the correct buttons to push on Mine That Bird, a swift retirement decision must be order. And Mine That Bird can live the rest of his days enjoying the dry, sunny afternoons and the funny lights in the night skies above Roswell.

Editors Note: This blog post is part of the Thoroughbred Bloggers’ Alliance Winning Topic Friday. This week various TBA bloggers are addressing Retirement: Where is the line for retirement vs competing, but not winning, for a horse that once won at a high level? As fans we want our stars to hang around and race as much as possible, but all horses lose form, some permanently some for a period of time. As fans we can't have it both ways wanting more racing, but we don't want to see our stars sullied.

You can read more TBA Blogs at the TBA home page.

6 comments:

Jeff said...

Brock,

Mine That Bird couldn’t even win the Sunland Derby in New Mexico. The owners of Mine That Bird were not even thinking of entering their colt into the Kentucky Derby until Churchill Downs called them. The owners of Mine That Bird had already made plans to enter their colt in the Lone Star Derby.

Quote from one of the owners of Mine That Bird:

“Black said they had targeted the Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park in Texas before Churchill Downs called to point out that they had enough graded stakes earnings to qualify in a 20-horse field and ask if they were coming. This was not on our list,” Black said, “until they called us and told us we were eligible.”

Here is the whole article about “Mine That Bird”:

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/horses/triple/derby/2009-05-02-race-final_N.htm

The bottom line:
The quote (above) tells the whole tale regarding Mine That Bird. The owners never even thought enough of their colt “to even think of entering Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby”.

Mine That Bird was a fluke. There have been many derby winners that have been flukes (AKA: Giacomo, etc, etc, etc).

ksweatman said...

If Mine that Bird is a fluke, he's the only fluke who came within a breath of winning the Preakness and then placing third in the gruelling Belmont against fresh horses. "Mr. Fluke" was also a Canadian champion. The fact is, Mine that Bird hasn't come in the money since his throat surgery. Only 60% of these procedures are successful, leaving the door wide open for failure. Alot of thoroughbreds never run the same again after having epiglottis surgery. Some have even had to be euthanized. I guess it's easier to just label the gelding a fluke than to explore the other possibillities, and there are many, believe me. Mine that Bird was, and is a good horse who hasn't had a lucky day in his life. Something is amiss with the little gelding. I'm not dumb enough to buy into the "fluke theory". How can a fluke run the final quarter mile of the derby in a time matched only by the great Secretariat? I don't think so, something's wrong here. The horse racing circle has never been known for compassion or patience, it's a business and it's often cut throat for the horses. Mine that Bird pulled off one of the most spectacular derby wins of all time. No one can take that away from him. I'll be a Mine that Bird fan forever, even if he never wins another race. As far as the "fans" who can't seem to say enough bad things about the derby winner, I've read negative posts about Zenyatta, queen ZENYATTA, so I'm aware that there are alot of looney people out there who follow the sport. I take their off the wall comments with a grain of salt. WE STILL LOVE YOU SWEET BIRD!

Brock Sheridan said...

Excellent points ksweatman. Much the same thing as I was trying to convey regarding his string of bad luck. I'm like you and remain on the MTB bandwagon, (as a fan, not a bettor), but something has to be done to regain his confidence. If we could get even a glimmer of the old MTB rolling down the track late it would be a memorable thrill.

railrunner said...

They should have realistically started him off in an allowance race so that they could judge where his readiness was this year.

vlmagee said...

They could send him back to the trainer that won with him, and with whom he never ran a bad race. And who loves the little horse as much as we do.

melwieser said...

Yes, this champion horse as a 2 yr old was the canadian horse of the year and ran an outstanding final quarter mile of the derby in a time matched only by the great Secretariat! Prior to the Preakness no other horse came close to beating Rachel. Changing jockies on the horse was totally inconsiderate of Borel. The Belmont was Borel's fault..started him way too soon! No fluke here.. anyone who would seriously consider that he is a fluke apparently doesn't know much about the horse. Borel really hurt himself by not staying with this horse..this horse I think would of won the triple crown.

I respect & love this horse even if his owner's are being stupid by switching trainers! Send him back to someone who'll take care of him. Find out if he's ill or possibly needs the love & pampering he received before. I know my sisters & I have a few racehorses that want to only please us too! Send him back before it's too late for the horse and your pocket book!