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May 15, 2009

Jockey meets gelding

By: SPORTS NETWORK


 

Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and his rider for Saturday's Preakness Stakes, Mike Smith, began to get acquainted with each other Friday morning. Smith stopped by the barn at Pimlico Race Course where the three-year-old gelding is quartered.

Smith, who won the 1993 Preakness with Prairie Bayou, picked up the mount on Mine That Bird when Calvin Borel chose to remain the jockey on the filly Rachel Alexandra.

"It's pretty cool. Everyone is asking if there's extra-added pressure. Honestly, to me, I'm just excited to get this opportunity," said New Mexico native Smith. "Hopefully, we can go out there and make the most of it and show people that it wasn't a fluke."

Smith was referring to Mine That Bird's shocking 6 3/4-length victory in the Run for the Roses two weeks ago at Churchill Downs. The gelding upset 18 other three-year-olds at odds of 50-1 for owners Mark Allen and Leonard Blach.

"I think he's an extremely easy horse to ride. He's so laid-back. I've watched about every race he's run. He's really rider-friendly, it looks like. He doesn't have any quirks," the Hall of Fame rider said. "He seems to love the rail. He seems to love the middle of the track. I saw him swing six, seven wide one time in Canada and win. It doesn't seem to matter where he's at. Getting him to relax is the key."

Smith, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo, was tremendously impressed by the gelding's win in the Run for the Roses with Borel in the saddle.

"It was just an incredible move. People want to say that it was a fluke, but he didn't just get up and win," Smith said. "If you watch the blimp (overhead) shot, he was running by horses in one jump. I'm hoping to get that run out of him again.

"I have the same concerns that I have on any horse that I'm going to ride that's coming from back. You're hoping that you get back and don't get knocked around. You hope when the time comes and you do pull the trigger that there's somewhere to go. You just gotta hope for a good trip."

The fact that Smith has not had a gallop on Mine That Bird does not bother trainer Chip Woolley.

"He's a great rider. He's got great instincts. He'll be all right. We know what we're going to do," the New Mexico-based trainer said. "Our plan will be to lay back and come from off the pace. Mike's great at it. He's patient. It'll work out fine."

The updated weather forecast for the Preakness Stakes calls for partly cloudy skies with isolated thunderstorms possible. Winds from the South at 10 to 20 m.p.h and a 30-percent chance of rain. Post-time temperature near 80.



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