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Jul 09, 2010

Trainer expects brighter days ahead for Mine That Bird

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Eight months away from racing competition proved too much for 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to overcome in his first start of 2010. The four-year-old gelding finished a disappointing eighth in Sunday's Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs.

"His first start back wasn't a successful one," noted trainer D. Wayne Lukas, "but I thought he would handle the turf a lot better than what he did. He didn't handle it that well."

Lukas, who took over as Mine That Bird's trainer from Chip Woolley, was forced to start the gelding in the turf stakes after an allowance race at Churchill failed to fill. The one-mile July 4th stakes was won by Tizdejavu in pacesetting style.

Lukas had been extremely pleased with Mine That Bird's workouts leading to the gelding's first race since November's ninth-place result in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park behind Zenyatta.

"He was training too forwardly to have him that far back," Lukas said, "but he finished up and got a little more comfortable the last three-eighths. I think it put us in a position to do something better."

Mine That Bird, with regular rider Calvin Borel in the saddle, was racing last for much of the race. He put on a small rally coming off the final turn to get up for eighth in the 14 horse field.

"He was struggling so much," Borel commented. "He kept moving back and forth, back and forth, switching leads. We will see a different horse after this, a totally different horse. He came back real good, jogging good. He was perfect, the horse is doing good. I'm telling you, get him on the dirt and you'll see a different horse."

Mine That Bird has not won since his surprise victory in last year's Run for the Roses as a 50-1 longhsot. His best race since the win was two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes when he rallied to get within a length of Rachel Alexandra.

Lukas has been saying all along that the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Saturday, August 7 is the immediate goal for the four-year-old.

"I'm not discouraged that I can get him where I want him," Lukas said on Sunday. "I don't think we are going to the Arlington Million. The Whitney is our goal. If we could have gotten that allowance race to go, I think it would have been a different story. I didn't want to ship and we took a shot. It is what it is. I feel very comfortable in the mornings with what I see and we'll show up in the Whitney."

The expected favorite in the Whitney is leading four-year-old colt Quality Road. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Quality Road is perfect in three starts this year, coming out on top in the Hal's Hope Stakes, Donn Handicap and the Met Mile.

Mine That Bird needs a sharp upgrade if his connections expect to capture the Whitney. As a gelding, the only way for him to make money in the future is to race... and win.

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