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Dec 03, 2010

Retirement begins for Mine That Bird

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Most geldings don't enter retirement from racing after their four-year-old season. There's nothing for the gelding to do that will bring in any money for its owners.

However, one of the best known geldings in thoroughbred racing has been retired following his four-year-old campaign.

Mine That Bird, 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, said goodbye to his fans at historic Churchill Downs on Sunday. It was appropriate that his retirement ceremony should take place at the site of his most notable victory.

Mine That Bird was joined at Churchill Downs by the people that got him into the winner's circle on that May afternoon of last year. The gelding's co-owners Dr. Leonard Blach and Mark Allen were in Louisville along with the gelding's former trainer Chip Woolley and exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.

The group traveled from New Mexico for the retirement ceremony which was held in the winner's circle following Sunday's seventh race. Mine That Bird, who didn't win a race after his upset victory in the Run for the Roses, will be going back to the Land of Enchantment to live out his years.

Churchill Downs presented Mine That Bird with a special blanket bearing the official event logo of his Kentucky Derby. Track president Kevin Flanery presented the 135th Derby winner a basket filled with apples, peppermints and equine treats and toys for his van ride back to Allen?s Double Eagle Ranch.

Mine That Bird had an interesting racing career. As a two-year-old he was voted Canada's champion juvenile male thoroughbred. At Woodbine Race Course in 2008 Mine That Bird, trained by David Cotey, won four of six starts.

With Chantal Sutherland in the saddle, Mine That Bird won the Silver Deputy and Swynford Stakes. Horse and jockey then combined to win the $250,000 Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes on October 11, 2008.

At that point Mine That Bird was sold to Allen and Dr. Blach of New Mexico. The gelding finished last in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Santa Anita's synthetic track. Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella had been the horse's conditioner upon the sale.

At this point in the Mine That Bird story things take an unusual turn. Instead of having the horse compete in the normal races on the road to the Kentucky Derby, The owners gave the gelding to new trainer Chip Woolley, who is based in New Mexico.

Woolley had Mine That Bird make his 2009 debut in Sunland Park's Borderland Derby where he finished second to Scorewithcater at odds of 7-2. One month later in March, Mine That Bird was fourth in the Sunland Derby as a 13-1 longshot to Kelly Leak.

Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby at longshot odds of 50-1 in the 19 horse field. It was the first race aboard the gelding for 2007 Derby winner Calvin Borel.

Two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes the three-year-old was ridden by Mike Smith because Borel kept his mount on the filly Rachel Alexandra. Borel and the filly won the Preakness while Smith rode Mine That Bird to a runner-up finish. It would be the best result for the gelding through the remainder of his career.

Borel got back on board Mine That Bird for the Belmont Stakes. Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, the gelding finished third behind Summer Bird.

After an eight week rest, Mine That Bird was reunited with Smith in the West Virginia Derby. The gelding was the 9-10 second choice in the six horse field. He finished third to longshot Soul Warrior with 4-5 favorite Big Drama second.

Mine That Bird then had surgery and came back to finish sixth in the Goodwood at Santa Anita and ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

As a four-year-old in 2010, Mine That Bird got transferred to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Unfortunately Lukas could not get the gelding back to the winner's circle.

Racing only in stakes races, Mine That Bird could do no better than a fifth in four 2010 starts. He closed his career with a 10th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

The little horse from New Mexico won five of 18 career starts with more than $2 million in earnings.

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