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When a fairy tale goes awry: The Mind That Bird Story

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There are stories that come out of nowhere to really captivate people.  Mine that Bird was such as story.  A long shot from parts unknown with no apparent shot of winning and driven to the race by an unknown trainer with a broken leg that no one ever heard of wins the biggest race in the world for owners no one ever heard of.  Yeah, I know that is a crappy sentence, but it sums it up pretty well. You can’t write a better fairly tale.

You would think this would guarantee the trainer would get to train this one until he retires, correct?  Wrong.   Not quite as bad as Billy Turner losing a triple crown winner, but pretty damn close.

Even worse, the horse went to Wayne Lukas, who hasn’t set the world on fire in years.  Lately, he would have trouble starting a fire with matches and a gallon of gas.  But this isn’t meant as a knock on Lukas, he has had a great career and was once quite relevant. No, this is a knock on the owners. Watching the Whitney was just sad.  The horse gave his all in the triple crown, and it would have been nice to see him retire after that. Of course, I can’t blame the connections for coming back, but it was pretty evident in the races that followed that the horse isn’t the same. His race on the grass as a comeback wasn’t horrible and I had hoped turf to dirt may have the horse sharp for the Whitney. Sadly, the DRF chart comment said it all:

MINE THAT BIRD was unhurried at the rear of the field while on the inside, saved ground on both turns and showed little

So now you have this great story, yes a fairy tale and the ending doesn’t seem to be what the horse deserved. I hope if the horse doesn’t come around, they will do the right thing and retire the horse. hey if he shows life fine, but otherwise, do the right thing.

Here is my perfect ending: Trainer Chip Woolley drives from New Mexico to Wayne Lukas’ barn at Saratoga. He picks the horse up and drives back to New Mexico where the horse runs in a stake named in his honor.  The horse under Borel, sits off the pace, makes his patented run along the rail and gets up to win. The adoring New Mexico crowd salutes the deserving Mine That Bird and he rides off into the sunset.  Trainer Woolley drives the horse to the Kentucky Horse Park where he retires. Now that is an ending this fairy tale deserves.

Barry Roos

25 Comments

  1. Your fairy tail is good, but a bit predictable. How ’bout a little twist…M.T.B.’s owners send him back to our cowboy Chip where the horse runs a few nice, but not record shattering races, but a young ambitious exercise rider on the back side takes him on and gives him a new career as a mega star junior horse on the
    USEF circuit where M.T.B. goes on to make headlines, facebook & blog posts for another 10 years….giving the American public a reason to love race horses for life…not just for a few short years.

  2. They should put him in an allowance, let him feel good and then take it from there…no they bust his heart over and over…

  3. Maybe you meant it as hyperbole but calling the Kentucky Derby the biggest race in the world is a little U.S.-centric.

  4. I love Mine That Bird. I don’t care if he never wins another race but if he can’t win for whatever reason, then yes retire him and send him to Old Friends or the Kentucky Horse Farm where his adoring fans can visit him. I for one cannot wait until I can visit him after he retires.

  5. The derby win was a fluke,that is why it was 50 to 1 odd’s,the horse isn’t that good and the 2 trainers are worse

  6. That’s what happens when a classic horse is owned and “managed” by cowboys from the sticks. He should have been rested last year after his poor showing in the W. VA Derby. Yet he continued to go all over the place and ran for the second year in a row in the BC after he was already spent. How pathetic is that?

    The last thing MTB needs is another cross-country trip to New Mexico. He needs to be turned to an excellent, kind, traditional East coast trainer, and I mean excellent based on horsemanship and safety records not “leading”. That trainer (Jonathan Sheppard would be perfect) needs to be listened to by owners and what Mr. Sheppard would say is best for MTB would need to be the last word. That excellent horseman should evaluate him and try to rebuild his confidence by entering him where he belongs until he improves if he physically and mentally still can find the will to win. When or if it is time to retire him, he should be sent to Old Friends or the KY Horse Park with a lifetime pension from his owners.

    Good horses make trainers and owners. Ill-managed horses make it for a while despite it all, on heart and class alone. Lukas is obviously the perfect match for those owners. Pity the horse. I felt sorry for Dublin that leaned to the outside and tried to bolt when going faster than a canter. Pain and despair, yet no one stopped him from running in the Derby and Preakness. Shame on them all. Like MTB, Dublin was a quality youngster that was ruined needlessly. Too many promising youngsters and proven horses are ruined because of inflated ego and/or greed and lack of horsemanship or compassion toward horses.

    Will some cowboys learn from Zenyatta’s patient and compassionate management and the reward that both tend to bring at any level of racing?

    As MTB’s owners were sending him off to KY from NM, they said that they wanted to have fun and enjoy their gelding for many years to come. That sounded so lame because Lukas is the wrong guy for that but as long as there is life there is hope and it is not too late to send him to Jonathan Sheppard and let him do what he knows best for MTB.

  7. If I hear one more person tell me that Mine that Birds’ derby win was a “fluke” I’m going to scream. I guess the Preakness and the Belmont were just a bit more of this little geldings’ “lucky streak”. This horse hasn’t had a lucky day in his life and he’s never been a spoiled pampered horse. He has been grossly mismanaged for starters. Borel made it very clear that Bird was struggling with the pro-ride surface last year, yet they made him run his final 2 races of the year on it anyway. Then he was inactive until May of this year. His first race was on yet another new surface for the colt, turf. His second start and first run on dirt IN A YEAR was in the Whitney against the top rated horses in the country. Not to mention the fact that they took Mine that Bird away from his home and trainer with whom he had bonded. What’s wrong with this horse? I’ll tell you, his connections don’t know how to manage his career. They need to stick to quarter horses, because they’ve managed to trash a good thoroughbred.

  8. Karen, I could not agree with your assessment more – MTB has not had one break in his career, yet has succeeded in spite of it all. Don’t forget the merry-go-round of jockeys climbing onto his back during the ’09 Triple Crown season. He was the Derby Champ, for heavens sake, yet couldn’t find a jockey willing to commit to him. Regardless, he still ran his heart out to win, place and show at Churchill, Pimlico and Belmont, respectively. THAT is not the definition of “fluke” in my book.

    Aside from Chip – who I believe always had his horse’s welfare in mind – MTB’s management has been disgraceful. I truly fear for his health and safety these days.

    I would love to see this little guy retired to Kentucky Horse Park, where his legion of fans could visit and admire him. He has more than earned this.

  9. Karen, I agree with you wholeheartedly. He’s a great little horse and deserves to go back to chip. However, I think Jenn’s idea of retraining him as a show horse is fantastic. He could spend the rest of his life as the pampered show horse of a wonderful junior or amateur. It would keep him occupied (he would be bored retiring at four and being relegated to a stall and paddock at the Horse Park) and also show the world that there are more to thoroughbreds than simply racing.

  10. Give him back to Cotey and put chantal sutherland back on him. she was with him when he broke his maiden and jockeyed him into a couple of really nice stakes victories as well. I’d defnitely ship him to WO.

  11. I love MTB and always will, whether he wins or not. With that said, I wish his connections would put him in races where he has a chance to win again and build up some confidence. He deserves some respect for winning the Derby and placing 2nd and 3rd in the following TC races. He have his all and now it’s time for his connections to give back to “the Bird”.

    I hope he can retire one day to a place where his many fans (me included) can go and visit with him hand spoil him with lots of love and treats. He would be a good PR horse to help with fundraising for TB retirements or horse rescue, etc. May MTB remain safe and healthy and finish his destiny with joy. Again, I love him.

  12. I can’t believe this has to happen over and over again. Owners are the most disloyal bunch their is.

    Jimmy Jerkens wins the Florida Derby then has Quality Road yanked from him.

    Chip Wooley wins the Kentucky Derby then loses the horse

    Hal Wiggins wins the Kentucky Oaks, then has the superstar taken away. Jackson couldn’t do the right thing and keep Wiggins?

    Tim Ice wins the Belmont then has Summer Bird yanked from him

    Billy Turner wins the Triple Crown then loses Seattle Slew

    Laura de Seroux wins Horse of the Year with Azeri, then has her yanked to go to D. Wayne Lucas

    Why are so many owners blockheads?

  13. I am a tour guide at Pimlico and fell in love with MTB during Preakness week.He always posed for the cameras with a “who me?” expression. Very cute and very sweet. Unfortunatly , all eyes were on Rachel Alexandra and I don’t think he got the attention he deserved. AND I think that if the race had been a little longer, he would have caught her.Retiring a horse at only 4 or 5 years old seems like such a waste.But I hate it when they run the legs off geldings.

  14. He’s a racehorse, not a pasture puff.

    I think horses want more to do than sit in a pasture all day doing nothing, especially at 4 years old.

    Whether it be racing, or even being a stable pony, I’d rather see Mine That Bird do something.

    I don’t mind though if they dropped a few levels and try a G3 or ungraded stakes to get things going.

  15. I don’t necessarily think Mine that Bird is washed up at the age of 4. I do however think it’s time for someone to put the horses’ best interest first. Mine that Bird is a “hard luck pony” so to speak. He seems to get slighted at every turn. I can’t remember a time when race fans were so disrespectful to a derby winner. It’s really sad. Mine that Bird needs a kind patient trainer to get him back on track. Lucas is not known for these traits and I’ve recently heard some very disturbing accusations about Wooley, which I hope to God aren’t true. In any case, horses can’t talk and we don’t know how they are treated after we leave the grandstand. I pray for the little gelding, as foolish as that may sound it does give me some comfort.

  16. Mine That Bird will never even place in a Graded race again. I said that when he crossed the wire in the Derby and I’ve got an open dollar to a doughnut offer open until it retires.
    It’s Derby win was a total fluke, like Onion beating Secretariat.
    It’s a nice gelding but not a stakes horse

  17. Mine That Bird is a beloved racehorse to many of us because he is the ultimate underdog who never got the respect and devotion that deserved.

    His Kentucky Derbery win was breathtaking.
    He is pure heart and soul and a very nice sweet horse who is stuck with connections that are not worthy to be in his presence in my opinion.

    I wish that he knew what it was like to be a loved and cherished racehorse. It would boost his confidence I just know it.

    In my mind, I love this little guy and I want so much for him to a confident and happy horse. I am not sure what it will take for that to happen, but I like and agree with a lot of what was spoken here.

    I pray that he will stay safe and healthy and soon be placed into a different and more intelligent situation where he can live a better quality life. I am not a fan of the owners in this case. They need to stop being so selfish, and do the right thing for the horse who made them feel like big shots for awhile.

    Some owners are just plain idiots and some can be quite wonderful.

    Unfortunately for this sweet horse, he just has owners who do not know what they are doing and they have demonstrated that they care more about themselves and their ego then they do about the horse.

    Happens all the time I know, but in this case – it’s just extra sad because we are talking about a Kentucky Derby winner.

    It is not to late to do the right thing. Let’s all hope that they wise up soon before it is to late.

    I will always love Mine That Bird and he will remain one of my favorites.

    He is a good horse who maybe could have been great who knows. But I love and respect him just the way he is because he has earned that.

  18. Today was the saddest of all. Lukas put blinkers, changed riders and tried to send the poor little guy. Sad to see him in the hands of that has-been.

  19. I think Lukas was relevant in his time and can respect that, but to me is not forward thinking enough and to stubborn to change his approach. I read that they are going to keep racing the little horse. They have ruined his reputation withthte general media due to the many poor choices they have made. They seem to be blaming the horse – what idiots.

    I wish I was rich and could just but the little guy and let him live a quality life.

    Wish some noble generous person could do that.
    They will never let him go until they have used him up because they are stubborn and old geezers trying to relive their golden years.

    I am so scared that I will read someday that the little guy has broken down on the track.

    After watching the Woodward, and listening to Lukas comments of “at least the blinders worked somewhat”, I thought wow, this is not going to have a happy ending. Unbelievable and so unforntunate. This is why the masses as a whole, generally do not repspect horseracing. To many greedy stupid people running the show.

  20. Mike, your comment is ignorant in some regards and flat-out wrong in others.

    Hal Wiggins lost Rachel after the horse was sold. She won the Oaks for a different owner and was immediately transfered to Asmussen after the purchase.

    De Seroux lost Azeri because she did not have the operation to base the horse in the East. Paulsen wanted to run her up towards the Breeders Cup in 2004 at Saratoga and Keeneland (as he did) and De Seroux didn’t have the national presence or staff to have her stabled out there. So he moved her so the horse didn’t have to keep shipping across the country every few weeks.

  21. I have never seen such experimenting done with one horse as I have with MTB. If it’s his mindset, I can understand based on some very poor decisions that have been made for him. Change of trainers, jockeys, equipment, surfaces,running style etc. MTB has been like a science project gone bad and they question if it’s his mindset? I’m surprised the horse hasn’t gone stark mad at this point. Also MTB is a natural closer. Keep him back but don’t keep him so far back he’s in another zip code. You can’t expect the horse to make up that much ground when it’s a slow pace and the horses aren’t coming back. Then it becomes so easy to blame the horse for a poor showing. Well, duh! He’s a horse, not a rocket launcher. Not to mention the way he’s been disrespected by the racing community….when’s the last time you saw a horse run in all 3 legs of the TC and not only that, placed 1-2-3 the way MTB did? That alone should have earned this horse the greatest respect but the fickle fans can only embrace those horses who stay champions. How many of those “champions” go on beyond their 3 year old campaign? It’s becoming a treat to see these horses actually racing at 4 years of age anymore. MTB doesn’t have to do anything else to prove to me he’s a champion. He proved it last year and has earned a lifetime of respect from me. I just hope they don’t ruin this horse for good.

  22. I agree with everything you said Lori.
    People have such short memories sometimes. I believe that I read that Mine That Bird ran the Derby just shy of the fractions of the great Secretariat. I can not conform if that is exactly true, so my apologizes if it is not. Even still, he ran impressively to say the least.He placed in all three TC events and that was and is an amazing achievememnt for any horse, especially for one that is supposedly a fluke. I haved a sense that it might be a little political concerning him. Perhaps his connections were not among the elite. Whatever. He is a jewel and a little prince in my eyes and always will be.

  23. I decided to check my facts a litle bit. lol.
    Yep. MTB ran the fastest final quarter mile (23.77)seconds in the Kentucky Derby since the great Secretariat in 1973. Also, he won by 6 and 3/4 lengths, the greatest margin of victory in the Derby since Assalts win by 8 lengths in 1946.
    That a boy MTB. They can never take that away from you.

  24. Very interesting story. I agree with Jenn about a second career.

    Mare

    P.S. I tried to add you to my Google Reader and Feedburner said to tell you there’s an error with your RSS feed.

  25. I love Mine That Bird and Chip… and no matter what happens, MTB’s story is a great story that can’t be taken away from him. May Chip have many more surprises and winners fill his stalls.

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