LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird will have a new jockey when he makes his next start on Aug. 1 in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park.
Mark Allen, who owns Mine That Bird with Leonard Blach, said Wednesday that he and trainer Chip Woolley were not yet prepared to name a replacement for Calvin Borel but that they wanted a firm commitment through the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. That span of several months also is scheduled to include the Aug. 29 Shadwell Travers Stakes at Saratoga and probably one more race leading into the BC Classic.
Allen said Wednesday that the decision to replace Borel was made the previous evening, after he learned that Borel and his agent, Jerry Hissam, were hedging on whether to ride Mine That Bird at Mountaineer or Warrior's Reward the same day in the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. Allen said the precedent set at the May 16 Preakness, where Borel took off Mine That Bird to ride the victorious Rachel Alexandra, forced him to make a preemptive move.
Borel won the May 2 Kentucky Derby on Mine That Bird, then got the mount back for his only subsequent start, the June 6 Belmont Stakes, in which the gelding finished third as the favorite.
"I'm not going to bad-mouth Calvin or Jerry because they've done me a lot of good," said Allen. "Heck, they won the Derby for me. But I'm not going to let them hang us out the way they did before the Preakness, waiting until the last minute to tell us we needed another rider. I'm going to do what I have to do, just like they have to do what they have to do."
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith rode Mine That Bird in the Preakness, and although he was a logical candidate to get the mount back, Smith's agent, Brad Pegram, said he is unable to commit to the BC Classic. Smith possibly could be riding Zenyatta, the mare who is unbeaten in 11 career starts, in the BC Classic, if owner Jerry Moss and trainer John Shirreffs choose that race over the BC Ladies' Classic the previous day.
Pegram said Wednesday he had been contacted by the Mine That Bird connections "and we've talked about it. I can commit to three races, but not the Classic because of Zenyatta."
Hissam said he and Borel would have no comment about being replaced. Borel will be at Belmont Park on Saturday to ride Warrior's Reward in the Dwyer Stakes, a race that trainer Ian Wilkes is looking to use as a prep toward the Jim Dandy and Travers.
Mine That Bird is scheduled to work again Monday at Churchill Downs, where he has been based since April 21 except for his trips to the Preakness and Belmont. The gelding breezed a half-mile last Monday in his first work since the Belmont. Borel was aboard for that move but will be replaced for subsequent works.
Woolley initially said he intended to van Mine That Bird to Mountaineer in Chester, W.Va., on or about July 17 so as to have the gelding work twice over the Mountaineer surface. But he said earlier this week that Mine That Bird may stay at Churchill a bit longer and work just once at Mountaineer.