10/27/2010 1:07PM

Aikenite, Mine That Bird, and the Breeders' Cup Selection Process


Over the years, the Breeders' Cup Racing Directors/Secretaries Panel, the largely faceless selection committee that determines which horses do and don't get into the main body of oversubscribed Breeders' Cup races at pre-entry time after starting spots are first taken by "Win and You're In" race winners and top Cup point earners, has done a good job. I can think of only two glaring mistakes this panel has made - not putting Five Star Day into the 1999 Sprint field, and denying Quiet American a starting spot in the 1990 Classic, which was a particularly egregious error - and that is a pretty good record in an event that is now 26 years old.

But this year, I take issue with one of the decisions this panel made, and that was making Aikenite the one also eligible in the Dirt Mile, and putting Mine That Bird into the field ahead of him.

Now, I want to say right off that I have no dog in this hunt. I'm not a part owner of Aikenite, and I don't hate Mine That Bird. I also want to make it clear that I understand that Aikenite is far from a super horse. But based on what they have accomplished in 2010, Aikenite deserves a starting spot in the Dirt Mile far more than Mine That Bird does.

Aikenite at least has won two races this year, even if they were only allowance races, and he did manage to hit the board in two graded stakes races. Mine That Bird, on the other hand, hasn't done anything this year - I mean anything - so it's not like he got in on points. He has made three starts, finishing eighth, fifth (beaten 12 1-2 lengths), and seventh last time out (beaten 21 1-4 lengths). Sure, Mine That Bird's starts this year came in two Grade 1 races and a Grade 2 event. So what? He was not the least bit competitive. Hey, Aikenite has two uncompetitive Grade 1 starts on his record this year, too, if that is something to recommend him.

Some will say this is much ado about nothing, because all Aikenite needs to start in the Dirt Mile is one defection, and with five horses in the main body of the Dirt Mile cross-entered in other Breeders' Cup races, there is an excellent chance that a spot will open up for him. That is not the point. The point is, given his record this year, it seems like the only possible explanation for Mine That Bird getting a starting spot in the Dirt Mile ahead of anyone is because he won the Kentucky Derby last year. And that is wrong. What happened 17 months ago should have absolutely no bearing on the composition of oversubscribed Breeders' Cup fields right now.

Look, between the Win and You're In program and the Cup points system, there are many instances when the selection panel is powerless to do the sensible thing. They were probably frustrated - or they should have been, anyway - when First Dude, whose one and only career victory came in a maiden race, got into the Classic on points over Morning Line, who just won the Pennsylvania Derby, beating First Dude! But putting Mine That Bird into the Dirt Mile over Aikenite, something the committee had complete control of, well, that one is a head scratcher.

Con MacCarthy More than 1 year ago
Extended forecast ...61 and sunny...that's what we should be talking about...beautiful horse's and beautiful weather!!!
Con More than 1 year ago
D.Wayne is the best ambassador of racing this sport has had for years,quit bashing him. How soon people forget that he won five triple crown races in a row.I was there for everyone of those victories,and he would recognize me and come over and chat with this rail bird.What we should be talking about is whether Al Stall can have Blame ready in the Classic...that is going to be one heck of a race. Saturday is going to be awesome,and I'll be in my seats on the rail at the finish line. Goodluck everybody, and by the way the extended forecast is 61 degrees and sunny.HooYa
Carl More than 1 year ago
I don't know if I agree with the selection proccess but I have a comment on Mine that Bird. I think its sad that he is being entered in any Breeders Cup race. I know it is Churchill Downs where he won the Derby and I know he is a gelding but the horse is not the same. He has run terrible all year and I can't think it's anymore then Wayne Lukas and his Ego that has this horse coming to the BC mile. Mine that Bird reminds me of Funnycide For that brief time as a three year old he over achieved but was never the same horse again. Lukas tried Mine That Bird on the turf he did not run at all. Then the horse was a joke in both the Whitney and the Woodward. A good owner would retire the horse an owner who needs the money might want to start with a 100k claiming race and drop the horse down from there.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hi Mike, My favorite long-shot BC winner is One Dreamer in 1994 at CD in the Distaff. She had been running on the turf all summer with little success, but loved CD. 47-1 she went wire to wire for Tom Proctor under Gary Stevens. Lesson: Beware horses that love CD.
JeanneW More than 1 year ago
They want these races to be considered "World Championships" yet we are here debating which of two non stakes winners of 2010 will compete. It just goes to show how illegitimate a "Dirt Mile" really is.
Kevin Harrington More than 1 year ago
Mike. Really. Are ya just throwing this big ripe pumkin up for somebody to smash with a bat. I lost money on AKenite over the years, so I watched him fairly close. Mine That Bird: Hit the board in all three Triple Crown races, yes? That puts him in some fairly elite company. I let him ride that train for a while. I agree with the committee. I give MTB the nod on career accomplishments. Respectfully --The Lunch-Bucket Bettor
jim tully More than 1 year ago
DaHoss had one start before his second BC win, which he won, and had no losses in between. That is more than Mine That Bird has done, so it's actually very good reasoning.
Karen Sweatman More than 1 year ago
Getting a position in the dirt mile certainly isn't doing any favors for Mine that Bird, but then again, the gelding hasn't been handed any favors since the first saturday in May of last year. The mile doesn't suit his running style and the derby winner seems to have issues that haven't been resolved. Why didn't they just let him run in the grade 3 Ack Ack? No, they always have to shoot for the moon at the expense of the horse. Why am I surprized? I never questioned the little geldings' ability. I think there is something holding him back, either physical or mental. No one really knows, but he isn't the same horse that won the derby. It's wrong to keep placing him in races that he won't win. Maybe Mine that Bird just doesn't want to run anymore. If that's the case, they need to retire him.
dcronin More than 1 year ago
After what those owners did to Wooley then Borel I hope they run last, serves them right I knew Lukas would ruin that horse, like he does most others the last 10 yrs.
joe More than 1 year ago
This what will happen, Zenyatta opens at 1 to 5 she will win. She opens at 8/5, toss her. I hope she wins, but racing now is all based on betting. Form is irrelevant.