10/07/2009 11:00PM

Contrast of styles in Goodwood


ARCADIA, Calif. - Railbirds, heads up. Saturday will be a big day at Santa Anita Park, with just about every older horse who matters stepping up to run in one of four important events offered by the Oak Tree Racing Association. They all figure they're good enough to run in the Breeders' Cup four weeks later. We'll see. But just for kicks, when the Goodwood Stakes comes around and the swells start to gather in the walking ring, try shouting, "Hey, pal, won a Kentucky Derby lately?" and see who turns around.

One candidate who could react would be a tall, elegant gent with a patrician jawline, a silver mane, and Hollywood shades. My guess is he'll be wearing a deep blue jacket, tie, and slacks that fit like butter, and he'll be smiling a big, toothy smile, as if the world is on pause, awaiting his next generous whim.

The other guy who might take the bait will be decked out in black, from the brim of his sharp Stetson to the tips of his some-kind-of-varmint skin boots. In between there will be a healthy representation of the turquoise and leather industries, fronted by just the right amount of whisker growth on a roundish face that delivers, without blinking, a see-if-I-care stare.

Jerry Moss, meet Mark Allen.

Moss, with his wife, Ann, owns Tiago, a half-brother to their Derby winner Giacomo who ran big when second in the 2008 Goodwood and even bigger in the subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic, finishing third to the Euro duo Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator. Nothing has gone right this season for Tiago, although the Mosses have had some consolation in the ownership of unbeaten Zenyatta, who runs a half-hour after Tiago, in the Lady's Secret.

Allen, along with partner Dr. Leonard Blach, owns Mine That Bird, whose dazzling flight of fancy in the Kentucky Derby captivated the imagination. Mine That Bird has not won since that first Saturday in May, but it hasn't been for lack of trying - just ask Rachel Alexandra after the Preakness - and on Saturday he takes his first step toward a run at another possible miracle on the first Saturday in November.

The contrast between the stylish Moss, a California racing commissioner whose record company gave the world Sting and the Tijuana Brass, and Allen, a New Mexico rancher who rode his Harley to Louisville for the Derby, is one of those delightful variations on the eternal theme of Thoroughbred racing - that a good horse can end up in anyone's hands, and once it does, anything can happen. Giacomo was 50-1 in 2005 when the Mosses hoisted the golden Derby cup. Mine That Bird was his own 50-1 last May when Allen and Blach did the same.

So now they cross paths, with the Goodwood and Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Classic in their sights. Allen arrived in the Mosses' backyard around 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, found his driver at the airport and headed for Santa Anita, where Mine That Bird has been training since Sept. 25 for Chip Woolley, still known as the tall man on crutches because of a broken leg. Allen was asked if he planned on doing to L.A. what he did to ol' Kentucky.

"You know, Mine That Bird, he's not real correct," Allen said. "So I got a crooked horse, a one-legged trainer, and three-legged dog. His name is Raider. He got run over back at the ranch, and to save him we had to chop his leg off. But he's good now."

Good news about Raider. But about the Derby winner?

"Since the Derby he's grown a lot," Allen went on. "He's gotten taller, and he looks thinner, but it's just 'cause he's grown. He's in good flesh, and he's like an alligator trying to get in the stall with him. He'll take a chunk out of you.

"So we're ready to try," Allen added. "But there's people out here that have something to say about that. This is a race we need to get ready for the Breeders' Cup, and this horse will run his guts out like he does every time."

The nine-furlong Goodwood is a gem of a race, with Chocolate Candy, Richard's Kid, Colonel John, and Parading providing depth. Mine That Bird has no cheat in him, though, and he will come running. Tiago, if he's on his game, should get the jump on The Bird. But it has been a while since anyone has seen Tiago's best race, a frustration not lost on his owner.

"We know he has the talent," Moss said. "Let's hope he's got the conditioning. He's a beautiful horse, and he tries. Running him on the turf at Del Mar didn't work out. But he just wouldn't train on that main track down there. We tried sending over to the training center at Rancho Paseana, but that wasn't really a solution. Now he's been back at Hollywood Park, and he likes it there."

Moss was describing a horse hunting for an accommodating synthetic surface among California's wide variety. Tiago certainly handled Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface last fall, but his greatest days have come on dirt, specifically the 2007 Santa Anita Derby and 2008 Oaklawn Handicap.

Mine That Bird, on the other hand, became a champion in Canada on Polytrack before making history at Churchill Downs. Still, he was disappointing in his first start for Allen and Blach a year ago when they sent him west for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and put him in the brief care of Richard Mandella. Even though Mine That Bird finished last, Woolley took his horse right back to Mandella's Hall of Fame barn.

"They won't let me near him, though," Mandella pouted.

"Naw, it was my fault," Allen said with a laugh. "I messed that horse up running him there. Chip got him after that and he's done a great job. So we're looking to do a little better than last year."