11/26/2010 4:03PM

Fans get opportunity to say good-bye to Mine That Bird

Barbara D. Livingston
Mine That Bird will appear in the paddock before Sunday's seventh race and in the winner's circle after that race is run.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – They will scatter like the wind after the fall meet ends Sunday at Churchill Downs, departing for Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, and elsewhere. The horses, that is. One will even leave Monday morning on a van bound for New Mexico, completing a storybook circle that began a little more than 18 months ago.

Mine That Bird is going home, apparently for good, but not before the fans who turn out here Sunday get to say farewell. His saga is the kind that makes Kentucky Derby lore richer by the year, an almost unbelievable tale of an underdog emerging from nowhere to reach the apex of the sports world.

“He’s been good to us, and we’re honored that Churchill will be having us in Sunday so that the people can say good-bye,” said Leonard Blach, the equine veterinarian who co-owns Mine That Bird with Mark Allen, his Roswell, N.M., neighbor. “We’ll be here for that, then leave out Monday morning.”

Mine That Bird will be led over from the backstretch to the paddock along with the runners for the seventh race. After the race, a winner’s circle ceremony honoring the 4-year-old Mine That Bird will be conducted with the co-owners and former trainer Chip Woolley on hand.

Mine That Bird arrived at Churchill about as unheralded as possible for a Derby starter on April 21, 2009, following a two-day trip from New Mexico. He was 50-1 when he won the 135th Derby by 6 3/4 lengths under Calvin Borel, becoming the second longest priced winner in race history.

Churchill officials said Friday they were unsure whether Borel would be able to participate in the farewell because the three-time Derby-winning jockey is recovering from the multiple jaw fractures he sustained in a Nov. 20 spill at Delta Downs.

Hot apprentice will ride at Turfway, Aqueduct

While Fair Grounds and Tampa Bay Downs are immediate destinations for quite a few of the jockeys and trainers who have been active at Churchill and Keeneland this fall, quite a few also will stay behind for a few weeks before the starts of Gulfstream Park on Jan. 5 and Oaklawn Park on Jan. 14.

Some of those lingerers will be racing, at least for a while, at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., where four months of winter action begin Thursday. One of them is Marcelino Pedroza, a 17-year-old apprentice whose performance in recent weeks at Churchill has impressed veteran observers.

Into Friday action, Pedroza had ridden six winners in the previous seven days of racing, giving him a nice dose of momentum heading into the winter. Pedroza plans to ride at Turfway before heading to Aqueduct in New York for the winter, said his agent, Julio Espinoza.

Homeister does well before heading to Tampa

Rosemary Homeister Jr., in her first full meet at a Kentucky track, will be leaving on a good note. Homeister, the second winningest female jockey all-time, won three straight races earlier this week, taking the last two Wednesday and the Thursday opener, before recording her 2,400th career win Thursday aboard Engine Room in the seventh race. Into the final three-day stretch, Homeister was fourth in the jockey standings with 13 wins.

Homeister will be heading to Tampa, where she has ranked among the top riders in recent seasons.

Wise Dan wins; Cash Refund fails

Two returnees from the Breeders’ Cup Sprint met with far different results as odds-on favorites in allowance races over the soupy track here Thursday.

Cash Refund, eighth in the Nov. 6 BC Sprint, had no mishap when fading to fifth as the 4-5 favorite in a five-furlong race, but Wise Dan, sixth in the Sprint, came through with flying colors as the 3-5 choice later in the afternoon.

Wise Dan marked the 23rd winner of the year for trainer Charlie Lopresti, who will end 2010 with career highs in wins and earnings.

Gomez faces possible suspension

The Churchill stewards were scheduled to meet Saturday morning with Garrett Gomez in regard to the disqualification of one of the star jockey’s mounts from a Thursday race.

Gomez was aboard Dad’s Crazy, who finished first in the ninth race but was disqualified to third for interference down the stretch. In some cases, a disqualification will result in a suspension for the rider.

Gomez will be riding this winter in southern California, beginning Sunday at Hollywood Park.

◗ Going into the final three-day stretch, jockey Julien Leparoux, trainer Steve Asmussen, and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey looked virtually certain of winning fall-meet titles in their respective categories.