05/04/2009 12:00AM

Looking full in Baltimore

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mine That Bird, cooling off after his 50-1 Kentucky Derby stunner, now moves on to Pimlico.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As friendships go, the one between Bennie Woolley Jr., the trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and Mark Allen, one of Mine That Bird's co-owners, started in a most unusual way.

"We were in a bar and I started a fight and he helped me out," Allen said.

Who won?

"We wound up on top," Allen said. "But it took us a while."

Those two, along with co-owner Leonard Blach, now find themselves atop the sport with their small gelding, who shocked the racing world on Saturday with his 50-1 upset at Churchill Downs. Heretofore virtually unknown, the three men will now get all the glory, and scrutiny, that comes from such prominence.

Their next stop is Pimlico Race Course, for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the $1 million Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on May 16. Woolley on Monday said that Mine That Bird would run in the Preakness, whose probable field swelled because of the improbable Derby result.

Mine That Bird, who paid $103.20 and keyed a $2,074.80 exacta, was the second-longest priced winner in Derby history. He was so lightly regarded that he was part of the mutuel field in all three legs of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which returned $5.80 for pool 1, $11.80 for pool 2, and $36.80 for pool 3. The Derby future exacta, offered for the first time this year in pools 2 and 3, paid off to those who had the mutuel field over runner-up Pioneerof the Nile. The exacta paid $256.80 for poolo2 and $554.60 for pool 3.

The original plan for Mine That Bird, Woolley said here Sunday, was to run in the Derby, then move on to the Belmont Stakes, the last and, at 1 1/2 miles, longest of the Triple Crown races. But plans changed once Mine That Bird charged from last to first under jockey Calvin Borel to win the Derby by 6 3/4 lengths, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 105. He will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

"It is good for the sport," Woolley said. "You cannot have a Triple Crown winner without having the Derby winner in the Preakness. That played into our decision, but the horse looks super."

Mine That Bird was doing so well on Monday that he went to the track at Churchill Downs and jogged one mile.

Mine That Bird will be sent by van from Churchill Downs to Pimlico next Monday or Tuesday, said Woolley, who has never run a horse at Pimlico. The gelding will not have a workout between the Derby and Preakness. Mine That Bird has been logging plenty of road miles. He arrived at Churchill after a 21-hour van ride from Sunland Park in New Mexico.

Borel had a glorious weekend. He also won the Kentucky Oaks on Friday with Rachel Alexandra, who got a Beyer Speed Figure of 108. But whereas the Oaks was a stroll, in the Derby Borel had to navigate his way from far back, and then through a tight opening at midstretch when squeezing between Join in the Dance and the rail.

"There wasn't any room in there," Chris Decarlo, who rode Join in the Dance, said in admiration of Borel's derring-do. "My horse got tired and started to drift to the right. He was able to get his horse's head and shoulder in there and nudge my horse out of the way. I wouldn't have gone through there. If my horse takes a step to the left, it's a major catastrophe.'

No controversy there, but there was scrutiny involving Allen. Allen is the son of Bill Allen, the founder of VECO Corp., an oil-services company based in Alaska and a key figure in last year's political corruption trial of longtime Alaska Senator, Ted Stevens. According to reports, as part of the trial - which has since been thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct - Bill Allen pleaded guilty in 2007 to bribing Alaska politicians, and as part of the his plea, he won immunity for his family members, including Mark Allen. Bill Allen has yet to be sentenced in the trial.

According to published reports, the conviction against Stevens was thrown out in part because of questions regarding Bill Allen's testimony in the case. In the 2008 trial, Allen said that he had paid for improvements to a ski chalet owned by Stevens, and that Stevens had not reimbursed him for the renovations.

As of Monday, the only Derby runner who was confirmed to challenge Mine That Bird in the Preakness was Papa Clem, who finished fourth. But there were a number of other Derby runners who were under consideration, and several newcomers to the Triple Crown trail were either committed to the race, or possible. The field on Monday numbered 15, one more than the maximum allowed in the Preakness.

Pioneerof the Nile, who was second in the Derby, and Musket Man, who was third, are possible for the race. So too are Join in the Dance, who finished seventh, and General Quarters, who was 10th.

The most prominent newcomer for the Preakness is the speedy Big Drama, who trainer David Fawkes confirmed would run after he worked six furlongs in 1:14.03 on Monday at Calder.

"He worked phenomenal," Fawkes said. "He wasn't even blowing. As of now we're heading to the Preakness. He'll train here at Calder on Tuesday and then van to Pimlico. He'll have one work at Pimlico, probably on Monday."

Fawkes said he is confident Big Drama can handle 1 3/16 miles despite having just one seven-furlong race under his belt at 3. Big Drama finished first, but then was placed second via disqualification, in the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream 5 1/2 weeks ago.

"He's training well, he always runs well fresh, and he's always done whatever we've asked him to do," Fawkes said. "My biggest question marks about the Preakness is who will be there and how the race sets up. I think he'll handle the distance just fine."

Eibar Coa, Big Drama's regular rider, was aboard for Monday's work. Coa rode Musket Man to a third-place finish in the Derby. Musket Man's status for the Preakness could affect where Coa ends up.

Also confirmed to the Preakness on Monday was Hull, the undefeated winner of the Derby Trial. The Preakness will be his first start around two turns.

Terrain, who was fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes in his last start, is "under consideration" for the Preakness, trainer Al Stall Jr. said Monday. Stall said he had to decide by Wednesday morning, when a plane departs with Kentucky-based horses running in this Saturday's Lone Star Derby near Dallas.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Join in the Dance, has been pointing Take the Points to the Preakness since a decision was made last week to skip the Derby.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said both Charitable Man and Mr. Fantasy were being "strongly considered" for the Preakness.

Mr. Fantasy won the Withers Stakes in his last start. Charitable Man was seventh in the Blue Grass in his lone start this year.

McLaughlin planned to have a conference call on Tuesday with the owners of Mr. Fantasy, which include the West Point Thoroughbreds headed by Terry Finley. One of McLaughlin's concerns regarding Mr. Fantasy is the colt's temperament. He was hard to saddle before the Withers as well as the Gotham, in which he finished third.

Miner's Escape, who won the Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday, is scheduled to come back in the Preakness.

Pimlico's racing office also listed Conservative, the runner-up in the Lexington Stakes, and British-based Sky Gate as potential Preakness runners.

- additional reporting by Matt Hegarty, David Grening, and Mike Welsch

Preakness probables

Horse Trainer Last race Finish
Big Drama D. Fawkes Swale S. 2nd
Charitable Man K. McLaughlin Blue Grass S. 7th
Conservative C. McGaughey III Lexington S. 2nd
General Quarters T. McCarthy Kentucky Derby 10th
Hull D. Romans Derby Trial 1st
Join in the Dance T. Pletcher Kentucky Derby 7th
Mine That Bird B. Woolley Kentucky Derby 1st
Miner's Escape N. Zito Tesio S. 1st
Mr. Fantasy K. McLaughlin Withers S. 1st
Musket Man D. Ryan Kentucky Derby 3rd
Papa Clem G. Stute Kentucky Derby 4th
Pioneerof the Nile B. Baffert Kentucky Derby 2nd
Sky Gate B. Meehan Southwell maiden 1st
Take the Points T. Pletcher Santa Anita Derby 4th
Terrain A. Stall Jr. Blue Grass S. 4th