06/30/2010 11:00PM

Mine That Bird entered in Firecracker

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After mulling all the options, trainer D. Wayne Lukas decided Thursday to enter 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Grade 2, $175,000 Firecracker Handicap, the closing-day feature Sunday at Churchill Downs.

Lukas said Mine That Bird would not necessarily start in the Firecracker, a one-mile turf race, but that owners Mark Allen and Leonard Blach "thought they'd go ahead and spend the $875 entry fee and keep our options open."

Mine That Bird, unraced since finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic last November when still trained by Chip Woolley, would be making his 4-year-old debut and his first start on turf in the Firecracker.

Mine That Bird, with Calvin Borel to ride, was assigned post 2 and highweight of 122 pounds. In all, 15 are entered, although only as many as 14 can start. Besides Mine That Bird, top contenders include Tizdejavu and Wise River.

Thursday morning, Lukas said he was skipping the Firecracker and would train Mine That Bird up to the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga "if I have to," while also keeping an eye out for a suitable prep. Lukas initially had sought to run Mine That Bird in a Saturday allowance at Churchill Downs, but the race did not fill.

Since Lukas assumed the training of Mine That Bird in late May, he has been pointing the gelding to the Whitney, a Grade 1 race expected to get two of the current handicap leaders, Quality Road and Blame. Mine That Bird has had six workouts for Lukas since Allen and Blach turned him over to the Hall of Fame trainer.

"We're not trying to develop a turf horse, we're trying to develop a handicap horse," said Lukas. "This is only a means to an end. He wouldn't necessarily have to win, but just get a good effort out of this to move forward. I'm going to let the owners make the final call on whether we run or not. He's dead-ready to run, I know that."