06/22/2010 12:00AM

Mine That Bird has Lukas grinning

Barbara D. Livingston
Mine That Bird, winner of the 2009 Kentucky Derby, is being pointed for the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Frequently one given to hyperbole, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas had a ready quote as soon as he dismounted from his pony upon returning to his Churchill Downs barn after he watched Mine That Bird go through his latest workout Tuesday morning.

"When they started this 300 years ago, this is what they had in mind," Lukas said with a grin.

Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, is getting very close to his first start as a 4-year-old, and Lukas can barely contain his enthusiasm.

"I couldn't be any happier with him," he said.

With regular rider Calvin Borel aboard, and in company with Bird Empire, a maiden stablemate, Mine That Bird breezed six furlongs in 1:13 over a fast surface. The fractions were 12.80, 25, 37.60, and 49.60 seconds, with a seven-furlong gallop-out time of 1:27.20.

Mine That Bird figures to have one more workout before being entered in a $63,000 allowance at 1 1/16 miles at Churchill, although Lukas said he hasn't committed the gelding to that July 3 race.

"I don't know that," he said. "I do like where I'm going. Everything we're doing with him is with the Whitney in mind," referring to the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap on Aug. 7 at Saratoga, where current handicap standouts Quality Road and Blame are expected to race next. "We're getting right into the middle of the deep end of the pool. We're finding out right where we are with him."

The Tuesday work was the fifth for Mine That Bird since Lukas assumed his training from Chip Woolley for owners Mark Allen and Leonard Blach last month. The gelding last raced Nov. 7 when finishing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Besides the July 3 allowance, other possible preps for the Whitney for Mine That Bird include the $250,000 Salvator Mile the same day at Monmouth Park or the $175,000 Firecracker Handicap on the Churchill turf the following day, said Lukas. "I've got him nominated to everything but the Tokyo Fair," he joked.

The heat is on

While the Mine That Bird workout came in moderately warm temperatures after the regularly scheduled harrow break Tuesday, the weather had not been nearly as tolerable the previous morning, when Rachel Alexandra had her first work since she easily captured the June 12 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill.

Even at 6:30 a.m., the temperature here Monday was already above 80, with oppressive humidity to boot. The long-range weather forecast for the Louisville area calls for more extremely hot weather for another week or more, leading trainer Steve Asmussen to say he is contemplating sending Rachel Alexandra and some of his other horses to Saratoga before the Churchill meet ends July 4. High temperatures were expected to near 100 later Tuesday.

Asmussen originally had scheduled July 5 as shipping day to Saratoga but said he is looking into moving it up a few days.

"I think we've got to get out of this weather," said Asmussen. Rachel Alexandra, he added, "acts like the rest of us do right now -- it's hot. Her weight's good and she's very sound, and her strength is good. But it's hot. We'd all feel better if it was about 20 degrees cooler."

Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, went an easy half-mile in 51.20 seconds with Shaun Bridgmohan keeping her under wraps during her Monday work.

Here Comes Ben out for three straight

The featured 10th of 11 races here Friday night is the $66,000 Kelly's Landing for 3-year-olds and upward. Here Comes Ben, with Alex Solis to ride, will be seeking his third straight victory when likely to come favored in a field of eight entered in the seven-furlong race.

This will be the third of four Friday night programs at the meet; the first two averaged about 25,000 ontrack fans. "Dress to Impress" is the theme this week. First post is 6 p.m. Eastern.

Debutante on tap

The first stakes race since the June 12 Stephen Foster card will be run here Saturday when what is expected to be a medium-sized field of 2-year-old fillies will clash in the Grade, $100,000 Debutante Stakes.

Likely starters for the six-furlong Debutante include Internet Caf , Iones Folly, Just Louise, and Salty Strike, with another four or five fillies possible. Entries were to be drawn Wednesday.

* Racing officials at Turfway Park have begun taking stall applications for the fall meet in September and the winter-spring meet that begins in late November.