08/17/2009 11:00PM

Mine That Bird to have throat surgery

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mine That Bird was found to have an entrapped epiglottis shortly after working five furlongs at Saratoga on Monday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird was to undergo throat surgery on Tuesday to repair an entrapped epiglottis, but his connections are hopeful the 3-year-old gelding can still make the $1 million Travers Stakes here on Aug. 29.

"There's no guarantee but the doctors think he'll be good for Travers, but it'll be somewhat day-to-day," Chip Woolley, the trainer of Mine That Bird, said Monday outside the stakes barn. "We will not run him if he's not 100 percent. We will see how things go; whatever decision we make will be made for the horse."

The entrapment was diagnosed Monday morning after Woolley ordered an endoscopic examination performed on the horse following a five-furlong work in 1:03.83 over the main track. Woolley said it is his standard operating procedure to scope the gelding two weeks out from a race "just to make sure we don't have any problems: mucus, crud, or anything," he said.

Mine That Bird's surgery was to be performed by Dr. Patty Hogan at the Ruffian Equine Medical Center across the street from Belmont Park. Woolley, as he has done all spring and summer, drove the horse to the medical center Monday afternoon and hoped to bring him back to Saratoga by Tuesday afternoon. The surgical procedure takes only a matter of minutes.

"He's perfectly sound, he's healthy, this is just something that you couldn't have guessed you'd ever run into," Woolley said. "There's nothing you can do, it happens to horses all the time. Now it's going to be a big thing because it happened to him, but it happens a lot. They do these surgeries regularly.''

According to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Tank's Prospect underwent surgery to repair an entrapped epiglottis five days before he won the 1985 Arkansas Derby.

"It worked for me, but they're all different," said Lukas, who added if there are no complications "it'll heal in 48 hours."

Woolley said he needs to work the horse one more time in order to make the Travers. That work is tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday. Woolley said he could afford to miss a day or two of training leading up that work.

On Monday, Mine That Bird worked five furlongs in 1:03.83 under jockey Jamie Theriot. Perhaps overcompensating for a quick half-mile breeze last week, Theriot let Mine That Bird crawl away from the five-furlong pole as he got an opening eighth in 14.25 seconds. After going three furlongs in 39.62 seconds, Mine That Bird got his last quarter in 24.21 seconds while galloping out six furlongs in 1:17.42.

"I got on Jamie the other day for letting him work too fast," Woolley said. "He was just making sure he didn't get him off too fast today. His last three-eighths was fast enough. The last eighth of a mile is the most important thing for this horse; that's the part we concentrate on the most."