05/15/2009 11:00PM

Mine That Bird shows he's for real

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By David Grening

BALTIMORE - The connections of Mine That Bird wanted to prove that the gelding's victory in the Kentucky Derby was no fluke.

And even in defeat in Saturday's 134th Preakness Stakes, that's exactly what they did.

Though his furious late run in the stretch fell one length short of the superstar filly Rachel Alexandra, Mine That Bird finished second, ahead of 11 other colts and geldings, and in many ways validated his Derby performance at 50-1 odds from two weeks ago.

"It wasn't no fluke,'' co-owner Mark Allen said.

"They don't think [it's a fluke] now, do they?'' trainer Chip Woolley said.

Mike Smith, who picked up the mount on Mine That Bird after Calvin Borel took off to ride Rachel Alexandra, called Mine That Bird "the bravest little horse I think I've ever been on.''

Smith said some traffic trouble that caused him to go wider than he would have liked around the far turn and into the stretch might have made the difference between winning or losing.

"I wish we were going a little further or I would have cut one more corner; that makes up a length or two,'' Smith said.

After attempting to save ground early on, Smith was forced go wide entering the far turn and he was carried out into the three or four path. He was able to cut inside of Take the Points, but he was fanned wide by Flying Private and had to split General Quarters and Pioneerof the Nile while in the five path. Once clear, Smith got into Mine That Bird, but he just couldn't catch Rachel Alexandra. He finished a half-length ahead of Musket Man.

"He came through some traffic," Smith said. "He's so well-balanced, he just did these little moves . . . I can see how Calvin got through the fence [in the Derby]. He'll get through anywhere. . . . I was just so proud that he proved he was no fluke.''

Woolley said he thought for a brief moment that Mine That Bird could catch Rachel Alexandra.

"It looked like it possibly at the sixteenth pole, but it was going to be tight,'' Woolley said. "He didn't have quite enough foot left to get there. We're real proud of him, he ran huge. Now the questions are answered that he can get there. He's a good horse.''

Allen said that if Mine That Bird comes out of the race well, he would go on to the Belmont Stakes on June 6.