05/12/2009 11:00PM

No coddling for Mine That Bird

Barbara D. Livingston
Mine That Bird gets washed down at Pimlico on Wednesday, his first morning at the track.

BALTIMORE - Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird made a journey of nearly 10 hours from Louisville, Ky., to Baltimore in a horse trailer, and arrived just before 7 p.m. Tuesday at a racetrack he had never seen. Many horses would have an easy morning the following day, perhaps walking the shed row, grazing, and doing little else. Not Mine That Bird. He was up and at 'em and out to the track just before 7:30 on Wednesday morning, standing in the starting gate before galloping about 1 1/2 miles. So much for a light day.

"He's only not trained on two days since the Derby," trainer Chip Woolley said Tuesday night. "The morning after the race and today, since he worked yesterday."

Mine That Bird looked bright and happy while training Wednesday. He came down the stretch with his ears up and moving smoothly, appearing to steal a glance over at the Pimlico grandstand, but never losing his focus. Mine That Bird is a plain bay gelding, and probably was the smallest horse among 19 in the Derby. He does not cut any more striking a figure 10 days later.

"He's vanilla, but he's a pretty mover. It's not a horse show," said trainer Wayne Lukas, whose two Preakness hopefuls, Flying Private and Luv Gov, also got here Tuesday. "I watch the horse come past my barn every day, and I think he looks even better now than he did going into the Derby."

Woolley's expression and tone never seem to change, but as Mine That Bird walked back from the track to the barn, Woolley said he was pleased to see the way his horse had galloped.

"I was afraid it might just be Churchill that he likes, but he looks just as good here," said Woolley, who plans to give Mine that Bird two-mile gallops the next two mornings.

Mine That Bird went onto and off the track all by his lonesome, notable in an age when many racehorses are accompanied to training sessions by a pony, especially at an unfamiliar venue. But Mine That Bird has always gone without a lead horse.

"He's never needed a pony, and there's not any reason to send him with one," said Woolley.

Musket Man right at home

There's no place like home. Just ask the Derby's third-place finisher, Musket Man, who was having a hearty roll in a pen just outside Derek Ryan's barn at Monmouth Park about 11 on Wednesday morning. Here at Pimlico there are plenty of cameras and notebooks around the stable area - but no personal rolling pens.

"We were always going right back to Monmouth the morning after the Derby," said Ryan, who has stabled at the New Jersey track for eight years. "He's back home now. I have a rolling pen here, a grazing ring. He can be a horse."

Musket Man went off at 19-1 in the Derby despite sporting a glittery 5-for-6 career win mark, his lone loss a third-place finish in the Sam Davis at Tampa. His third in the Derby might also have been better than it looked. Musket Man had a great inside position going down the backstretch, but jockey Eibar Coa swung outside after Kent Desormeaux came up inside him making an early rail move on Hold Me Back. By the time Musket Man swung into the stretch, he was six or seven paths off Churchill's rail - a rail generally considered golden when wet.

"I think he could have won it if he stayed down inside there," said Ryan. "But it's easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback."

Musket Man had a quick half-mile, in-company work Tuesday, but jogged six or seven times around a training track rather than merely walking Wednesday. The colt has stayed on his feed, and might even have put on weight since the Derby, Ryan said. And Musket Man might yet have room to grow. He was born on May 18, making his real third birthday Monday.

Musket Man shipped to Churchill the day after he won the April 4 Illinois Derby and trained there for a month. But he will not make the three-hour trip from Monmouth to Pimlico until 2 a.m. Saturday.

"First one to the Derby, last one to the Preakness," said Ryan.

General Quarters okay after accident

General Quarters was not injured in a minor traffic accident involving his horse van on Tuesday afternoon, but the incident gave a scare to his trainer and owner, Tom McCarthy.

"I had a vet go all over him," McCarthy said Wednesday morning. "He's okay. No scrapes or anything. I was afraid he might be stiff this morning. But he's fine."

General Quarters, like Mine That Bird, traveled from Churchill Downs to Pimlico in a one-horse van on Tuesday. He was almost at Pimlico when his van collided with a car.

"The van driver had to slam on the brakes, and my horse moved forward and to one side," McCarthy said.

McCarthy was thrilled with the way General Quarters took to the Pimlico track during a 1 3/8-mile gallop on Wednesday morning.

"He loves the track. I could tell the way he went over it that he enjoyed it," McCarthy said. "It's a sandy track, like Tampa."

General Quarters won the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa, then later took the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. He finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby.

"He caught a terrible track at Churchill," McCarthy said. "It was too greasy. He couldn't grab hold of it. You used to be able to use shoes with toe grabs in front, and all you can use behind now are quarter-inch bends, which isn't enough. You used to be able to use mud caulks, but you can't. You ended up with a race where one horse came down the rail going faster than anyone, and everyone else was swimming.

"But he still beat some very nice horses under very trying times, with a very difficult trip."

General Quarters is the only horse trained by McCarthy, a retired schoolteacher and principal.

"I enjoy it," he said. "I enjoy coming to the barn and I enjoy working with him. I have a good time with it. I look forward to getting up and working with him. He's a very smart animal. He's intelligent. He looks around. He stands still in his stall when I talk to him. The only thing he'll try to do is nip me. Not bite, nip. But that's only if I haven't given him a peppermint."

No shortage of wagering opportunities

With 13-race cards both Friday and Saturday, there will be ample wagering opportunities available at Pimlico.

On Friday, there will be eight pick threes and two pick fours offered, though none of the pick -fours has a guaranteed pool. The pick fours begin in races 4 and 9. There is a Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness daily double wager with a $2 minimum. There will also be super high five wagers offered on the Black-Eyed Susan and the Hilltop, the final race of the day. The super high five requires bettors to select the top five finishers in order. The minimum wager is $1.

Friday's card begins at 12:15 p.m. eastern with last post scheduled for 6:18.

On Saturday there will also be rolling daily doubles beginning with the opener, eight pick threes and two pick fours. The early pick four, which begins in race 5, will have a guaranteed pool of $250,000. The late pick four, which begins with race 9 and ends with the Preakness, will have a guaranteed pool of $1 million.

Saturday's nine-hour marathon begins at 10:15 a.m.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Jay Privman