05/28/2009 11:00PM

Woolley is willing to wait for rider

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Barbara D. Livingston
"I'm going to give Calvin as much time as possible to ride Mine, and keep him from losing two mounts," Woolley said Thursday.

Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby in a runaway. He came up a little short in the Preakness Stakes. A decision on who rides him in the Belmont Stakes might come right down to the wire.

The deadline is Wednesday to enter the 141st Belmont, to be run June 6 at Belmont Park. Chip Woolley, the trainer of Mine That Bird, on Thursday said he would be willing to wait fairly close to then if that's what it took to secure Calvin Borel as his rider for the final leg of the Triple Crown.

"I'm going to give Calvin as much time as possible to ride Mine, and keep him from losing two mounts," Woolley said Thursday on a national teleconference. "He won me a Derby. I owe him the opportunity, if possible. I don't want him sitting on the sidelines."

Borel is a man in demand. He rode Mine That Bird in the Derby, then chose to ride the filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, in which Mine That Bird finished second under jockey Mike Smith. Smith has to be at Hollywood Park on June 6, which gave Borel the opportunity to potentially get back on Mine That Bird, pending the decision on Rachel Alexandra.

There has been no official word yet from Jess Jackson, the majority owner of Rachel Alexandra, as to whether Rachel Alexandra will run in the Belmont. If she runs, Borel would ride her. But if she does not, Woolley wants Borel back on his horse. So, Woolley does not want to get peevish and give away the mount to someone else prematurely, even if it means waiting a few more days.

Woolley said he doesn't care if Rachel Alexandra runs. Except for one thing.

"As much as anything, I'd like to have Calvin," Woolley said.

Woolley said he made no equipment changes with Mine That Bird between his two races earlier this year at Sunland Park and the Derby. "The exact same: D-bit and a tongue tie," Woolley said. "He's compliant to what you want out of him. The main thing is just to ride him with patience."

Mine That Bird is currently training at Churchill Downs. He returned there from Pimlico following the Preakness. Woolley said he went back to Kentucky, rather than straight to Belmont Park, because of the way Mine That Bird trained at Churchill Downs prior to the Derby.

"He got a little rattled at Pimlico. I knew he had trained well here," Woolley said from Kentucky. "The horse is doing super. Today he looked as good as he has since he's been here."

Mine That Bird is scheduled to work on Monday morning at Churchill Downs - so is Rachel Alexandra - and then fly to New York on Wednesday.

Woolley has already started looking to the second half of the year. He said Mine That Bird will get "at least two months between the Belmont and his next start."

"There will only be three more races the entire year for the horse" after the Belmont, Woolley said. He said the first two starts were to be determined, but the year-end goal was the Breeders' Cup Classic, to be held Nov. 7 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

At Belmont Park, trainer Tim Ice, a little concerned with how Summer Bird had been handling Belmont Park's sandy surface, has put toe grabs on Summer Bird's hind shoes. Though banned on front shoes, toe grabs are permitted on hind shoes for racing.

Ice said he had the toe grabs put on Summer Bird on Sunday, one day after the colt worked a modest seven furlongs in 1:26.40. Summer Bird had galloped for three days at Belmont before breezing.

"He seems a lot more confident with the surface," Ice said Thursday. "It might not have been all that. After training three days off a long trip, he might have been a little tired."

Summer Bird traveled to Belmont Park by van from Louisiana Downs.

Summer Bird was sixth in the Derby, then skipped the Preakness. He is scheduled to have his final breeze for the Belmont on Saturday with jockey Kent Desormeaux up.

- additional reporting by David Grening

:: BELMONT 141:

Belmont probables

Horse Trainer Jockey Last / Finish
Nick Zito Rajiv Maragh Peter Pan, 3rd
Kiaran McLaughlin Alan Garcia Peter Pan, 1st
Jerry Hollendorfer Garrett Gomez Ky. Derby, 5th
Todd Pletcher John Velazquez Ky. Derby, 10th
D. Wayne Lukas undecided Preakness, 4th
D. Wayne Lukas Miguel Mena Preakness, 8th
Bennie Woolley Jr. undecided Preakness, 2nd
Nick Zito Jose Lezcano Tesio, 1st
Eoin Harty Edgar Prado Ky. Derby, 15th
Steve Asmussen undecided Preakness, 1st
Tim Ice Kent Desormeaux Ky. Derby, 6th