Mine That Bird Needs New Jockey for Belmont

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird is in need of yet another jockey.

Mike Smith, who rode the gelding to a second-place finish in Saturday's Preakness Stakes, won't ride him in the Belmont Stakes on June 6 because of a previous commitment.

Smith is already set to ride Madeo in the $300,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park that day.

The Hall of Fame rider is sticking with Madeo out of his loyalty to owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs. Together, they won the 2005 Kentucky Derby on Giacomo, who like Mine That Bird, was a 50-1 long shot.

"It was something that was already done beforehand and it's not going to change," Smith told The Associated Press by phone on Monday. "They're my No. 1 and no one else. It would've been nice if the timing was different, but I have no regrets whatsoever."

That means Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to a stunning victory in the Derby, could get back on him for the Belmont if Rachel Alexandra doesn't run.

Borel opted to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, and she became the first filly in 85 years to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. Co-owner Jess Jackson has not yet decided if she will run in the 1½-mile Belmont.

"There's never been a situation like this in history. This is wild," Smith said, referring to the multiple jockey changes. "This has nothing to do with respect for the horse. I think everyone knows he's for real. It's just the way it is."

Brad Pegram, Smith's agent, told Chip Woolley Jr., who trains Mine That Bird, of the jockey's decision on Monday. Woolley had been planning to use Smith in the Belmont, regardless of whether Rachel Alexandra runs.

"It's kind of funny," Woolley said Monday. "You'd think if you get a horse this good, you'd keep one, but apparently not."

The trainer said he's heard from the agents of several riders who are interested in taking over the mount, but he hasn't made up his mind. Woolley indicated that he won't wait to see whether Rachel Alexandra goes on to the Belmont.

"We're going to make a decision pretty quickly," he said. "Patience is probably the No. 1 concern. Is somebody patient and will they wait and see how things develop? We'll just have to see how it goes."

Smith said he'll be rooting long-distance for Mine That Bird on Belmont day.

"I admire that little horse so much," he said. "Calvin and I would probably argue who is his biggest fan. We're both big fans."

Woolley and Mine That Bird arrived back at Churchill Downs on Monday evening after a 9½-hour drive from Baltimore.

"The trip was great," Woolley said. "He looks good. He come off the trailer pretty relaxed and looks all right, so we're pretty happy with where he's at right now."

Mine That Bird will head back to the track on Tuesday to resume training for the Belmont.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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