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Jenny Kellner is an award-winning journalist and educator who has written about horse racing for more than 20 years. She has been a media specialist with NYRA for the past four years.

Of Ducks And The Bird

Thursday, June 04, 2009

It was a miserable morning for anyone but ducks and farmers. There were mud puddles everywhere on the backstretch at Belmont Park and on the main track, the cones were up in case anyone was even thinking about training on the inside.

But down the stretch, just after 7 a.m., here comes a little bay gelding, ears pricked, eyes taking everything in, fairly skipping over the surface and trainer Chip Woolley has somehow hopped up with his crutches onto one of the benches on the apron and he’s smiling because Mine That Bird is a very happy camper, indeed.

“He just carries it with him wherever it goes,” he says.

Someone asks him if there’s a track out there that Mine That Bird doesn’t like.

“If there is,” says Woolley, “We haven’t found it.”

The “official” sign on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes went up exactly at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, when Mine That Bird stepped off the horse van that carried him from John F. Kennedy International Airport. A few minutes earlier, Woolley, whose cast has to stay on for another three to eight months, hopped up the ramp to check everything out, and to welcome the Bird to New York.

“Welcome to New York,” he said.

Nothing seems to bother this horse. He comes down the ramp, stops and looks inquisitively at the phalanx of videographers, reporters and photographers, shutters snapping madly, and then calmly walks down the horse path toward his new digs in trainer Carl Domino’s barn.

The photographers remind me of sea monkeys. When Mine That Bird moves to his left, they follow. If he turns to his right, so do they. When he stops, they stop. If he does something cute, like look at them, the shutters click even more insanely.

“What’s it like, having him around?” I ask Domino.

“I kinda enjoying it,” he says. “The people are nice, and the horse is acting like he’s been here his whole life.”

“Like how?”

“He gets into his stall, rolls, and gets up. Nothing bothers him.”

Just what I wanted to hear!

Comments :

  • Jenny Kellner | June 05 2009 02:41 PM

    The cast of characters, both human and equine, that are assembled for this Belmont Stakes is wonderful, from Mine That Bird to Summer Bird, Zito to Lukas, and everything in between!

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  • toni tyler | June 05 2009 01:47 AM

    Getz said it all. No other comments required. (Betters do need to watch out for that zito penchant to give a pace (Miner's Escape) to his 2nd horse or a good friend) Dunkirk's got the "Blood" and MTB's got the guts. We may take note of "Belmont Superstition" that since the "Charity" trained on the track- there is a 'home-field-advantage.'

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  • Getz | June 04 2009 02:40 PM

    Even if you don't "bet" this horse, you gotta be cheering for the little guy to win. It would be worth loosing the $50 bet on the $3.7 million colt, just to watch the modern day Seabiscuit roll on by them down the stretch. You've got all the horses with all the quirks - didn't like that track, couldn't handle the mud, didn't like the rail, and so on and so on. Then, you come across MTB and Chip saying that nothing bothers him and he's yet to come across a surface he didn't like. At a whopping 15 hands, this little guy just shows up and gets it done, period. How can you not be cheering for him, at least somewhere in your heart.

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