LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has committed to ride Mine That Bird for at least his next two races, trainer Chip Woolley announced Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Smith will ride Mine That Bird in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park on Aug. 1, then the $1 million Shadwell Travers on Aug. 29. He replaces Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to win the May 2 Kentucky Derby and also rode the gelding in his last start, which resulted in a third-place finish in the June 6 Belmont Stakes.
Smith has ridden Mine That Bird once, finishing second in the May 16 Preakness behind Rachel Alexandra, who was ridden by Borel. Smith, a native of New Mexico, possibly could be riding the undefeated mare, Zenyatta, in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7 and therefore could not commit to ride Mine That Bird through that race.
Mark Allen, who co-owns Mine That Bird with Leonard Blach, said earlier this week that he would prefer that a new jockey make a commitment through the BC Classic. Allen said Saturday from New Mexico that he and Blach "are okay with" what has been agreed upon.
"I like Mike too much," said Allen. "He's been on the horse. If I had a shot to ride Zenyatta, I'd do it, too."
Zenyatta, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and trained by John Shirreffs, also has the option of going in the Nov. 6 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. Clearly the best-case scenario for the Mine That Bird camp in regard to keeping Smith aboard the gelding would be for her connections to opt for the Ladies' Classic.
"Hopefully we won't be in a switch in the Breeders' Cup," Woolley said in a Churchill press release.
Borel is the regular rider for Rachel Alexandra and for the promising 3-year-old colt, Warrior's Reward, a late-running third after stumbling at the start of the Dwyer Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Mine That Bird is scheduled to have his second workout since the Belmont when breezing Monday morning at Churchill Downs.