They're not getting in a hurry with Mine That Bird.
The winner of last year's Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird has been on vacation in New Mexico since the Breeders' Cup Classic and won't make his return to the races until later in the season, trainer Chip Woolley said.
"We haven't got him back up yet," Woolley said. "We're going to give him plenty of time. We're going to make sure we set up our year where we don't burn the horse too much early, so that he can be strong toward the end of the year.
"He ran hard last year, did a lot of traveling, and we're going to hold off running to mid to later in the year."
Woolley said no schedule of races has been mapped out yet for Mine That Bird, other than the goal of returning to the Breeders' Cup Classic. He said Mine That Bird could make four starts leading up to the race, which will be run at Churchill Downs.
"This year, it's in the right place," Woolley said.
Churchill is where Mine That Bird used a memorable last-to-first burst to upset the Kentucky Derby at 50-1. In the Classic, on a synthetic surface at Santa Anita, he finished ninth to Zenyatta. Following the race, Mine That Bird, who is owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine, was turned out at Double Eagle in Roswell, N.M.
"He's doing really good," Woolley said.
Mine That Bird, along with Rachel Alexandra and Summer Bird, are all based in the Southwest. Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, to whom Mine That Bird was second in the Preakness, is at Fair Grounds, while 3-year-old champion Summer Bird is at Oaklawn.
The 'other' Jones, Wiggins at Oaklawn
Last year at Oaklawn, trainers Larry Jones and Hal Wiggins had the hottest 3-year-olds on the grounds in Old Fashioned and Rachel Alexandra. Now, both men are retired. But neither's name is far removed from the business, with trainers Cindy Jones, wife of Larry Jones, and Lon Wiggins, son of Hal Wiggins, both having stables at Oaklawn.
Cindy Jones has a 24-horse stable on the grounds led by Payton d'Oro, winner of last year's Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, and Just Jenda, a multiple Grade 3 winner. Wiggins is set up a few barns down, with 10 horses, some of them for Dolph Morrison, the original owner of Rachel Alexandra.
Lon Wiggins said he picked up five horses for some of his father's clients when Hal Wiggins retired in November. Lon Wiggins said he was down to three horses at the time, after sending some home for a break, selling others, and having one claimed.
"I told him his retirement came at a good time," Wiggins joked.
Lon was an assistant to his father, who now does some bloodstock advising, before going out on his own in 1997.
Cindy Jones trained in the late 1980s in Kentucky, but has been her husband's assistant during a run in which the barn housed champion Proud Spell and won Grade 1 races with Kodiak Kowboy, Hard Spun, Island Sand, and Wildcat Bettie B.
These days, Larry Jones is licensed as the assistant to Cindy. He retired last November and now regularly gallops horses at Oaklawn. He also works with the couple's young horses at a training center near Hot Springs.
"I've got the best assistant in the world," said a beaming Cindy Jones.
"He's really having a good time. He was so busy before, you know, he didn't get to spend the time that he wants to with the babies and they're his passion. So, he's getting to do what he wants to do, so that's good for him."
Larry Jones had a 114-horse stable at his peak, in 2008, when he announced he would retire in late 2009.
Cindy Jones said either Payton d'Oro or Just Jenda would be considered for the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri at Oaklawn on March 6.
"We want to keep them apart," she said. "Jenda has been off since October at Keeneland, so she's had a good three months and just now started back. Payton, we gave her a little time off, too."
Jones said that after the Oaklawn meet plans are to set up shop at Delaware Park.
* Trainer Mac Robertson said Win Willy could make his next start in the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn on March 6. The horse won his first start since October on Thursday.