Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mine That Bird Finishes Second in the Preakness


The game little gelding apparently bought with money from the sale of VECO could only place in the Preakness, losing the second leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

Mine That Bird pulled off another charge out of last place, but its stretch run yesterday came up just short as Rachel Alexandra won by about the length of a racehorse.

Racing fans rejoiced in the first victory of a filly in the Preakness since 1924 and the possibility of another matchup in the Belmont next month between Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird, the miracle winner of the Kentucky Derby who showed with its second-place finish that it wasn't just a one-race wonder.

Those following the Alaska public corruption scandals also savored the maneuvering that preceded the Preakness. Mark Allen, former VECO CEO Bill Allen’s son and co-owner of Mine That Bird, tried to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness. Mark Allen said that he wanted to exclude Rachel Alexandra—who didn’t run in the Derby—so that he could get the services of Calvin Borel, the jockey who piloted 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird to the Derby triumph before announcing his intention to switch to Rachel Alexandra for the Preakness. Later Mark Allen admitted, however, that his real intention was to “keep that good filly out” of the Preakness.

Mark Allen said that he decided to drop what the Alaska Ear column in the Anchorage Daily News called his “pack-the-track plan” after he talked it over with his father Bill Allen and the horse’s co-owner and took a Harley ride.

“It was selfish, definitely selfish,” Mark Allen told the Daily Racing News. “I was getting greedy. It was the wrong thing to do.”

It looks like racing enthusiasts will get to see Mark Allen at least one more time on the Triple Crown circuit, as Mine That Bird seems likely to run in the Belmont even if Rachel Alexandra doesn’t. Allen will be at the famous race with Mine That Bird’s trainer Chip Woolley, the former rodeo bareback rider who last year got him to buy a half-share of the bay horse with the turned-out feet.

Sportswriters have delighted in reporting Mark Allen’s account of how he got to know Woolley. The two of them met 25 years ago when both were working at a racetrack in Raton, New Mexico.

“We didn’t like each other at first,” Mark Allen told Sports Illustrated. “We were fixin’ to probably lock horns.”

That changed one night at a bar called Annie Get Your Guns when Allen got into a brawl in which he was outnumbered.

"Chip came in and helped me out," Allen told Sports Illustrated. "There were about five of them, two of us, and we done all right. We've been friends ever since."

Allen did allow to the New York Times that the fight wasn’t a cakewalk after Woolley waded in on his side. “It took us a while, and we paid the next day.”


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