Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird’s classic finishing kick wasn’t strong enough in the West Virginia Derby.
Mine That Bird finished third behind long-shot winner Soul Warrior and Big Drama in yesterday’s $750,000 race, the 3-year-old gelding’s first start since a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes two months ago.
The Derby winner wasn’t even the favorite for the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby, with Big Drama the betting choice. But it was 23-1 shot Soul Warrior that powered past Big Drama in the final strides for a neck victory at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W.Va.
Mine That Bird made a bid in the stretch but was unable to catch the leaders.
The plan for Big Drama was to jump out early and it nearly worked. Big Drama led by at least 8 lengths midway through the race and came up just short. Soul Warrior, trained by Steve Asmussen, posted a winning time of 1:51.46 in his first stakes win.
Mine That Bird’s trainer, Chip Woolley, picked the West Virginia Derby over today’s Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park because the track fit his gelding’s running style. And, he wanted an easier race.
But it didn’t work out.
Soul Warrior paid $48 for a $2 win ticket - the fourth-highest payoff in 40 runnings of the West Virginia Derby.
Big Drama, who finished fifth in the Preakness, paid $2.80 and $2.20. Mine That Bird paid $2.20.
New Jersey racing officials are hoping for a record crowd of more than 53,000 when the 3-year-old filly, also trained by Asmussen, takes on Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird and five other colts in the 1 1/8-mile, $1.25 million Haskell Invitational today at Monmouth Park.
After winning her first three starts this year to run her winning streak to four, Rachel Alexandra overwhelmed fellow fillies by an astonishing 20 1/4 lengths in the Kentucky Oaks. A few days later, Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick purchased the filly and entered her in the Preakness, which she won by holding off Mine That Bird.
Rachel Alexandra will attempt to become the second filly to win the Haskell since Serena’s Song in 1995. It’s also the first meeting of a Preakness and Belmont winner in the Haskell since 1987, when Belmont winner Bet Twice defeated Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba.