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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mine That Bird's Hooves Experience One of Saratoga's Most Famous Traditions

Saratoga is a star-studded place this summer. While the grandstand seemed a little empty this afternoon, and Broadway clears out much earlier at night than in years gone by, it's clear to see that the celebs on the backside are getting all the press and are the center of all the gossip. When and where will Rachel run next? Is Kensai the real deal? What giant slayers is Jerkens hiding? Will Quality Road's feet hold up?

And everyone is curious about Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who pulled into town last week and set up camp. Yes, trainer Chip Woolley is still on crutches.

Mine That Bird's hooves hadn't hit the shady Saratoga dirt for long before our friend and ace photographer Sarah K. Andrew hunkered down for a hoofcare-eye view while the champ enjoyed a bath. She knew you'd want to see his feet, which are pretty long by New York racetrack fashion but he just might like them that way.

With luck, Mine That Bird will start in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 29, where he would meet (potentially) Summer Bird, Quality Road, Kensai, and maybe even Rachel Alexandra, among others. Birdstone, sire of Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, won the Travers in 2004 for his owner and Saratoga resident, Mrs. Marylou Whitney.

Mine That Bird is usually shod by Mike Johnson in New Mexico.

Saratoga is famed for its naturally mineral-rich spring waters. There are springs downtown and even one in the "backyard" of the racetrack. Mineral springs helped make Saratoga one of the first resorts in America. For 150 years or more, the public has come to Saratoga to take a bath in the waters, which are believed to have therapeutic effects. Horse races were started in the town as entertainment for the bathers; they couldn't spend all their time in the water.

Mine That Bird certainly seemed to be enjoying his bathtime, in the Saratoga tradition. In a few weeks he'll put those hooves to work and do his partt to entertain and possibly enrich the modern-day bathers and betters.

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