A day after his unheralded gelding Mine That Bird pulled off the second-biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history, trainer Bennie Woolley is in no rush to pack up his much-traveled van and head east to the Preakness on May 16.
"There's no obligation," Woolley said. "You've got to do what's best for the horse and the horse has got to come first."
The Derby winner hasn't skipped the Preakness since 1996, when Grindstone was injured between the two races and retired. The last healthy Derby winner to bypass the Preakness was Spend A Buck in 1985.
The sport's newest star hardly looked tired the morning after jockey Calvin Borel guided him on the ride of a lifetime through the slop at Churchill Downs.
Draped in the white blanket with red roses that goes to the winner, the 50-1 longshot posed for his picture while the racing world tried to come to grips with what they'd just seen.
"I'm still in shock," said trainer Bob Baffert.
Baffert thought he had his fourth Derby locked up when his Pioneerof the Nile battled for the lead as the 19-horse field entered the stretch. The Hall of Famer was so focused on his colt he didn't see the blur in pink coming up on the rail.
"All of a sudden my wife picked him up on the rail and she said 'Who in the (world) is that?'" Baffert said. "Then I heard her say 'It's that Calvin Borel.'"
The jockey nicknamed "Bo-rail" for his ability to have his horses hug the fence loped along in last place before asking Mine That Bird for a boost in the turn. The son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone gave him much more than that, rocketing by the field over the last half-mile to give Borel his second Derby victory.
Borel wasn't able to back up his win aboard Street Sense two years ago with a win at the Preakness, as Curlin nipped him in the final yards.
Can Mine That Bird turn the trick? It might not be farfetched. Derby winning longshots don't always go bust the next time out. Charistmatic _ a 31-1 bet in 1999 _ won the Preakness and 2005 Derby winner Giacomo ran a respectable third at Pimlico.
Borel will be more than happy to take a shot if allowed.
"He's plenty of horse," Borel said.
Baffert has some advice for Woolley and owners Mark Allen and Leonard Blach: if Mine That Bird is OK, go for it.
"This is a dream of a lifetime," Baffert said. "I hope he comes out of it well and they go and maybe he's for real. We're going to find out."
Baffert likened Mine That Bird to Real Quiet, who went through a so-so prep season only to flourish in the spring, coming within a nose of being the first Triple Crown winner in 20 years in 1998.
"Real was the same way, he went to New Mexico and got beat twice and all of a sudden he got better and better, the further he went, the better he got," Baffert said. "Maybe (Mine That Bird) is getting better."
Perhaps, but it won't be enough to scare away contenders at the Preakness.
Baffert is optimistic Pioneerof the Nile will make the trip. The colt seemed plenty comfortable in the mud after spending his entire career racing on synthetic surfaces.
"If he had won, I thought he had a shot at the Triple Crown," Baffert said. "He can get the distance and he runs his race every time."
The going figures to be a little easier in the Preakness, which is limited to 14 starters.
Not that Mine That Bird was complaining after the Derby. He hung back so far behind the leaders he never was in a position to get beaten up and when he made his move, the rest of the field only seemed too happy to get out of the way.
Woolley, Allen and Blach celebrated the win during a mostly sleepless night. Don't expect them to lose any sleep over the decision of what to do next. They've already gotten more than they ever bargained for from their small but lightning quick star.
"If this horse is doing good, you bet we'll run, but he's going to have to tell us," Allen said. "The horse will tell us. We don't owe nobody nothing."