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 Saturday'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 1/8th-mile West Virginia Derby, with Big Drama the betting choice at 4-5. But it was 23-1 shot Soul Warrior _ with substitute jockey Dale Beckner _ who powered past Big Drama in the final strides for a neck victory at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.
Mine That Bird, the even-money second choice, made a bid in the stretch but was unable to catch the leaders and was 1 1/2 lengths behind Big Drama.
Jockey Mike Smith blamed himself for making his move early with Mine That Bird.
"It was just total rider error," Smith said. "I don't like the way I rode him at all."
The plan for Big Drama was to jump out early and it nearly worked. Big Drama led by at least eight 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. The chestnut son of Lion Heart was a one-time Kentucky Derby hopeful, and came into the race off a runner-up finish in the Iowa Derby.
Mine That Bird's trainer Chip Woolley picked the West Virginia Derby over Sunday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park because the track fit his gelding's running style. And, he wanted and easier race than the Haskell, which features Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra and Belmont winner Summer Bird.
Woolley refused to criticize Smith's ride.
"It didn't really work out," Woolley said. "I think he did a great job. We just got outrun."
Soul Warrior paid $48 for a $2 win ticket _ the fourth highest payoff in 40 runnings of the West Virginia Derby. Beckner was a late substitute for scheduled jockey Miguel Mena, who missed his flight.
Beckner called the victory _ just his fifth in a graded stakes race _ the "greatest win in my 20 years of riding."
Asmussen, who will send out Preakness-winning filly Rachel Alexandra in Sunday's Haskell Invitational, also won Saturday's Jim Dandy Stakes with Kensei at Saratoga.
Smith was back on Mine That Bird after finishing second aboard the horse in the Preakness.
Mine That Bird was last in the six-horse field around the first turn and starting moving up along the backstretch. Big Drama, with Eibar Coa aboard, set the pace but Soul Warrior and Mine That Bird ran side by side in closing in on Big Drama around the final turn. And that's when Soul Warrior had enough to pass Big Drama while Mine That Bird came up short.
Big Drama, who won the Delta Jackpot as a 2-year-old and finished fifth in the Preakness, paid $2.80 and $2.20. Mine That Bird paid $2.20.
Mine That Bird was the first winner of a Triple Crown race to appear in the West Virginia Derby, and the draw brought in a near-record crowd of 21,218 to the track.
Despite the loss, the next step for Mine That Bird is the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29 _ with a possible matchup with Rachel Alexandra and Summer Bird _ and a year-end goal of the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.