He was bought for just $9,500 as a yearling back in 2007 and he broke his maiden in a claiming race. This gelding never ran better than an 81 Beyer Speed Figure and his trainer had just one victory all year.
But 50-to-1 shot Mine That Bird shocked the world by riding a likely biased rail on the rain soaked Churchill Downs track to a 6-3/4-length victory in the Kentucky Derby. He paid $103.20.
Jockey Calvin Borel took Mine That Bird some 20 lengths off the pace and came up the fence, which is the riding style the jockey is noted for. In the stretch, Mine That Bird shot through a hole on the inside just as announcer Tom Durkin was strongly calling out that one of the favorites was now leading the pack. “Pioneerof the Nile strikes the front just outside of the eighth pole,” Durkin said as pace setter Join in the Dance was fading.
As Mine that Bird was expanding his three length lead over 18 others in midstretch, Durkin paused momentarily — probably to figure out exactly what was going on and to look twice at this unexpected longshot that was dominating the Kentucky Derby.
As Mine The Bird crossed the finish line Durkin seemed to be laughing in disbelief. “A spectacular, spectacular upset. Mine That Bird has won the Kentucky Derby — an impossible result here,” Durkin called to the world as Borel began his celebration.
In second was Pioneerof the Nile who nosed out Musket Man in a three-way photo finish that also included Papa Clem.
The Derby winner was making his third start off a four-month layoff and maybe he matured during that period. But he showed no hint of it during his two most recent races at Sunland Park where he finished second in a $100,000 stakes race on Feb. 28 and fourth in the March 29 $900,000 Sunland Park Derby.
Many of the other Derby horses ran Beyer Speed Figures in the low 100s and mid-to-upper 90’s in their prep races. Mine That Bird looked so inferior that the Daily Racing Form’s Kenny Peck wrote, in essence, that the gelding had no shot and Peck didn’t like Mine That Bird at any price.
“He’s very unlikely to find his way into the trifecta, ” Peck wrote in his analysis, which was an opinion likely shared by many. “Longshot players and those looking to juice up the superfecta will, of course, consider him based solely on the huge price, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario where he plays a major part in the outcome of this race.”
Mine That Bird’s first five races were at Woodbine in Toronto where he was trained by David Cotely and mostly ridden by Chantal Sutherland. He debuted in a maiden special weight sprint then won second time out in a $62,500 claiming race, which was a decent accomplishment for a horse bought as a yearling for less than $10,000.
After breaking his maiden, Mine That Bird rattled off three straight Woodbine stakes wins, two of which were in sprints. For his sixth lifetime start, he was sent to trainer Richard Mandella at Santa Anita for the Breeders Cup where he finished dead last in the Juvenile after never getting within three lenghs of the lead.
Bennie Woolley took over the training after the Breeders’ Cup. Coming into the Derby, Woolley won just one time in 32 starts this year and his operation is so low-profile that Woolley himself drove the pickup truck that hauled the trailer transporting Mine That Bird to the track on the morning of the Derby.
At the betting window, I lost $580 by putting $250 on both #16 Pioneerof the Nile at 6/1 and #15 Dunkirk at 5/1 while also taking $40 stabs with #1 West Side Bernie at 32/1 and #4 Advice at 49/1.