Category Archives: mine that bird

Top 5 Examples of West Coast Equine Domination in East Coast Races

Inspired by this blog post, I thought about the times when West Coast-based horses shipped to the East and totally kicked ass. What’s really weird is that when I tried to come up with instances of East Coast Elites crushing West Coast races, I came up empty. Anyone remember the last time a NY-based horse won the Big Cap? Yeah, me neither.

Anyway, here are my top five races where the East Coast Establishment experienced West Coast Domination!

5. I Want Revenge Annihilates 2009 Wood Memorial

Trainer Jeff Mullins shipped I Want Revenge east after the monster Pioneerof The Nile beat him in the Bob Lewis stakes. I Want Revenge then surprised easterners with a win in the Gotham Stakes. But I Want Revenge truly brought his A Game in the Wood Memorial, where he beat the best in the East & became a top Derby Contender. He broke dead last and had to fight his way back to the front on a messy Aqueduct stretch, but pulled away like he’d never had any trouble. While IWR was mysteriously injured the morning of the Derby and scratched, his rival Pioneerof The Nile was a well-beaten second to another Westerner, Mine That Bird.

4. Sandpit Takes 2 United Nations Handicaps

Sandpit was a champion in Brazil, then shipped to California, where he won the Oak Tree Invitational. When he shipped East he was just as good, winning back-to-back editions of the Ceasars International Handicap, which is now back to its original name, the United Nations. This was the only video of Sandpit I could find, from 1996.

3. In Excess Wins 4 In A Row

What is shameful is that I can’t find any of In Excess’s races on YouTube. In Excess was born in Ireland, won some races there, then was shipped to the US & was based in Cali. He was always hit-or-miss in California, winning the Volante Handicap, San Gabriel, San Fernando, but throwing in clunkers in the Big Cap and Strub. However, when he shipped east, he rattled off victories in the 1991 Met Mile, Suburban, Whitney and Woodward. Total. Domination.

2. John Henry In The Inaugural Arlington Million

It was the first Million-Dollar race, and John Henry was the best horse in the US, let alone the West Coast. In the 1981 Million, Euro horse The Bart stayed up on the pace set by Key To Content. John Henry was stuck in a pack of top classic turf horses from all over the US and abroad. He looked hopelessly beaten, but in the stretch, the Old Man showed just how good he was- he burst through and headed for the lead, closing the gap with every stride. He bore down on The Bart and won the race by a flare of a nostril.

1. TIZNOW CRUSHES TWO CLASSICS

Tiznow  shipped East four times and won three. He was victorious in the Super Derby, and then defeated a foreign invader in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Twice. To this day he is the only horse to win the BC Classic two times, and though the BC races are not coast-specific, Tiznow won his at the home bases of Eastern racing, Churchill and Belmont. He dominated his American rivals in the 2000 Classic, finding his toughest challenger in Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. The two battled down the Churchill stretch, and Tiznow prevailed by a head. In 2001, Tiznow had a tough year, suffering a back injury and then running 3rd in his two Classic preps. But when it counted the most, the colt was all heart. He stayed up near the pace the whole way around, and at the top of the stretch, he made a move for the lead. At the same time, Godolphin’s Sakhee took the lead. Tiznow was game, but he looked beaten. As they raced for home, he found a new gear and matched strides with Sakhee, who refused to relent. But Tiznow would not be denied –  in the shadow of the wire, it was the Cal-bred, West Coast phenom with his valiant head in front.

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PHREAKNESS

The Filly will face The Derby Winner in The Preakness

The Filly will face The Derby Winner in The Preakness

The Preakness must suffer from the “middle child syndrome” — there can be no other reason why this otherwise unremarkable race has offered fans such rich drama and curious occurances over its 134 runnings. 

It’s the only Triple Crown race to have ever been run in two divisions, resulting in 2 different winners in 1918.  The clubhouse has been struck by lightning (1909) and even burned down (1966).  The race was homeless for several years in the late 1800s, when five runnings were held at Belmont Park. 

In more recent history, the Preakness has suffered a track-wide power outage (1998); a drunken (and suicidal) infielder ran out onto the track and punched at horses racing in the 1999 sprint race on the Preakness undercard.  Afleet ALex clipped heels with Scrappy T and stumbled to his knees, but his athletic jockey stayed on and the colt galloped home by daylight in 2005.  Of course, there has been plenty said about Barbaro in 2006.

This year’s drama has so far happened off the track: Rachel Alexandra was sold to Jess Jackson for the sole purpose of competing in the Preakness.  Ahmed Zayat then threatened on TVG that he’d stuff the gate with his own runners so that the filly couldn’t get in.  Marylou Whitney was even wrapped up in the controversy.  By Monday, all of the craziness was over, Zayat recanted and Rachel was in. 

It’s good that Rachel ALexandra will get to face colts.  She is a big, sturdy filly and should have no problems keeping up with the boys.  She’s already faster than most of them.  Borel is sticking with her over his Derby winner, which speaks volumes to her talent.  Borel will also do everything he can to protect her should the race prove to be too much for her.  I’m not worried about her physical condition or of her getting injured.  Rags To Riches ran in the Belmont, for goodness sakes.  So did Silverbulletday, my #1 favorite filly of all time.  Rachel will be fine.

She will also win.  As much as I’d love for Pioneerof The Nile to turn the tables on Mine That Bird, or even for Mine That Bird to continue the impossible dream, I believe Rachel has the speed and strength to win this race.  The pace will be much faster here than the Derby, with Big Drama and Take The Points in the gate.  But she can sit just off the leaders.  She also has a better tactical turn of foot than most of the colts.  Borel can put her anywhere he wants. 

If it rains, Mine That Bird will be dangerous.

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Mine That Bird : The Susan Boyle of Horse Racing

Could it all be just a dream?  Calvin Borel celebrates atop 135th Derby winner Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot.  Photo by AP.

Could it all be just a dream? Calvin Borel celebrates atop 135th Derby winner Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot. Photo by AP.

He stepped onto the stage, a plain, brown gelding, small in stature, and all but invisible among the flashy stars of the Triple Crown trail.  Handicappers, racing fans, industry insiders, racing commentators, all of them rolled their eyes when reading his name in the post parade: Mine That Bird. 

Steven Levitt, economist and racing fan, wrote in his Freakonomics blog, “If I had to pick a last-place finisher…it would be Mine That Bird.”  In the 3-strikes formula employed by Jon White, Mine That Bird had 5.  Message board commenters joked about him crossing the wire next week.  His speed figures weren’t good enough, he wasn’t fast enough, he’d only won on synthetic surfaces, these same colts had beaten him at the Breeders’ Cup, where he’d come in last — there really wasn’t a good reason for him to be there.

The brown horse knew nothing of this criticism.  He went to post #8 with jockey Calvin Borel in the irons, a veteran who’d ridden a Derby winner in 2007.  He was in good hands.  All that was left was for him to perform. 

When the gates opened, he started out so far back, it was as if he’d been left at the gate.   The track was sloppy, and he was hit in the face with the slick mud off the other horses’ hooves.  As the field flew through the backstretch, Mine That Bird began to move up, passing horses swiftly along the rail.  Turning for home, the pacesetters traded the lead in a thrilling duel.  The race caller’s attention was focused on the drama at the front of the pack, but what he didn’t see was the small, brown gelding closing furiously on the rail just behind them.  In a dramatic burst, the muddy gelding slipped through a slot the size of a needle’s eye on that golden rail.  He was in the lead!  He was drawing away by 3!  4!  6 on the wire! 

The people at Churchill Downs — the ladies in the soggy hats and the Infielders as muddy as the horses– stared in shock.  Mine That Bird had done the impossible, at 50-1 odds! 

I love the Kentucky Derby.  No other sports event can compare with its propensity for surprise winners.  All of the experts, this one included, totally ignored him.  But he took flight on the muddy Churchill Down strip and prevailed by 6 3/4 lengths, surpassing even Barbaro in his dominance.  The only thing I can think of that even comes close to the surprise and delight in this horse’s performance is Susan Boyle.

He took the stage a small, plain, brown gelding.  He entered the Winners’ Circle covered in mud and roses, humming “I Dream A Dream.”

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