Tag Archives: Kentucky Derby 2009

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.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Churchill Downs, favorite races, Kentucky Derby, mine that bird, promoting racing, results, Underrated Racehorses

MINE THAT BIRD — Laughingstock to Legend!

50-1 longshot Mine That Bird just won the Kentucky Derby by 6! Calvin Borel rode the colt to victory with his signature rail-skimming ride. With his win on Rachel Alexandra yesterday, he joins an elite group of Derby-Oaks double winning jockeys, the last one being Jerry Bailey in 1993.
Mine That Bird — Derby winner

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

THE INFIELD OFFICIAL DERBY PICKS

After today’s Oaks win by Rachel, the Derby has a tough act to follow. 

1.  PIONEEROF THE NILE:  This colt has been so good that he has overcome his name and found a place at the top of my list.  Bob Baffert was just elected to the Hall of Fame in Saratoga, which is good luck for those trainers with Derby horses:  Neil Drysdale was elected the year FuPeg won, and D. Wayne Lukas was elected the year Charismatic won.  Steve Haskin says the PNile had the best workout at CD and was the best-looking contender in terms of coat condition and attitude.  On track, the son of Empire Maker has done nothing wrong, except not race on dirt.  But the way he looked in his CD workouts put my questions to rest.  He has shown that he can win off the pace, or up on it, as he did in the freaky running of the Santa Anita Derby.  He has already beaten I Want Revenge twice, Chocolate Candy twice, Papa Clem and Mr. Hot Stuff.  He breaks from post 16, not bad for his usual closing style.  Garret Gomez chose PNile over Dunkirk, and I think he made the right choice.  Jon White says he will win the whole Triple Crown if he can capture this first jewel.    I won’t go that far.  Yet.

2. I WANT REVENGE :  Got out of Cali to avoid PNile and became the Morning Line Favorite by his brilliance on dirt.  TV star jockey Joe Talamo will ride the near-black colt, which will pull some bets in from the teenybopper set.  I Want Revenge has shown speed, heart and stamina with his wins in NY.  Trainer Jeff Mullins has won big stakes before, and owners IEAH have lived the Derby dream before, with Big Brown.

3.  GENERAL QUARTERS:  He is the sentimental favorite with the heartwarming story.  He is also a gritty competitor who has been versatile on a variety of surfaces. 

4. PAPA CLEM:  Can’t leave out the Arkansas Derby winner — beat Old Fashioned in a thrilling stretch duel.

5. FRIESAN FIRE:  If it’s a sloppy track, this son of AP Indy will be dangerous.  The Larry Jones trainee has been consistent all year.  He has never run over 1 1/16 miles, however, and the 7-week layoff is worrisome.

Longshots that I will play in my exotics: CHOCOLATE CANDY… REGAL RANSOM … DUNKIRK … and whoever else I get a hankering about before Derby.

GOOD LUCK, PLAYERS!  COME HOME SAFE, COLTS!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

MR. HOT STUFF will WIN the DERBY…

at least that’s what my boss predicted in his quirky coin-toss method of handicapping. He may have something there, since that 20-horse field is formidable for even the most experienced bettors. I’ll bet Mr. Hot Stuff $2 across the board just for kicks.

My official Infield Derby Picks & Analysis TOMORROW!

and of course, LIVE OAKS BLOG at 4pm CST!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Assume The Position

Friesan Fire has the best PP of the possible favorites, breaking from the 6 hole. It also looks like a rainy Derby Day (again), which will be even better for the Larry Jones trainee.

In post 15, Dunkirk will have a lot of work to do, but the auxillary gate won’t hurt his closing style too much, that is, if he isn’t the overrated allowance winner I think he is.

I Want Revenge will break from the “lucky” 13 hole, not where I’d like him. Young jock Joe Talamo will have his work cut out guiding the colt through the 20-horse gauntlet.

Pioneerof The Nile breaks from gate 16. Only 3 other winners have started at that spot, that last being Monarchos in 2001. Charismatic and Thunder Gulch are the others.

General Quarters got post #12. I like this horse; he is versatile on a variety of surfaces and has a great story with his retired HS teacher owner.

Horses with good posts that I will have to take another look at include Advice in #3, Papa Clem in #7, Regal Ransom in #10 and Chocolate Candy in #11.

Desert Party got shafted with the #19 post — no horse has ever won from that piece of gate real estate.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

MY MEN of the DERBY

I’m a sucker for Tauruses. 

Guys born under the sign of the Bull just do it for me: they’re strong and sturdy and steady, even-tempered lovers of life.  Cancer girls like me are astrologically compatible with them, as they enjoy the comforts of home that we can provide.  They’re creative and loyal and funny, and if you’re a Taurus reading this now, you can find me on MySpace AND Facebook!

They also have Derby Birthdays!  Not all of them were actually born on Derby day of their birth year, but they share a date with many winners in history.  Here are a few of my favorite Men of the Derby!

H.B. — May 1 — I knew this guy in high school.  Quiet, geeky, liked to listen to Metallica.  He was born on Derby Day in 1982, when the grey Gato Del Sol swooped around the field in the slop to win for Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm.   Don’t know what he’s up to these days, as I haven’t Facebooked him. Yet.  May 1 was also the date of the Derby wins of two Triple Crown winners, Count Fleet in ’43 and Citation in ’48.  I realized H.B. had a Derby birthday in 1999, when we were both in 11th grade.  I had gotten a serious case of Derby Fever and could not stop talking about the Baffert trio of Prime Timber, Excellent Meeting, and “Rhodman”, AKA General Challenge.  He got tired of me going on and on about the horses one day, saying, “When will this be OVER?!” 
I said to him, “The first Saturday in May!” 
“That’s my birthday.” 
“Sweet!  We can watch the race at your party!”
“Um, You can watch the race at Your party.”

Charismatic won the Derby that year.  I didn’t talk to H.B. much after that.

C.S.– May 7 — I met C.S. in college sophomore year and spent the rest of my time at UM chasing him around.  He was really tall, had sparkling blue eyes like Hawaiian beachfront, and was a trivia nut.  I learned early on that he had a Derby birthday and spent scads of time filling him in on the particulars:  Behave Yourself and Burgoo King, Col. Bradley’s pair from the 30s; Ponder, winner in ’49 sired by Derby winner Pensive and sire of ’56 winner Needles; Swaps, the California wonder.  He actually remembered watching the 1994 Derby on TV because rain kept his party inside — I was always excited to remind him that I had “met” that year’s winner, Go For Gin, at a recent Kentucky trip.  Seattle Slew is the only TC winner I have seen in person, and his Derby was on May 7, 1977, another thing I probably talked about too much. 
C.S. graduated 2 years before me, but I kept up correspondence with him for a little while.  In 2005, I went to the Infield for the very first time.  It was a dream come true, all 12 hot, sweaty, julipy, messy hours of it.  Giacomo won at 50-1.  That year’s Derby was on May7.  I hope that some of that Derby ephemera I incessantly quoted to C.S. stuck somewhere in his memory, and I sometimes think of him winning a Trivia Bowl by correctly answering “Who won the 1988 Kentucky Derby?*”

F.L. — May 11 — I hated F.L. when I first met him.  He was too overbearing, had a penchant for telling ridiculous lies, and could be entirely too goofy at times.  But as I got to know him, I realized just how misunderstood he was.  I found out he had a May 11 birthday and thought he may have a Preakness winner or two.  But delving into the stats, I discovered that F.L. shared a Derby with a few early winners, like 1887 victor Montrose and 1892 winner Azra.  But he also shares a Derby with Exterminator, the 1918 longshot winner who became a national hero.  Exterminator got the nickname “Old Bones” because of his coarse, angular frame, and raced only 4 times at 2 before becoming a workout mate to W. Kilmer’s champion 2yo Sun Briar.  Unfortunately, Sun Briar developed problems that kept himout of the Derby, and Kilmer reluctantly entered Exterminator.  The big brown gelding had not raced at all prior to the Derby, but he was well-conditioned after running alongside the champ for so long.  He ran away from the field in the stretch and won by a length, redeeming his supporters and horse-laughing in the face of his detractors.  F.L. has a lot in common with Old Bones, except I’d probably call him Honeybun (his girth would probably compare to the horse’s).

I’ve been talking F.L.’s ear off about Derby 135 for months.  He’s probably glad the race is 4 days away — he needs his ear back.

 

ETA: *Winning Colors, May 7, 1988!

Leave a comment

Filed under Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby, Love Life, Uncategorized

PRELUDE to the DERBY

Last night, I stayed up late watching Derby stretch run montages on youtube.  I got teary-eyed over a few of them, Ferdinand and Barbaro most notably.  I am always amazed that Easy Goer could not get to Sunday Silence in the ’89 Derby, as the big black colt zig-zagged all down the stretch.  Strike The Gold, today’s oldest living Derby winner, was so far out in the middle of the track that he is just barely in the frame of the ’91 Derby stretch footage.  Thunder Gulch’s white blinkers stuck out like a high beam in the 1995 Derby, the very first time I picked the winner.  Cavonnier still looks like the winner in ’96, even though Grundstone wore the roses…Menifee almost makes it up to pass Charismatic in ’99… “not today” Point Given eats the dust from Monarchos, who wins “as fast as Secretariat”… ’03 winner Funny Cide shocks the Frankel duo of Empire Maker and Peace Rules…Smarty Jones wallows in the slop and becomes America’s Horse in ’04… what a stretch run in ’07, with Hard Spun ceding the lead to Street Sense as Curlin ranges up for 3rd…Big Brown blows the 2009 field away, followed by the filly Eight Belles, who would have been Zenyatta’s biggest threat, IMHO…and in eight days, another horse will join these legends of the track. 

The contenders are at Churchill Downs now, working out on the track’s signature dirt surface, recently certified by the NTRA’s new Safety & Integrity Alliance.  The horses come from jurisdictions that have banned steroids and cracked down on race day meds in the past 12 months, in hopes that severe injuries will become a rare occurance in the sport. 

Pioneerof The Nile worked out on the dirt yesterday, and turned in a sizzling 6 furlong drill.  This colt is ready to rock.  The polytrack question is irrelevant to me now.  He’s my top pick.

Pioneerof The Nile posts impressive dirt workout on Wednesday at Churchill Downs.  Photo from Bloodhorse.com

Pioneerof The Nile posts impressive dirt workout on Wednesday at Churchill Downs. Photo from Bloodhorse.com

1 Comment

Filed under Churchill Downs, Derby Prepes, Kentucky Derby, NTRA