Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mine That Bird Wins the Kentucky Derby in a Shocker

Churchill Downs
Saturday, May 2

Join In the Dance set the pace followed closely by Regal Ransom until the head of the stretch. Pioneerof The Nile had been stalking the pace throughout and took the lead at the beginning of the stretch. It certainly looked like the decision of jockey Garret Gomez to ride him was a winning one as they headed for home.

Chocolate Candy made a nice move at the head of the stretch and Mike Smith had him in a great position as they emerged from traffic on the turn. Summer Bird mounted a like rally but 7 wide was too much to overcome. Both faded down the stretch to finish 5th and 6th.

Musket Man and Papa Clem moved into a position to challenge with six wide and five wide moves on the turn and were closing on Pioneerof the Nile to where it looked at the 1/8th pole like it would be a thrilling three horse finish.

Then, out of nowhere came Mine That Bird and jockey Calvin Borel who went from last to advance along the rail in a ride that looked very much like the trip Borel made with Street Sense to win this race two years ago. They had moved into contention at the 1/8th pole and then Borel moved Mine That Bird through a very tight spot along the rail before they rapidly pulled away to win the 135th Run For The Roses. Pioneerof The Nile held on in a tight photo for place to be 2nd as he edged out Musket Man by a half nose who finished 3rd. Papa Clem was a half length back in 4th.

The 6 3/4 length margin was the largest margin of victory since Assault won by 8 lengths in 1946. The payoff of $103.20 at odds of 50/1 was the second largest payoff in Derby history behind the $184.90 payoff by Donerail in 1913. Jockey Calvin Borel, who won the Kentucky Oaks with Rachel Alexandra the day before, became the first jockey since 1993 to win the Oaks and Derby in the same year.

How the other "Terry's Horses To Watch" finished in the Derby:
I Want Revenge became the first morning line favorite to scratch on Derby Day as he was scratched just hours before the race when trainer Jeff Mullins detected an inflammation on the colt's left front ankle. The injury was not considered to be career ending. His sire, the great A.P. Indy, was also scratched the morning of the Derby.

Dunkirk, my top pick, lost all chance when he stumbled and went to his knees shortly after coming out of the gate and after never really finding a comfortable spot in the race, he finished 11th. This kept trainer Todd Pletcher's Derby streak in tact and it now stands at 0-24 after not winning with any of three horses in this race.

Fresian Fire went off the favorite in what is said to be trainer Larry Jones final attempt to win this race as he plans to retire at the end of the year. He clipped heels shortly out of the gate and encountered a cut on his hind leg. After that he was not urged on by jockey Gabriel Saez and finished 18th. The trainer said the colt's status for the Preakness was uncertain at this time.

General Quarters was in traffic trouble at several points in the race and finished 10th. His trainer, Tom McCarthy, said the horse never showed who he was and he came back to the barn choking in mud.

Hold Me Back made a big move on the backstretch to come as close to the lead as 5th before fading to 12th. Jockey Kent Desormeaux said his horse was more tired than he should have been and maybe he was just struggling with the sloppy track.

Regal Ransom pressed the pace to the head of the stretch as mentioned and then faded to 8th. Jockey Alan Garcia said he ran his race and ran really hard.

Desert Party, the second of the two Godolphin horses, was close to the leaders in the early part of the race but stopped badly. Jockey Ramon Dominguez said that he found himself with no horse at the 5/8th pole and the horse never really finished up. They finished 14th.

For Mine That Bird, it was a very improbable win in the world's most prestigious race. Trainer Chip Wooley drove the horse to Louisville in a 21 hour van trip from his home base at Sunland Park in New Mexico. In 2009, the horse had finished 2nd and 4th in two non graded races at Sunland Park after a dismal 12th place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his final 2008 start last October. He qualified for this race earlier last October at Woodbine in Toronto by winning the Grade 3 Grey Stakes which was his only graded earnings but it was enough to make the Derby field in a year when the contenders were scratching one after another due to injury.

Trainer Wooley said he had no plans to run this horse in the Derby but when a spot opened up, the owner wanted to race because from where they play this game you do not normally get another chance to run in the Derby. Mine That Bird is the first gelding to win the Derby since Funny Cide in 2003. Now, he is the only horse of the roughly 40,000 foals of 2006 who has a chance to win a Triple Crown.

In the race before the Derby, Einstein advanced his current status as the best older horse in training by winning the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic by a head over hard running Cowboy Cal who finished finished 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Court Vision who finished 3rd.

Next, it is on to Baltimore and the Preakness on Saturday, May 16.