- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

50-to-1 shot Mine That Bird won the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, exploding down the stretch to become the second-biggest long shot ever to win the race.

Jockey Calvin Borel rode the horse from last place to first.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Jeff Mullins rarely spoke publicly this week about I Want Revenge, the horse he was training for the Kentucky Derby. When he did, it was to stress the things that went right: a fast workout, ideal post position and the colt’s status as the morning-line favorite.

Then Saturday morning, just hours before the race, something went wrong.

A hot spot causing inflammation was detected on the horse’s left front ankle, an injury not believed to be career-threatening but troublesome enough to prompt Mullins and the colt’s owner, David Lanzman, to make the difficult decision to pull the 3-year-old horse out of the race.

“I’ve been in this business kind of all my life,” Mullins said. “Most of the things I’ve learned in this business I’ve learned by hard knocks in more ways than one. Your biggest dream is to get here, but the biggest nightmare is to get to race day and have to scratch. Right now I don’t think it’s really sunk in that much, but pretty disappointing.”

IEAH Stables president Michael Iavarone, co-owner of the colt, said just before the Derby that I Want Revenge would be sent to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital for a thorough examination but doesn’t think the injury is too severe.

“We found nothing,” Iavarone said. “It’s not lame.”

Since the morning line was put in the racing program in 1949, no other favorite had scratched on race day. The last major contender to do so was second choice A.P. Indy in 1992. Coincidentally, I Want Revenge is a grandson of A.P. Indy, who went on to win the Belmont later that year.

I Want Revenge and 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo were to start from post No. 13. The duo established themselves as one of the Derby favorites after a last-to-first dash in the Wood Memorial last month.

“I’m just glad the horse is OK,” Talamo said. “It could have been a lot worse. Something could have happened on the track. I’m just glad it happened in the stall.”

Although I Want Revenge was the lone Saturday scratch, he was the fourth Derby contender to pull out this week due to injury.

One possible favorite, Quality Road, was withdrawn with a hoof problem. Also pulled were Win Willy, due to an ankle problem, and Square Eddie, because of a shin injury.

Safety issues have been at the forefront of racing this year following the breakdown of filly Eight Belles at last year’s Derby. She was the first horse euthanized in the 134 runnings of the race. The death of that horse sparked changes in the sport, including new regulations on the kind of whips that can be used, better padding on starting gates and close monitoring of track conditions. Post-race drug tests on the top four finishers now screen for steroids for the first time.

With I Want Revenge out, Friesan Fire replaced him as the favorite. Larry Jones, who trained both Eight Belles and Friesan Fire, praised the handlers of I Want Revenge for erring on the side of safety.

“Nobody’s wanting to take a chance,” Jones said. “Nobody wants to be the next one out here for that to happen to.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who sent three starters into the Derby, said the health and welfare of the racehorses should always be the deciding factor.

“I’d like to think that we’re all doing the responsible thing every time,” Pletcher said. “This year should be no different.”

An X-ray and ultrasound test did not find any damage to I Want Revenge, but the ankle was tender when it was flexed. With a wet track expected, Lanzman said there was really no choice.

“When the word came out that running could hurt the horse, I looked at both doctors and said, ‘Then this is no debate,’” he recalled. “‘What are we talking about? We’ll fight another day.’”

Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian at the Derby, said the horse didn’t look injured while jogging for doctors.

“Unfortunately, this close to the Derby, there’s not a way to gauge how bad that is,” he said.

Mullins begins serving a seven-day suspension at 12:01 a.m. Sunday for administering an over-the-counter medication to another of his horses, Gato Go Win, in a detention barn just before a race in New York several weeks ago.

Mullins’ suspension will be over in time for the Preakness Stakes in two weeks, but he said it’s unlikely the horse will be ready by then. He remained at the barn Saturday, and there were no immediate plans to take him to an offsite clinic.

“If you walk by his stall, you’re not going to know anything is wrong with him,” said veterinarian Foster Northrop, who treated the horse. “He’s bucking and kicking. He doesn’t even know he’s hurt.”

___

Associated Press Writer Malcolm C. Knox contributed to this report.

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