- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

LOUISVILLE, Ky. | The Kentucky Derby usually delivers compelling performances and stories.

Mine That Bird didn’t disappoint, pulling off a stunning last-to-first victory Saturday at 50-1 odds.

Jockey Calvin Borel guided the gelding based in New Mexico up the rail and into contention through the second turn at Churchill Downs, roaring past Pioneerof the Nile at the 1/8 pole. While Borel conducted a minicelebration, shaking his right index finger, in the run through the stretch, Mine That Bird sped away from the competition and won by 6 3/4 lengths in 2:02.66.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Borel, who won the 2007 Derby with a similarly remarkable trip on Street Sense. “I took the rail the whole way, got stopped maybe one time going around the turn, but after that it was awesome. I knew we were going to win by the three-eighths pole. I knew if we could just find our way through that, we were going to win from there.”

Mine That Bird, purchased as a yearling for $9,500, paid $103.20 to win, the second-highest win price in Derby history. The record is $184.90 paid by 1913 winner Donerail.

Pioneerof the Nile, the 6-1 third choice in the wagering, finished a nose in front of Musket Man, who was 19-1. Friesan Fire, the 7-2 favorite, suffered a hoof injury early in the race and finished 18th in the field of 19 horses.

Ten hours before post time, I Want Revenge became the first morning-line favorite to be scratched on the day of the race. A problem was found in the horse’s left front ankle. The winner of the Gotham and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York was installed as the 3-1 favorite on the morning line at the post position draw.

Roswell, N.M., residents Mark Allen and Leonard Blach purchased Mine That Bird for $400,000 from David Cotey in October after he had clinched the Canadian 2-year-old title with four straight wins at Woodbine Park in Toronto. Mine That Bird finished last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 25 in Los Angeles and really didn’t look like a serious Derby contender in two losses at Sunland Park.

Undeterred, Allen and Blach decided their horse was good enough to face the best 3-year-olds in the country. The move paid off nicely. Mine That Bird earned the winner’s share of $1,417,200 from the purse of $2,177,200.

“It just shows what can be done with a couple of buddies that have a good time together and want to go to the races and dream a little bit, that your dreams will come true,” Blach said as he choked back tears.

Pioneerof the Nile’s trainer, Bob Baffert, saluted the winners.

“Those cowboys, they came with a good horse,” he said.

As the horses came off the turn into the stretch, it looked like Baffert would pick up his fourth Derby victory and first since War Emblem in 2002. Pioneerof the Nile and jockey Garrett Gomez had sat a nice trip behind the pace-setters, Join in the Dance and Regal Ransom, through a quarter-mile in 22.98, a half-mile in 47.23 and three-quarters in 1:12.09. In the turn, Gomez moved Pioneerof the Nile and into the lead.

“He ran awesome,” Baffert said. “My horse ran. He showed up. I thought I had it. Garrett rode a beautiful race. I had it. I can’t believe it. I’m in shock. Then I saw that horse coming and I go, ‘Who is that?’ They said, ‘Mine That Bird.’ ”

The Derby results provided the answer to the question of how horses who ran regularly on synthetic surfaces would perform on Churchill’s. Mine That Bird, Pioneerof the Nile, fourth-place finisher Papa Clem and fifth-place finisher Chocolate Candy had all won on synthetic surfaces.

I Want Revenge had begun his career on synthetic tracks in California but built his reputation with wins on dirt in New York. Trainer Jeff Mullins found the colt’s injury shortly after arriving at Barn 24 at Churchill Downs. Mullins felt heat in the ankle after removing the colt’s bandages, washing his legs and giving them a routine check.

Foster Northrop, the attending veterinarian, X-rayed and ultrasounded the ankle without determining a cause for the inflammation.

“On the digital X-rays, I’m not seeing any bone lesion at all,” Northrop said. “So further diagnostics will be done. It’s a high-risk area for being injured, and we need to be sure there’s not an abnormality with further diagnostics.”

Mullins said it is unlikely I Want Revenge will run in the Preakness Stakes on May 16 in Baltimore.

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