Special to The SUN
Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby win in 2009 is the epitome of the underdog story.
The public is invited to see this Kentucky Derby winner at the Weber Ranch, located at 7101 E. U.S. 160 in Pagosa Springs, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on June 19. There is no charge to attend.
Born in Kentucky and purchased for just $9,500, Mine That Bird traveled to Canada and then the southwest United States in his early racing career. He performed well in Canada, but was out-performed in his American races, causing his ownership and training to change several times.
In early 2009, Mine That Bird came under the tutelage of trainer Chip Woolley, and even though they only placed second and fourth in their two races together, Mine That Bird’s lifetime victories in graded stakes races qualified him 19th, out of 20 horses, to race in the Kentucky Derby.
On a whim and just days before the Kentucky Derby race, while also recovering from a broken ankle, trainer Chip Woolley loaded Mine That Bird into a trailer on the back of his pickup truck and drove him over 1,000 miles from New Mexico to Kentucky to participate in the race. Barely qualified, no one thought Mine That Bird would race in the Kentucky Derby, let alone win it.
It was a rainy first Saturday in May, so by the time the Kentucky Derby contenders took to the track, it was sloppy. The race took off, and on the backstretch Mine That Bird was so far behind the rest of the field that even the race announcer missed seeing him.
By the last turn of the race, led by jockey Calvin Borel, Mine That Bird caught up with the rest of the field and squeezed between the contenders and the metal rail of the track to pass the group. His speed exploded in the finishing stretch and the announcer, again, missed Mine That Bird as he made his way through 19 horses to take the lead.
The announcer didn’t identify him until he was three lengths ahead of the other contenders. Mine that Bird won the race six lengths in front of the second-place finisher and became the second biggest upset winner in Kentucky Derby history (second to Donerail). A $2 win bet on Mine That Bird returned $103.20.
Mine That Bird is only one of nine geldings to win the Kentucky Derby, so his legacy lives only within his story — a story for the record books, and even the theater. A movie, “50-1,” based on Mine That Bird’s road to the Kentucky Derby and his underdog victory, was released five years after his win. Mine That Bird is proof that the Kentucky Derby is such an enigma — it is an attainable dream for horses and people from all walks of life.