Jockey Calvin Borel scored a huge upset in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) (VIDEO), threading 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird to a characteristic rail-hugging victory. The win was not only Borel’s second Derby in three years — he won on Street Sense in 2007 — but came on the heels of a 20-length triumph in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) on heavy favorite Rachel Alexandra May 1.
"I did a Street Sense ride," said Borel, who is known for bringing horses up the rail and is affectionately called "Calvin Bo-Rail."
In the 19-horse field, only two horses had longer odds than Mine That Bird. That was Atomic Rain at 55-1 and Join in the Dance at 51-1.
After he squirted through on the rail in the stretch to surge past Pioneer of the Nile, who had taken the lead in the homestretch, Mine That Bird drew off under Borel to win by 6 ¾ lengths. The victory margin was the largest in the Kentucky Derby since eventual Triple Crown winner Assault won the Kentucky Derby by eight lengths in 1946.
Mine That Bird paid $103.20, $54, and $25.80. Pioneerof the Nile returned $8.40 and $6.40, and Musket Man paid $12 to show. It was the second longest-priced horse to ever win the Derby. Donerail paid $184.90 in 1913.
Pioneerof the Nile beat Musket Man by a nose, while Musket Man was a head in front of Papa Clem.
Favored Friesan Fire grabbed a quarter out of the gate (left front). "He got hit really badly out of the gate and grabbed a quarter. He's bleeding," trainer Larry Jones said.
Mine That Bird is owned by the Double Eagle Ranch of Mark Allen and Buena Suerta Equine, owned by Leonard Blach. He is trained by Bennie (Chip) Woolley Jr., who is on crutches because of a motorcycle accident. Woolley vanned Mine That Bird himself from New Mexico, a 21-hour trip. He stopped at Lone Star Park where the horse galloped before continuing on to Kentucky.
After Woolley’s accident two months ago, his older brother, Bill, looked after the horses in his barn.
Mine That Bird made his first five starts in Canada, winning three stakes, the Grey, Swynford, and Silver Deputy. He was purchased privately by his current owners for $400,000 and sent to Richard Mandella in California where he ran 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). He was the champion male juvenile in Canada where he was trained by David Cotey.
The gelding was then sent to Woolley in New Mexico where he made two starts this year at Sunland Park. In February, he was beaten a neck in the Borderland Derby, a race in which he dueled for the lead the entire mile and a sixteenth. Then in March he ran fourth in the nine-furlong Sunland Derby.
Mine That Bird, whose career earnings improved to $1,791,581, had one work at Churchill Downs, going five furlongs in 1:02 April 27.
In the Derby, Mine That Bird got squeezed at the start and Borel, as is his custom, began to ease the colt to the rail. At one point, he was last. But in the turn for home, Mine That Bird was flying on the rail. He had to move out to go around one horse, then went right back to the rail and slipped through a narrow opening and sprinted clear.
Asked how he made it through such a small hole, Borel said while laughing, "He’s a small horse."
"When he got smashed leaving, I thought, ‘boy I’m going to make a good showing in my first Derby,’ Woolley said. "Calvin did a great job."
The race was reduced from 20 horses to 19 because morning-line favorite I Want Revenge was scratched the morning of the race when some filling was discovered in his left front ankle. It is believed to be the first time in Derby history that the morning-line favorite was scratched the day of the race.
The track condition was sloppy after overnight and morning rains in Louisville, Ky., hit. But the forecast for additional rain during Derby day did not materialize. Without sunshine or wind, however, the track was unable to dry out enough during the day to reach the status of fast as it had the previous day for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
It was the first time the track had been listed as sloppy since 2004, when Smarty Jones won the Derby.
As expected, Join in the Dance and Regal Ransom were the early pacesetters, taking the field through an opening quarter in :22.98 and a half-mile in :47.28. Pioneerof the Nile was in a good spot third while Papa Clem was fourth.
Down the backside, the positions up front changed very little. At one point, Pioneerof the Nile and Papa Clem simply traded spots third and fourth.
The field went six furlongs in 1:12.09 and a mile in 1:37.49.
"It is a feeling like I have never had before," Woolley, who until the Derby had won one race from 32 starters, said.
Blach is a veterinarian in Roswell, N.M., and Allen’s ranch is also located there.
"I didn’t have any real feeling we would win. I just wanted to be competitive," Blach said. "I thought he had a lot of talent, but my heart sunk when he was last the first time down the stretch. I was just happy how far in front he was the second time under the wire."
The complete order of finish was: Mine That Bird, Pioneerof the Nile, Musket Man, Papa Clem, Chocolate Candy, Summer Bird, Join in the Dance, Regal Ransom, West Side Bernie, General Quarters, Dunkirk, Hold Me Back, Advice, Desert Party, Mr. Hot Stuff, Atomic Rain, Nowhere to Hide, Friesan Fire, and Flying Private.
The last gelding to win the Derby prior to this year was Funny Cide in 2003.
Mine That Bird was bred in Kentucky by Peter Lamantia, James Blackburn, and Needham/Betz Thoroughbreds. He was sold as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale for $9,500. His sire, Birdstone, won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and Birdstone’s sire, Grindstone, won the 1996 Derby.
The attendance at Churchill Downs was 153,563, seventh-largest in race history.