When people think of Roswell, N.M., they often associate the city with a famous UFO legend and alleged cover-up. In 1947 there was a crash nearby of what some people believe was an extraterrestrial spacecraft with alien occupants.
But racing fans should be interested in Roswell for another reason. It is the home of 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird.
The bay gelding is back in the news again because his half brother, Dullahan, is scheduled to run in the 2012 edition of the Run for the Roses May 5.
“Just like anybody who is retired he doesn’t do much of anything,” said Dr. Leonard Blach, speaking of Mine That Bird in a May 1 telephone interview.
Mine That Bird won the first leg of the Triple Crown for Blach’s Buena Suerte Equine and Mark Allen’s Double Eagle Ranch. He overcame 50-1 odds with a stirring late charge and took the classic by 6 ¾ lengths.
“When he crossed that finish line is what I remember the most,” Blach said. “I’ve described it 100 times, but I just can’t describe it adequately. There were so many things that happened in that Derby. He was so far back and made a big stretch run and (jockey) Calvin Borel came through that hole on the rail. It was just amazing, you know. It was a miracle to win that race.”
Mine That Bird, who was a champion in Canada as a juvenile, ran nine more times following the Derby but he never won again. His competitive career ended after a four-race campaign in 2010. His final statistics included five wins in 18 outings and earnings of $2,228,637.
A 6-year-old son of Birdstone and the Smart Strike mare Mining My Own, Mine That Bird lives at Double Eagle Ranch, which is near Buena Suerta Equine and Blach and Allen’s Double Eagle Training Center. According to Blach, the gelding has a paddock measuring about 100 feet by 100 feet with grass and a sand pile to roll in. There is a shelter in the paddock where Mine That Bird can escape from the sun and he also has access to a 16-foot by 16-foot stall in an adjacent barn.
“The shelter is like a barn with no walls and it’s about 50 or 70 feet long and 10 feet wide,” Blach said. “There is a roof over the top and on it are two steeple towers that are like the Churchill Downs Twin Spires. They’re not identical, but they’re pretty close.”
Blach, who is a veterinarian, visits Mine That Bird frequently.
“I go by there every day,” he said. “I talk to him and give him a treat. Peppermints are his favorites. As soon as he sees my pickup (truck) drive in there, he comes right over to the fence and waits for me to give him a treat.”
Fans also stop by to see Mine That Bird.
“There is a huge sign on the road that says, ‘Buena Suerte Equine, Double Eagle Ranch,’ and ‘The Home of Mine That Bird,” Blach said. “A lot of people know he’s there and he gets an average of three or four out-of-town visitors a week. He really knows he’s a celebrity because so many people come and see him. They bring him carrots and apples, that kind of stuff, and he’ll let them take pictures with him. We always have a picture (of Mine That Bird) for them or some other paraphernalia to give them.”
Blach has been surprised by the interest that Mind That Bird has attracted and continues to attract.
“He really does have a huge fan club,” Blach said. “It’s unbelievable to me that people actually love this horse so much and have remembered him so long; it’s been three years since he won the Derby. A lady came all the way from Florida because she wanted to see Mine That Bird, but she went to El Paso to see her relatives, too. Another lady came from San Diego to see Mine That Bird, but she went through Albuquerque so she also could see one of her old classmates.
“There is a lady from Maryland who calls once a week,” Blach continued. “She has never seen Mine That Bird but she talks about him and sends him birthday cards and Christmas cards. She says she’s coming out here in January.”
When there aren’t any visitors around, Mine That Bird has a toy to keep him entertained.
“He plays with a huge ball and he loves it,” Blach said. “There is a training track right next to him, and we’ll take him to that track maybe once or twice a week or every two weeks. We ride him and sometimes we pony him. He was always really mellow, real calm, and easy to handle, and he’s still like that. But he’s probably settled down even a little bit more.”
In the future, Blach and Allen might give Mine That Bird some work to do.
“We eventually will probably make a pony horse out of him for our own use here at the training track,” Blach said.