LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky rain fell in the morning. Suspicious minds wondered what would happen next in a week all shook up. The Kentucky Derby had everything but an Elvis sighting.
Then Mine That Bird showed up.
The 3-year-old son of Grindstone, at 50-1 odds, followed the lead of his sire, stunning the thoroughbred world with the second-largest upset in Kentucky Derby history Saturday at Churchill Downs. Calvin Borel gave the only gelding in the field a Borel-esque rail-saving trip, powering to a 6¾-length victory in front of 153,563, the seventh-largest crowd in Derby history.
Pioneerof the Nile was second, a nose ahead of Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby winner Musket Man, one of a record five Tampa Bay Downs graduates in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Mine That Bird paid $103.20 to win, stirring memories of 36-1 shot Grindstone's victory in the 2004 Belmont Stakes that ended the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones. The Kentucky-bred was bought for $9,500 by owners Double Eagle Ranch (Mark Allen) and Buena Suerte Equine (Leonard Blach) at the Fasig-Tipton October 2007 sale. Trainer Bennie Woolley Jr., 45, who had only one win (2-year-old maiden race) in 32 starts this year and is on crutches with a broken leg, transported his star 22 hours from New Mexico in a van.
"It's wonderful. It hasn't sunk in yet," said Woolley, the seventh first-time Derby trainer to win in the past nine years. "When they turned for home, I lost him. I saw him start outside, then he got lost behind some horses and swung to the fence. I looked up at the eighth pole and he was already on the lead. I was just blown away."
Mine That Bird was squeezed leaving the No. 8 post position by Papa Clem and Join in the Dance, co-owned by Magic forward Rashard Lewis. Mine That Bird was last through 6 furlongs. But Borel made his famous move along the rail, picking off rivals quickly. By the time Mine That Bird entered the stretch, he had the lead, covering 1¼ miles on a sloppy dirt track in 2 minutes, 2.66 seconds.
For Borel, 42, who was born in St. Martin Parish, La., but lives in Louisville, it was his second Kentucky Derby victory in three years. He won with Street Sense in 2007. Borel's victory came on the heels of his Kentucky Oaks triumph Friday with Rachel Alexandra, the first rider to win both in the same year since Jerry Bailey in 1993.
"I took the rail the whole way," Borel said. "I was pretty far back, like 15 to 20 lengths. But I was 7 or 8 lengths back from the horse in front of me, and they were all bunched up."
Mine That Bird was the Canadian Sovereign Award winner as a 2-year-old male in 2008, winning the Grade III Grey Breeders' Cup at Woodbine in Toronto. He was winless in two starts this year at Sunland Park (N.M.). Mine That Bird, whose foal date is May 10, was one of the youngest starters.
Musket Man trainer Derek Ryan was proud of his colt's effort: "He showed he belonged. (Media) knocked him all week. We had to go wide and the rail was golden all day, the place to be."
Join in the Dance, who set the pace with fractions of 22.98, 47.23 and 1:12.09, was next among Tampa Bay Downs runners at seventh. Sam F. Davis and Blue Grass winner General Quarters was 10th, Atomic Rain 16th and Nowhere to Hide 17th.
Friesan Fire, the 7-2 favorite, was 18th in the 19-horse field. Only Demons Begone, the favorite who was eased up in 1987, had a worse Derby. Trainer Larry Jones blamed the poor showing on the muddy track and being clipped shortly out of the gate. "If you see blood on the track, it's his," he said.
Mine That Bird set off stunning though not record exotics: $2,074.80 exacta, $41,500.60 trifecta and $557,006.40 superfecta. (Bellamy Road's win in 2005 paid $9,814.80, $133,134.80 and $864,253.50.) There were 23 winning $1 superfecta tickets.
The week was one of the most bizarre in recent Derby lore, featuring injury-related defections and powerhouse operations Godolphin Racing, WinStar Farm and Zayat Stables put on the back pages in favor of Thomas McCarthy, 75, the Louisville owner-trainer and his one-horse stable, General Quarters. The craziness hit its climax Saturday. Several hours after rain created a sloppy track, I Want Revenge was scratched with a left front foot issue — the first morning-line favorite to withdraw on the morning of any Kentucky Derby.
Then Mine That Bird flew away from the rest.
Trainers since 2000 to win the Derby in their first attempt:
2009Bennie WoolleyMine That Bird
2008Rick DutrowBig Brown
2004John ServisSmarty Jones
2003Barclay TaggFunny Cide
2000Neil DrysdaleFusaichi Pegasus
Highest winning payoffs since $2 mutuel bets began in 1911:
Mine That Bird(50-1)2009$103.20
Gato Del Sol(21-1)1982$44.40
Largest margin of victory
8 lengths: Old Rosebud, 1914; Johnstown, 1939; Whirlaway, 1941; Assault, 1946
63/4: Mind That Bird, 2009
6½: Barbaro, 2006