[ NOTE: Video of the race begins automatically at the bottom of this page, but pause button works. Sorry 'bout that.]
Molly Canales, Global Animal
“Longtime [Sports Illustrated] writer Bill Nack, arguably the best racing writer in modern history, used to identify at least one horse in the field as a ‘Twin Spires Horse,’ meaning if that horse won the Derby, he would throw himself off the twin spires because he had nothing in the notebook on him,” wrote an SI writer in a follow-up article about Mine That Bird.
No one jumped off any buildings because of the horse (I think), but there’s absolutely no doubt that Mine That Bird was the under-underdog in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. His odds were 50-1, and bets were low.
But his jockey, Calvin Borel, was known for surprises. In 2007, Borel won the Kentucky Derby –creating a stunning victory from another horse with no shot, Street Sense. His nickname, Calvin Bo-Rail, can help explain why.
Mine That Bird hit the rail not once but twice in the 2009 Derby, squeezing through impossibly narrow spaces and passing the larger horses around him. Borel told NBC that the horse ran right over the muddy track, wet from rain a few days before, unlike the larger horses whose hooves sunk into the dirt.
When it came time to move forward in the pack, Borel didn’t have to push the little horse too hard. Mine That Bird responded to Borel quickly, and sprinted through gaps other horses couldn’t along the fence edge.
With Mine That Birds six and three fourths length victory, it’s hard to believe that the horse was at last place at one point in the race–almost six lengths behind any of the horses.
What was Mine That Birds key to success?
Borel says it was the horses size.
Fans might say it was Borel’s daring attitude, pushing the horse through gaps no other jockey in his right mind would.
One thing is certain: dedication helped.
Mine That Birds trainer, Bennie Woolley Jr., drove the horse from Kentucky to New Mexico, about a 21 hour ride, with the trailer on the back of his pickup truck. Wolley was on crutches at the time from an accident two months earlier.
Mine That Bird was his first starting horse ever at the Derby, but with jockey Calvin Borel, Woolley can be confident that it won’t be his last.