I love the Kentucky Derby, love everything from the Hats and pomp to the those wonderful "horse and owner stories" the media brings to the event.
This year, the Cinderella story that emerged after Mine that Bird crossed the finish line was the stuff legends (and movies) are made of: An undersized thoroughbred, sold for less than $10,000, driven from New Mexico to Kentucky by a lame ex-rodeo cowboy, hauling the horse in a van pulled by a 40 year old pickup that broke down in Texas. Think ya got a movie there, Warner Bros?
I had to know more. How did a $9500. horse with two losses to his credit even get entered in the Derby. Who was the owner and how did he find this horse? Was Mine That Bird rescued from a life of drudgery as a cow pony? And, how on earth did they get a jockey like Calvin Borel to ride this unknown. Well, I searched and found this wasn't exactly the whole story.
Mine that Bird may have appeared as a sleeper to Derby press and handicappers, but he is hardly an orphan from New Mexico. He is the son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone and grandson of 1996 Derby winner Grindstone. His record has much more than the two losses most handicappers were considering. He began his career in Canada and won either three or four races (depending on which report you believe) and received the Sovereign Award as Canada's top male 2-year-old.
It was after these wins that the current owners bought Mine that Bird, not for the original auction price of 9500, but for $400,000. The owners are Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach, and they, unlike their trainer, Bennie Woolley Jr are not iconic cowboys heading to Kentucky in an old pick-um-up truck. They are owners of Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine. Dr. Blach is a veterinarian and Mark Allen is the son of Bill Allen of VECO Corp. of Alaska. For details of than connection see The Anchorage Daily News. I won't repeat that part of the story. I was happier with the movie version.
To quote an old John Wayne/Jimmy Stewart cowboy movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.