Haskin's Derby Recap: Rare Bird Sightings


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Steve, I have to congratulate you for your astute remarks about MTB in your "48 Hours and Counting" blog...

05 May 2009 9:23 AM
Gary Peacock

Steve...ditto from South Jersey on your MTB remarks...MTB did have 3rd best equibase mud sire/mud dam combined winner percentage.

05 May 2009 9:31 AM

After reading many articles about this Derby, I must say that this article is by far the most colorful, enjoyable of them all.

It reads like an outline for a great movie. MTB race Saturday May 2, 2009 will always be remembered as the greatest move ever made by a horse in derby history.

05 May 2009 9:56 AM

Glad to see MTB'S connections are going to The Preakness, now we can all see whether his Derby win was a fluke or not as I for one suspect it was. If the Bird manages to win then I will know he really can fly. But until then?

05 May 2009 9:56 AM

I think we're all looking for a logical explanation of Mine That Bird's "demonic dash".  The fact that this 9.5K yearling sold for 400K as a juvenile should have been a tip-off that this horse is potentially something special.  I would like to know exactly what the new owners saw in him that, in their minds, upgraded him to this level.  I know as a juvenile Mine That Bird had 4 victories in 6 starts, and was voted Canada's 2-year old champion.  Also, I am reading conflicting reports about whether Calvin intended to go to the front early and was forced to take back after being squeezed at the break, or if he intended to drop far back.  Yes, your words about the little non-distinct brown horse who galloped smoothly while no one paid attention did have an impact on me, but I guess I had an inflated opinion of the majority of the field to ever dream he could even get a piece of it.  It's not unlike your story on Prove Out (The Unbeatable Horse).

05 May 2009 10:00 AM

Steve, what about the altitude angle? I am from NM and run great when I go to a lower altitude.

05 May 2009 10:09 AM

I didn't recognize the horse that squirted through on the rail and trounced my favorite (Pioneerof the Nile) but I immediately recognized the jockey.  Bo-Rail! Bo-Rail!  Who couldn't help celebrating with him.

05 May 2009 10:19 AM
Karen in Texas

Another story, cleverly and kindly written. You tried to capture the essence of the people behind the little horse. Others are behaving as though Mine That Bird did something wrong in winning. He ran as long and fast as he could with the help of a jockey who clearly connected with him. Together, the entire group made an impact.

Maybe we should take note that this horse, as well as many Olympic athletes, probably did benefit from higher altitude training.

05 May 2009 10:20 AM

I told y'all to watch Mine that Bird and then I didn't take my own advice and bet him...ARGHHHHH

 I worked with this non-descript little horse when he was running with his momma and wish I could say "I knew he was a Derby Winner from day one" but I just remember thinking how small he was and that he was a typical maiden foal and her next foal would be bigger. The mare has a 2009 colt by Even the Score and is in foal to Tapit for 2010.

 Congratulations to the owners and breeders of Mine That Bird.

 This just goes to show you "That dreams do come true". A statement that was inscribe on a photo of Charismatic by late jockey Chris Antley.

05 May 2009 10:31 AM

Wow, what a result. You had to be nuts to see this coming. Let's hope it's a nice dry track on Preakness day, and we'll see how he runs then. He should bounce off that effort which makes for a wide open Preakness(for once). I want to know if anyone on this board cashed a big ticket on the race. I bet PON in all three future bets so I backed him up in the Derby with a $1 all with 16 exacta. That was total luck, and had nothing to do with handicapping, because I thought he'd (MTB) run no better than 15th or 16th.

05 May 2009 10:37 AM
Steve Haskin

Hehe, thanks Da3Hoss. I'm glad someone noticed that :).

05 May 2009 10:52 AM
Diane J

Steve, would you mind sharing some thoughts on Rachel Alexandra?  I thought her race on Friday was something special, yet I cannot find much written about it at all.  Thank you.

05 May 2009 10:53 AM

 Great article as always. Interesting as well as informative.

 I for one will be surprised if "Mine That Bird" hits the board in the Preakness! And, totally shocked again if he wins it! Although I admit in again looking over his breeding, distance isn't the issue, yet I THOUGHT SPEED WAS!! When the Derby was over, my first comment to my parlor mate was, ..."That horse will not win the Triple Crown!"

  But, hats off and my congrats to Wolley, his connections, and their first time jock "Bo-rail"! It was historical, as again they are calling the race "the 2nd greatest upset in Derby history"!

 Now Steve, don't you disappear off the radar yourself after the Derby like usual, as we still need your expectise to move forward once that we all get over the shock of this "the 2nd greatest upset in Derby history"!!

 And, we may have seen normal rides from "Pioneerof the Nile"; "Musket Man"; "Papa Clem"; and "Chocolate Candy"... but I can't help but think that off this Derby, that we are going to again also hear from "Summer Bird".

  And I have to know, did you have a $10 bet in your pocket on that 'little brown package' at 50-1? I hope you did!!

05 May 2009 10:54 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, David. I can see this as some road movie.

Helsbelles, the plan was to take back some 8-10 lengths. But the start made his drop him farther than they wanted.

Mjl, that is an excellent point. I will do some research and mention that in my next blog later in the week and say it was brought up by one of our readers. I'll have to find out the altitude of Sunland Park. Thanks

05 May 2009 11:03 AM
Steve Haskin

Expertise, Zarvona? Ithink Mine That Bird showed that there are no experts. The closest I came was spotting his strong gallop a couple of days before the race, as Da3hoss so kindly pointed out. But it sure didnt do me any good, as I never even contemplated actually using him.

05 May 2009 11:05 AM
Karen in Texas

It's great that MTB will be going on to the Preakness, but whether the track is dry or wet, the trainer believes the Belmont distance would be a better fit according to his post race comments.

05 May 2009 11:08 AM
Steve Haskin

Diane, if anyone asks me what the highlight of my stay in Ky. was it was having my picture taken with Hal Wiggins and Rachel Alexandra. Believe me I'll be writing about her in my next blog this week. In 40 years of covering this sport I can honestly say this was maybe the second or third time I've actually gotten goosebumps watching a race. she could be one of the all-time greats. You should see her close up. Wow.

05 May 2009 11:08 AM

A true tour de force. Thanks for telling it like it is. Everyone should be happy for the little guy & stop degrading the performance of a no-account. After all, this is the nation of opportunity, is it not? Enough of "this is the worst derby ever" & "Mine That Bird had no business being in the race". What happened to equality for all - or is that not politically correct to say anymore? Yes, it was an astounding outcome.  That's exactly what will make this derby remembered above many others for years to come.

05 May 2009 11:14 AM

I won't be surprised if he hits the board in the Preakness. Most Derby winners do. I hope he wins. He's just a neat looking little horse.

It sounded in one interview as if the trainer felt the horse's weaker showings in New Mexico were due to a wrong choice in tactics. Thought that was interesting.

05 May 2009 11:29 AM

Everyone goes on and on about "the rail"... but it seems to me what allowed the rail ride to work its magic is Calvin FIRST laid back, took his time, saved his horse (whilst all the others were ramrodding through the mud) and "rode him like a three-year-old!" What a smart, great jockey... thank you Calvin for a truly unforgettable Derby!

05 May 2009 11:32 AM

Steve... I bet RA is just beautiful close up. As much as the derby was a shocker... I have replayed the Oaks several more times over. She just blew me away. I just wasn't nearly as excited to watch the derby after her performance. I just felt she belonged with the boys. She is just that good. I am struggling with the fact that MTB flew in under everyone's radar but it happened. Tom Durkin didn't even know who he was. I was shocked,confused and wanted a do over. I am happy for the little horse but not so impressed with his trainers incredibly arrogant attitude. Atleast the "big" trainers seem to have more class than this guy. I would rather listen to Dutrow than him.

05 May 2009 11:33 AM

I guess after all is said and done, we have seen two extraordinary performances this past weekend.  Rachel Alexandra is the stuff dreams are made of; I know her career is only starting, but it boggles the mind to think of what she might do.  Very exciting, indeed.  Mine That Bird also boggles my mind albeit for different reasons.  I salute the horse for what he accomplished.  That last quarter was indeed Secretariatlike.  This horse may just be a lot better than anyone thinks.  The question is : How did he get so good so fast??? If anyone could have seen that race coming I'd love to hear from them.

05 May 2009 11:36 AM
Diane J

I'll be looking forward to that blog - thank you, Steve!  I got goosbumps as well watching the race.  In fact, I DVR'd it and replayed it five or six times in a row!  :)

05 May 2009 11:42 AM


I noticed your comment as well on Mine That Bird but after the race I could not remember where I had seen it. I went back and looked at your "picks" and went to Welsh's reviews for the week at the drf site but couldn't find it in either. Very nice observation!!

Thanks Da3Hoss, I was beginning to think I was imagining things. Now I know where I saw it.

draynay often talks about his penchant for looking at the horse who ran the fastest 6f in a 1 1/8 race. I believe he may have been right on here with MTB. I think that is a very good point to consider. Like many I also calculate final furlong and quarter times in the most recent 1 1/8 or 1 1/16 mile race and use those as a gauge as well. Since almost every contender here met a criteria of a last quarter in 25.6 or under and last furlong in 13.0 or under I took it a step further this year looked at 7f splits in the most recent race. I believe it helps when comparing dirt tracks to "fake" tracks where they finish must faster and always seem to finish within the above criteria. In theory it was supposed to seperate those who left themselves too much to do to catch up on dirt in the stretch. MTB came from well back but did take control not too far into the stretch so he fits here.

What I found was a bit surprising to say the least. First of all IWR was scratched so I had to do a bit of recalculation the morning of the Derby. This was also done without fractional times from Regal Ransom or Desert Party since the DRF had none from their Dubai races but it's a new angle I used and over time we shall see how it pans out.

After calculating 7f splits in the most recent race for each entrant I calculated the average time for all of them. Bear in mind my calculations were done in fifths using results charts not figured out to the one-hundretch's and I added one-fifth for any length behind of 1/4 or more. I came up with a 7f average of 85.12. I wanted only those who ran better than that average and I came up with only six horses. They were the #1-4 finishers (this is what astounded me), the #6 finisher, and (you can laugh at this one) the #20 finisher. Now I played MTB only because of my gr-daughter who picked this one (like the majority of you I gave him no chance) but I did play PON, MM, and PC on a number of my tickets. I'll certainly put a little more weight on that figure next year and will be watching over time to see how this theory it plays out. We have to make adjustments over time and I was trying to come up with something that helped put the synthetic track times in perspective.

05 May 2009 11:43 AM

STEVE:  Great article as usual.  If I might raise a political issue here, would you comment on the notion of changing the Graded Stakes criterion for entering the Derby, in the light of MTB's victory, given that he had identical earnings of $150,000(from 2YO performances) with Dunkirk which a lot of people thought was more deserving of getting into the field based upon his 3YO performances?  

This is a very important question that this years Derby and it's fairy tale winner Mine That Bird should settle.  Over to you Steve.  

05 May 2009 11:51 AM
marc W

Derby #135 thoughts—Year of “THE RIDE”

Everyone who is a regular racing fan knows the rail was good and that Calvin would be there as he was all weekend. What a rider in the zone does is on his own and I truly don’t think the trainer gave him orders- to trail-was on his own decide to make one big move-right or wrong. It sure was a right move. You just do those things when you are in the zone. The inside is secondary, although amazing as was this horse’s move. Lets not take anything from the horse-he ran his eyes out and just may have won going outside-he did win by 6+ pulling away.

All talk about big time riders-with so many good ones out there-50 jockeys are an agent, one good horse, and confidence to do the right thing away from glory. Calvin was in the zone-he was brimming with confidence and I think it transmits/relays to horses somehow which is impossible to define or find in form or sheets, I will always think he won the Derby 135 and not the just the horse.

Other thoughts,

I thought Musket Man ran very well and without some bumping near the finish (herding from Gomez- he got away with) would have been second-needless to say POTN and PC ran well I just wasn’t expecting that good of a race from MM. I also though all said and done I was impressed with Summer Bird hopefully he will not be going backward from too much to soon.

The new English announcer Johnson kicked butt if you compare the two calls, he didn’t wait until MTB was 6 in front to notice him. Saying that, I think Dunkin is one of the best—he just had a Dunkirk, Friesen Fire kind of a day.

The Sheiks may consider not only buying top 2yr olds but also leaving them with their American trainers in the US after another poor showing in the future? Until proven otherwise the UAE Derby might not be the best prep although it should be a sign that we may go and steal a $2 million pot and get Gr1 status in the future.-Think Delta Jackpot but that doesn’t have GR1 status.

With IWR out and I replaced with PC  I had 3 of the top 5, but liked FF the best-so I wasn’t close-he obviously had difficulties because he is a better horse than that but it was ordained by the Racing Gods that it was to be MTB day.---------

---- Think Rachel running in the Oaks instead of Derby? (Another thought-wonder how the breeding farm likes hearing Calvin describe Street Sense as a nice colt-but not in the league of this filly-I don’t think they are impressed, as they look for sizable stud fees) Who thinks she wouldn’t have won? Then because she didn’t, Calvin does “THE RIDE” on the winner. Those racing Gods.

Wonder how David Cotey feels today? At last look he was having a bang up spring meet in Canada but would have to be wondering-- what if? You did mention the old owners they kept 25%, but still?

Last thought—I haven’t had a cowboy string tie for 30 years—will they make a comeback?

05 May 2009 11:52 AM
The Deacon

The Kentucky Oaks saved the weekend for me. The Derby was a real bummer in my mind. Here ia a horse that runs up the track at Sunland in 1:50 3/5 for 1 1/8 and comes out of nowhere to win the Derby, altitude or not. I rank this as the 2nd all worse Derby I have seen next to Lil E. Tee. I think MTB is a one hit wonder and the Derby exposed, again what is wrong with horse racing. I am pretty convinced that we will never see a Triple Crown winner again unless this sport goes back to the glory days. Our best 3 year olds did not even run. On the sidelines were IWR, Quality Road, Street Hero, Midshipman, Take the Points, Old Fashioned, The Pamplemousse, Square Eddie, and Vineyard Haven and I probably forgot a few. As I said in another blog, Calvin Borel rode a great race and deserves all the kudos he gets. They say "horses for courses", well now it is also jockeys for courses as well.

Again, this was a fluke and a real disappointment for me.

05 May 2009 11:54 AM


05 May 2009 12:01 PM
Umatilla Joe

Steve: You told the Cinderella Story perfectly. Good for horseracing. I had many calls from acquaintances who were amazed. I was shocked, but can't wait for the Preakness. All I can say is:

Go Bird. (also go CCC on Preakness Day)

05 May 2009 12:02 PM

I really enjoyed your column, Steve, especially the details you added about MTB's connections.  Have you heard why and when he was gelded?  Everyone seems to be in such shock that this below-the-radar horse won the Derby that no one is commenting on the gelding aspect, which will most likely allow us to see him run at a 4- and 5-year-old.  Something we don't see much of these days.

05 May 2009 12:07 PM
Karen in Indiana

I don't think the trainer had an arrogant attitude. He'd been ignored & dismissed all week, he re-broke a bone, he had to go from one side of the track to the other with crutches on a muddy track, the announcer for NBC was getting too close and almost tripping him up when he was trying to hurry and get there to be with his horse one last time before the race (that was very evident during the broadcast) and he said he was bone tired. I thought his comment about 'They'll know who I am now' sounded kind of a**holey until I found out all the other stuff going on. I'm going to cut him some slack.

05 May 2009 12:07 PM
s lee

Sunland Park is about 4,000 feet above sea level.

I'm showing my age here, but MTB's story reminds me a lot of Canonero II.

Blue blooded KY bred.

Raced well in another country (Canonero in Venezuela) before the Derby.

Pretty much ignored before the Derby.

Favorite went out before the Derby (though Hoist the Flag was out over a week in advance, not the day of)

Nothing great (but nothing wrong) with physical appearance.

Long trip before the Derby (read about Canonero's ride with the chickens sometime).

Raced at altitude before the Derby.

Also came in "a plain brown package".

Canonero's jockey rode the opposite to Borel, letting him drift 10 or 12 horses wide at the top of the stretch, but once he straightened out and headed for home, he was a thing of beauty.

Canonero II would have paid a HUGE ticket but he was bundled with the field.

He went to Pimlico and wired the field, setting the record that Secretariat probably broke.   Didn't win the Belmont at least partly because he was sick - shouldn't have even run that day, but still managed a 4th place.

Will history repeat itself?  Who knows, but It'll be fun to watch!

05 May 2009 12:08 PM
Karen in Texas

Steve---For what it's worth...The altitude of Sunland Park is 3789 ft.; the altitude of Louisville is 466 ft.; the altitude of Colorado Springs is 6035 ft. Colorado Springs was chosen for the first US Olympic Training Center, in part, because of the altitude and its effect on physiology.(One must create more RBC's to adapt to the decrease in oxygen in the air.)

05 May 2009 12:10 PM
For Big Red

TO STEVE: For different reasons, I love your two paragraphs quoted below:

"Mine That Bird turned speed figures and other handicapping tools into a pile of useless numbers and equations that had no bearing on the 135th Kentucky Derby."

Amen. Don't mean to be a pain in the butt repeating myself, but have been waiting for your newest blog to repost the results of my handicapping system analysis one last time. It precisely dovetails with what you said, and maybe the info will help someone in the future.

"We have learned that the horse’s two owners have farms in Roswell, New Mexico. As far  as we know there have been no sightings of equine aliens, until now."

ROFLMAO!!! Thank heaven for your humor. While I'm happy for the winners, I've been really bummed about what happened to Friesan Fire. Stupid me for letting myself love a racehorse again. So thanks for your humor. Helps me to regain perspective.

05 May 2009 12:14 PM

Karen, he's a cowboy, it's not arrogance, it's fact. Pretty PC boys they are not.

Sunland Park is almost 4000 ft above sea level...

Just for fun, if a horse can run better coming down from a higher altitude, perhaps he'd be having poorer races while acclimating to the higher level?

Entertaining...though we've never seen a horse move up like this from Sunland before, have we?? LOL, they'll all be training up there!

05 May 2009 12:18 PM
For Big Red

TO ALL: Shortened and posted one last time in case in might open a few eyes. When the Beyer figures were adjusted upward by eight points over a week after this year's Florida Derby, that gave me the impetus to do some in-depth analysis, not of the race, but of handicapping systems and Derby "truisms." I put together a spreadsheet, and recorded 38 separate criteria used by various handicapping systems, as well as Derby historical factors touted by pro handicappers/racing commentators. Everything from Dosage to BRIS, to Beyers, to Sheets, to trainer stats, jockey stats, lifetime and 2009 stats for the horses, workouts...you name it.

Once completed, I used a simple method of highlighting positive, neutral and negative factors, then counted each category for each horse. Guess what. By far, Mine That Bird had the most negative factors. He was on the bottom or 2nd to the bottom in every system and by every measure. His only positive factors: He had one of the four post positions that have yielded the most Derby winners in history, and he was one of only six horses in the field with four or more lifetime wins prior to the Derby.

If a horseplayer bet only two angles -- 4 or more lifetime wins AND winningest post positions, they would have been left with only two horses: Musket Man from the 2 hole and Mine That Bird from the 8 hole.

In addition to MM and MTB, only these horses had four or more lifetime wins: Friesan Fire, Chocolate Candy, Pioneerof the Nile, and Desert Party. However, Chocolate Candy, Friesan Fire and Desert Party all had NEGATIVE post positions (yielded among the fewest Derby winners in history). Pioneerof the Nile had a neutral PP.

To summarize, only the following horses qualified on the lifetime wins AND good PP angle: Musket Man, Mine That Bird and Pioneerof the Nile. None of the other 36 handicapping systems I tracked were predictive of the outcome. Not a single one.

Lastly, I've said all along in these blogs that the Derby would go to the horse with the best closing kick in the stretch. This is the one genuine truism that applies to every KD. Early speed doesn't mean all that much in the Derby. However, I only calculated closing estimates for horses who won a 2-turn race this year. Next year, I'll calculate estimates for every horse in the race.

05 May 2009 12:25 PM

Deacon, the best 3 year-olds that survived the rigors of training competed, isn't that what's best for the breed? Stamina, speed and soundness?

20 horses is too many...of course, there's the rub...no MTB!!!!

05 May 2009 12:26 PM
Jane F.

this Canadian is so happy to point out the linebreeding to Northern Dancer in MTB's pedigree.

What is the height at the withers of both MTB and ND?

There were other ND descendants in that race but not linebred - am I correct? Check out those blue hens in MTB  too.

Conditions; quality of pedigree combined with gutsy jockey; gutsy owners and gutsy  trainer..bravo! what a great horse story!

05 May 2009 12:51 PM
For Big Red

TO FRIESAN FIRE FANS: He is not on the list of Preakness possibles this morning (www.drf.com/.../103512.html). This list will be fluid for at least a week, but I'm glad Fire is not being considered at this time. I think at least two-thirds of the field had some trouble in the race, and the DRF chart reads like a demolition derby. However, Fire had the worst trip of all, so I'll be happy if he doesn't go in the Preakness.

05 May 2009 12:57 PM
Karen in Texas

da3hoss---I hope you're not addressing me in your 12:18 P.M. post! I get that he's a cowboy and never thought he was arrogant. Yeah, it's no joke that everybody's going to want to start training in the mountains! We should buy some land and open a facility!

05 May 2009 1:08 PM

Thank you once again for a wonderful telling of an extremely interesting event on the Kentucky Derby trail!!  Yes, I did notice your mention of MTB on the earlier blog, but my heart was already set on Friesan Fire winning, so I didn't really realize the little horse could have so much potential.  Thank you for going deeper into the story and sharing it with your devoted readers in your wonderful way.  In my opinion, I am thrilled for the horse and for Calvin Borel, who stole my heart with his genuine heartfelt display of gratitude when he won on Street Sense.  Mine That Bird's connections do show that the little guys can make it to the big time, so I applaud their courageous effort for that.  I truly do hope that MTB does turn out to be a good horse who is just now learning how to prove he can get the job done, and not just be a fluke.  We'll find out in Baltimore.

Reading what you said about Rachel Alexandra gave me goose-bumps, Steve.  Wow!  She is one awesome filly.


05 May 2009 1:15 PM

His comments were nothing but attitude. I thought he sounded like an idiot. Of course...that is my opinion. He just won the biggest race in the world and all he could do was act bitter.  Who cares if he was ignored all week???? D.Wayne Lucas was ignored as well and he is one of the biggest trainers in the business. When you get in at the last minute and your horse hasn't really "shown" up for any of the races in his 3 year old campaign, what do you expect?  I am married to a cowboy so that is no excuse. They might be straight shooters but its usually with much more class. Think Carl and Larry.I will figure him out more in the next few weeks. Just to maybe give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he just didn't know how to act. No problems with the horse though. He put on an amazing show. It would be nice to see a horse race into his 4 yr old, 5 yr old years.. A gelding just might be what we need.

05 May 2009 1:28 PM

I am amazed at all the critics of MTB. These are regular people that took a big gamble and won. Everybody should be cheering! FF and others look like clunkers in the mud. MTB was the only one that was expertly ridden and had enough under the hood to kick a** at the end. Get over it.

05 May 2009 1:41 PM

Jane F., Mine That Bird's pedigree actually worries me, specifically the linebreeding to Northern Dancer coupled with the linebreeding to Mr. Prospector.  To me, an admitted novice, it is too much inbreeding to unsound lines with no stability influences to balance it out.  I never like to see that type of breeding; just my opinion.  And da3hoss, I love your enthusiam for MTB, but I don't see how you can compare the rigors of his 3-yr old training to that of I Want Revenge.  Finally, I can't shake the feeling that there's more to this story.

05 May 2009 1:45 PM

There are many things that went into this victory for Mine That Bird...perhaps his ability to skim over a sloppy track, perhaps it was a fluke, perhaps the altitude change helped him (I bet he had so much air left he didn't know what to do with it all!), perhaps the change in tactics-or perhaps all of the above.

I for one wonder if it is all about the caliber of jockey on his back-one that knows how to get the best out of his horses.  I don't presume to know much about horse racing in New Mexico, but has he ever had another Big name jockey on his back with the experience and talent to get his all out of a horse?  Again, I know nothing about the jockey colony in New Mexico-just a thought...

In Canada he was ridden by Chantal Sutherland-who seems to be a solid jockey from what little I know about her and she got him at least one stakes win in Canada....

Who knows yet, but Mine That Bird might be better then we all thought coming into Derby Day.

05 May 2009 1:53 PM


  I don't think I would call FF a clunker...from all reports he came back with abrasions on 3 of his four legs, some webbing from another horse on his hoof, and had grabbed a quarter....The horse was beat up throughout that race-as was Dunkirk which would give them some excuses-though I don't think anyone was going to beat Mine That Bird on Saturday.

05 May 2009 1:55 PM
crazy stardust

For Big Red

Thank You :)  I really wanted to see this.  I feel releaved now.  

05 May 2009 1:59 PM

Chantal Sutherland and Mine That Bird won 3 stakes at Woodbine in 2008, including the Grey Stakes (CAN-III).

05 May 2009 2:02 PM
steve s

MINE that bird ran a 1.35.40 in ky derby after two furlongs,Also his close of 23 seconds on dirtis most likely best in world. In canada as a two year he did close 30.40 for two and half furlongs.who knows why  he didn"t close last three races.

05 May 2009 2:04 PM
The Deacon

DaHoss with respect, your answer explains what is wrong with horse racing. I agree, 20 horses is way too many, it's like a calvary charge. My take is that MTB did not belong in the race in the first place. If our other top 3 year olds are sound then this blog is a mute point. The way owners and trainers prepare their horses is a major problem.  We are losing our stars of the sport way too early and that is why they keep breaking down and or they are rushed off to the breeding den. Eighteen horses staggered home in the Derby, only 1 horse was running at the end.

05 May 2009 2:08 PM

I have owned horses since I was a teenager and have followed racing since I was a little girl.  I have trained and sucessfully shown many horses in a variety of disiplines AND I know plenty of cowboys.  My impression is that really, we shouldn't be quite so shocked at Mine That Bird's success.  He certainly was bred to handle dirt and distance.  He'd shown some ability as a two-year-old.  It seems that many people forget just how young three-year-old horses are and they can change constantly from month to month.  

I have a feeling this is a tough little horse.  Look at the way he handled that trailer ride; I know older, experienced show horses who would not have fared nearly as well on such a trip.  These cowboy types know how to work with horses and they somehow are able to get them to handle more than most of us can.  Of course, maybe Mine That Bird just had some conversations with a couple of nice, calm quarter horses, who explained the ropes to him!  :-)

As to the Preakness, who knows?  I hope he does well, though I suspect his trainer was right when he said the Belmont would be a better race for the little guy.

They were sure nice to give out those roses at the museum.  I wish them well.

Great column, Mr. Haskin!

05 May 2009 2:15 PM
Steve Haskin

Karen in Indiana, for the record, the way Woolley was with Kenny Rice was the way I found him to be.

05 May 2009 2:16 PM


05 May 2009 2:19 PM
marc W

Another thought about Calvin Borel

In 1993 Calvin showed his humility after winning the AR Derby on Rockamundo. He was so thankful and giving on being given the chance to ride in the Derby. Saying, "He was blessed that the owners and trainers didn't bump him for a big name rider." He was so humble and thankful.

He has always been a good rider, but he appreciates the people who believe in him.

I always remembered his comments back then. If it puts no money in my account, I still like seeing good guys win.

05 May 2009 2:21 PM

The Deacon - I'm just curious how many horses you think should be in the Derby. BTW - Mine That Bird was 14th in earnings of those who entered (which includes I Want Revenge who didn't run).

05 May 2009 2:27 PM

Helsbelle MTB is a gelding so don't worry about the pedigree. Obviously the inbreeding worked. MTB collected his earnings to qualify without any of the so called preps that get you primed and ready for the KD.

Maybe there is something to learn from the inbred little horse.

05 May 2009 2:29 PM
The Phantom

He is the ky derby winner forever no matter what he does the rest of his career.He buried them!

05 May 2009 2:31 PM
Frank J.

Steve, not being a person who is ever around horses, can you be more specific on just how magnificent Rachel looks in person? I mean is she big like Pleasantly Perfect, Point Given type or is there just something I'm missing? Thanks for any info.

05 May 2009 2:35 PM
Vincent R.


Solid Article.

To the casual fans, his victory might actually help the sport as it couldn't get much worse after most of the same people watching Eight Belles breakdown last year. As for the people closer to the sport I think many will hold their thoughts on the Derby until after the Preakness and Belmont. If not, forever.

With that said, its quite amazing  we have had unexplainable performances in back-to-back Triple Crown races.

I hope Mind That Bird goes on to do great things. This is a great sport and the last thing it needs is another setback or black-eye.

05 May 2009 2:49 PM

For DANYLSON you may be right.. this in fact could be a slow group of horses, but to say that this Derby was a true respresentation of this field is garbage. The muddy track moved MTB way UP. I'm not knocking MTB he won fair and square, and received a terrific ride, but count me as a firm nonbeliever. How many races did Monarchos and Giacomo win after their derbies? The Derby is a crazy race, with a million possible scenerios, but to say this crop is too slow is not fair. These 3 yr olds have over 7 months left to prove themselves, AND possibly the best two horses didn't even get a chance to run. I'll take this year's derby for what it was worth...a great race won by a little known horse with little known connections. He freaked in the mud. Look at the numbers he couldn't win in New Mexico, and all of the sudden he's a changed animal? I know 3 yr olds change rapidly, but if I didn't have him a 50/1 in the derby then how could I possibly bet him at Pimlico at less than 5/1. There are several horses who could beat him at Pimlico that ran in the Derby. I also like Dale Romans' horse Hull. I think he has a great shot at winning the Preakness...I will leave you with this--Fusaichi Pegasus won the Derby very very easily on a fast track. Everyone was saying here's our next triple crown winner. Fast forward two weeks later to the Preakness run on an off track (I believe it was listed as good, but it was a dreary day run on a  tiring track). Red Bullet destroys the field and FPeg struggles to even crash the super. He didn't handle the surface that day. My point is, some horses look "super" when they really aren't. MTB is a great story, and if he wins like that on a fast track on May 16th then my hats off to him. But call me skeptical!

05 May 2009 2:54 PM
Monica V

Well, one thing is for sure.  There won't be any breeders offering millions to retire this horse to stud at 3!!!!!

05 May 2009 3:02 PM

Steve - I thought Mr. Fantasy would have been tough in the Preakness - is there something wrong with him or are they just being smart with this young horse. Looks like they made the right call when they pulled him out of The Wood is this another right move for the horse.

05 May 2009 3:04 PM

Nina.....FF.. a clunker in the mud?????? FF has already proven himself in the slop so poor choice of words. This was the Derby... where all things can and do happen. FF is a very talented 3 year old. He will be back. But I agree with you For Big Red. He needs to skip the Preakness. He had a rough trip in the derby. It happens every year.

05 May 2009 3:26 PM
steve s

No more talk about Rachel Alexander beating the boys.Warrior reward was best on may 1.

05 May 2009 3:50 PM
Steve Haskin

Frank J., she is powerful front and back and is a long-bodied filly with a healthy sheen to her coat that is loaded with dapples. I'm not sure how tall she is but she is very imposing. And she's pretty feisty; she'll go for you.

SSC, if there was something wrong with Mr. Fantasy they wouldnt be running him against older horses in the Met Mile.

05 May 2009 4:03 PM

FOR BIG RED, I feel very badly about Friesan Fire too. He has been my favorite horse since last fall. I can only hope he recovers from his injuries quickly and we see him racing again soon. Do you think the Belmont could be a possibility for him?

05 May 2009 4:04 PM

Nina, Friesan Fire is not a clunker in the mud. Have you forgotten what the track was like in the Louisiana Derby when he won? It certainly wasn't fast and dry. Fire is a very good horse and has already proven that. When his injuries heal and he is race ready, he will prove it again.

05 May 2009 4:10 PM

Did Mine That Bird race with stickers or mud caulks? How about the rest of the field?

05 May 2009 4:15 PM

Mr. Fantasy in the Met is very intriguing. Watching a podcast of the Withers, I was thinking that he reminded of E Dubai, forgetting completely that he was sired by that horse!

I've seen Conservative mentioned as a Preakness possible. It seems to be an odd step for Shug and the Phipps, considering they historically go the Peter Pan route. Any thoughts on this?

For Big Red, I loved your post about number of wins and post position. I'm not a handicapper, so I don't "get" speed figures, but the fact that so many have been revised this year doesn't fill with me with confidence in using them anyway.  

05 May 2009 4:37 PM

BTW- I know there have been 3 generations of Derby winners in the sire line, but has there been another case of FOUR generations of American classic winners? (MTB-Birdstone-Grindstone-Unbridled) Who would have thought that so far Grindstone would have more classic influence than Unbridled's Song?

05 May 2009 4:46 PM

Very good article, Steve.

MTB ran a great race. He had a smart jockey and one who is not afraid to tackle the job at hand.

There was a lot of other factors in the race also, however, I don't think it affected the outcome.  I agree with da3hoss & The Deacon, 20 horses (or 19) is way too many to be running.  It is like a stampede.  It is dangerous, and if you saw some of the ESPN tapes, there was a lot of bumping going on. I saw the # 12 horse get slammed by #14 and I think it happened twice.  I didn't see FF, but I would say that is what happened to him also.  It throws the horses off stride, and may cause them to loose their footing in the mud, and/or get all cut up.  It seems that toward the middle of the track and outside the mud is deeper and sloppier. If they get behind other horses & the mud starts flying it can get in their nostrils as well as their eyes. The point is, if you get knocked around before you get out in front you can be in big trouble.  I think that is what happened to some of the favorites. The inside is not as deep and somewhat smoother. (Take a look at some of those tapes and see what you think.)

MTB had a smart jockey who knew this (& the fact that he had a talented horse)and he just flew by them all! Congratulations MTB.

05 May 2009 5:15 PM

Deacon, I should have winked, I do think 20 is too many, but man, if MTB had not been in that race it would have been so much slower...6 3/4 lengths adds about 1.35 seconds, 2:04.01..well, Smarty ran in mud 2:04/change and Sunday Silence in 2:05, yeah MTB didn't belong....;-)

(I really do think 20 is too many)

05 May 2009 5:36 PM

Steve, again thank you for a great article.

I watched Rachel win her race so many times...  How wonderful it would be to actually see her.  I would probably faint.

As I stated in another blog, MINE THAS BIRD humbled me and my arrogance about handicapping.  What is worse is I lived in New Mexico for over 20 years and didn't place a bet on him just because....

What a horse!  Calvin did his job.  And the connections including Wooley deserve every accolade.  They earned it.  I was impressed to see Tom McCarthy and Bob Baffert give their congrats to the trainer the day after the derby.

05 May 2009 6:20 PM


05 May 2009 6:39 PM
marc W

20 horses --Think Europe-yes there are problems that happen but more than not the best horse wins. I call this Derby "THE RIDE" It brings the cream to the top.  It showcased Borel.

On other Derbies it made stars of Alyseba because even though he almost went down he still won. Does anyone remember Shoe's ride on Ferdinand? It was a work of art. That it is why it is a hard race to win, and the triple crown more so. Even if legitimate excuses exist only a horse on their best on that day and given a good ride win. They must overcome what is thrown at them.

The filly that won the Arc last year and went undefeated throughout her career in a number of big fields--The Diva won the Cup 3 years in a row in big fields with lots of bumping---What that doesn't count because it isn't in the USA?

20 horses-it is what it is---they are not alone in having to prove best/greatness under less than ideal circumstance. If you have a match race people will complain the horse with the best early speed has a great advantage. Florida Derby--a supped up track--if that were Secretariat or The Bid---do you honestly believe wherever they came from they wouldn't have won? Watch the Florida Derby (1979) then tell me about excuses--The Bid won by 4 or 5. That one you might find on the net, a better one you won't would be English Channel in his first start--to this day I find it hard to believe a horse could get in that much trouble and win.

Again the cream always rises to the top. I am as stunned by the Derby result as is everyone else---but I do think on May 2 2009-- the best horse in the 19 that ran--- won--Maybe never again will he be the best --but "he was" on the first Saturday of May 2009.

Keep the 20

05 May 2009 6:40 PM

Why didn't you and the rest of the racing press bring out the fact that this horse was Canadian 2yo champion and was bought for $400K right before the Breeder's Cup Juvenile?  If you hadn't totally failed in this aspect I might have put a few $ on him.

05 May 2009 6:49 PM

Hi Steve,

In your article you have MTB having run his final 1/2 in 47 and change and his final quarter in 23 1/5 ...


I would imagine this is quite rare for a horse to do in a 1 1/4 mile race. Any thoughts? How often do horses close with fractions like that?

05 May 2009 6:57 PM


In a pre-derby article you wrote about the gameness of the Smart Strikes. Papa Clem proved that again. He simply does not quit. Did you notice the broodmare sire of Mine That Bird? Smart Strike. His daughters are just now starting to show up. By the time is 2008, 2009 and 2010 crops hit the races (upgraded mares and more foals after Curlin, English Channel) and his daughters foals show up more, he could turn out to be something special.

05 May 2009 7:43 PM
Stan S

Nobody gets it. The track was in bad shape. Noone

wants to insult Churchill. The other horses hated the track. Look at the charts. horses beaten by 15, 20, 30,lengths etc.

In the old days they would call this a heavy track. The winner good or bad finished on the best part of the track.

It may also prove , Beyer and Lucus have said. Poly and dirt horses donot mix. like apples and oranges. Why play the race under these conditions. Horse players need to find the word PASS.

Thanks for listening.

05 May 2009 8:02 PM

I am not bummed by MTB's trainer and his response to the press. How many times did they bring up the trailer trip, even after MTB WON the Derby?  They were asking insane questions and were totally insensitive to the trainer, who was on crutches and wanted to get to his horse.  And no, cowboys don't carry on a lot.

Next, it's been reported elsewhere that the trainer gave some thought to the previous losses in New Mexico and figured out the horse was asked for his best too soon.  Give him some credit for that.  He told Borel to lay back with him and although it ended up further than they had wanted, it worked.  Borel fired him on at the right time and the rest is history.

It's obvious that the trainer had the Belmont in mind for Mine That Bird.  I don't think he really wants to run him in the Preakness, he has pointed out it's not really suited to the horse.  However, he's also said that with the Derby won, there's only one chance at a triple crown. People will complain that they dare run the little fellow in the Preakness but they'd complain just as loud if he didn't.  I hope he makes a good showing.

The horse has been a winner.  It may have just taken some time under new owners and a new trainer to get things figured out.

Even if he ends up being a one shot wonder, he provided one of the most entertaining, fascinating Kentucky Derbies in years.

Thanks to MTB and all his connections, and Calvin Borel, for one of the most exciting Derbies I've seen in years.

Someone said the DRF for the Derby sounded like a demolition derby- now you know why Rachael Alexandra didn't run.  Let the boys beat up on each other.  

05 May 2009 8:07 PM

The most depressinfg Derby since Giacomo! "Things" conspired for MTB to progress (beyond belief)and 2nd 3rd and 4th NOT to progress (no surprise). Hopefully, a quality horse will run in the Preakness or Belmont so "classics" have atlesat one worthy winner.

Probably we have to await the summer to see if the potential the spring promised (and injured)exists, or we relegate this year to Big Brown's poor quality crop.

05 May 2009 8:12 PM

Well, I think all aspects have already been covered.  All I have to say is, what a race, what a horse, what an owner, what a trainer.  They did it the hard way, but they did it a BIG way.  It isn't easy hauling a horse 21 hours to the best race in the US.  My hat goes off to all of them.  Congratulations! What a ride!

05 May 2009 8:18 PM

Stan S - Not sure what you mean by Poly and dirt horses not mixing. Mine That Bird won his previous races on the Polytrack, and Pioneerof the Nile was coming off of the synthetics of California. 3rd place finisher Musket Man has only run on dirt. Papa Clem has raced successfully on both dirt and artificial.

05 May 2009 8:18 PM

Let's hope RA and Zenyatta stay sound and meet in B.C.  Nobody outlooks Zenyatta!!

05 May 2009 8:30 PM

Thats one of the reasons i like the triple crown the best horse doesnt always win and you get a chance to bet your horse at a good price the last big price horse giacomo lost to the best horse in the preakness and belmont you remember afleet alex and how about point given I would love to get odds that he doesnt win the crown or even another triple crown race in the money is another proposition

05 May 2009 8:32 PM

Mr. Steve,

Your article was like watching a movie. Just Great. This painting of the game and the slice of life behind the scenes  of MTB and connections was wonderful.  My thanks Ernie

05 May 2009 9:16 PM
Matthew W

I agree with Deacon--VERY disapointing indeed! After all the criticism of pro ride and they throw a track like that for , oh, I dunno--THE DERBY!! That's where pro-ride trumps dirt--when it rains! Dirt and water don't mix right for horseys! No way is Zenyatta, after a six month layoff, gonna run on the quagmire, although by Fri afternoon the track was at it's best that weekend---Rachel "saved" the weekend! I WANT to see her vs Zenyatta! also vs The Godofphin mares! I WANT to see Zenyatta dirt! Thought they were very generous with the big mare--they were willing but the weather... and that track! Yes Karen 2 I noticed the trainers attitude--he was flip to one of the interviewers when he asked him about his van ride across the country--I dunno, it seemed like a pretty good story but if it bothers you/angers you so much to talk about your storybook oddessy--that's ok, but your 15 min are almost up--ole number eight is about to fade away--and not slowly! I liken his race to Volponi's Classic, both were won over a HUGE rail bias--and even Friday they were running up the rail---I hope Baffert goes to plan "B" The Travers v Quality Road! If POTN's as tired as he looked after the Derby-- The Preakness, even The Belmont, will really knock you out for the Summer...They run those races too close together--I still think POTN is a real good colt and hope they do right by him....one more thing that irks me about Mr Black Hat--this "I don't owe nobody nothing" comment on Monday, regarding whether they'll be going to Pimlico...break off 5K of that purse and mix in a public relations firm, in other words, get some personality lessions!

05 May 2009 9:55 PM
Audra Bishop

Calvin rode racehorses for my grandparents over 15 years ago at Louisiana Downs.  He was and STILL is a class act. I will never bet against him--he always gives it his best effort, whether the purse is $2000 or $2,000,000....he is always in it to win it while ensuring he is doing what is right for the horse.  He made great decisions in the Derby and the trainer had the horse ready--that gave Mine That Bird the best opportunity to win ..  and he did.  I, for one, would love to see the little guy go on and win the Triple Crown!

05 May 2009 9:55 PM

Steve--Another great wrap up. You don't disappoint. I watched a few videos of MTB after workouts--very similar leg action as Barbaro. Check it out.

05 May 2009 10:15 PM

Steve- thankyou once again for a great article, thourghly enjoyed reading it.

I think I'm hearing alot of comments on training at altitude here, and I'm no physical training expert, but I think it's not so much the training at altitude , which I believe is more difficult and not really that good for athletes, but it's the living at altitude, especially just sleeping at high altitudes that is going to develop high red blood cell counts which allows the athlete to get more oxygen to their muscles and therefore not tire as quickly. If there are any entrepreneurs out there, I could see a real opportunity here for someone to develop living facilites for horses in training that simulate high altitude oxygen levels, for trainers who want to give their trainees that red blood cell count edge. Actually, I am somewhat amazed at the lack of scientific training techniques in the horse racing game, for this day and age when most sports are awash with them.

05 May 2009 10:27 PM
Matthew W

But, oh yes, Steve! Calvin Borel's extended hand-slapping/war whoopin'/along the outer rail, while to allow for his crutch-ridden trainer to make it across to the infield--was absolutely the most joyous celebration I have ever witnessed in any sport! You could see the adrenieline fueled suprise, even shock, in CB...after all, he did'nt think he had a chance, nor did anyone else for that matter!  

05 May 2009 10:34 PM

Steve,  Great job describing the Derby as always.  One possibility I haven't seen anybody pose (and this may be naivete on my part) but isn't it possible that this is a classic bred horse who relishes the distance, but just didn't like the New Mexico track?  I mean that move was breathtaking and his pedigree looks like one you would expect to handle the big stage the way he did.  You always said the next Triple Crown winner would be a star at two.  You just didn't say he'd be a star at two in Canada.  It's true he didn't do well in the BC Juvenile, but it will be fun to see how he does.  Not that I'm predicting a TC with this one, but it's the only shot we've got this year, so let's hope he's not another Giacomo.  

05 May 2009 10:56 PM


I'm very curious how fast Mine That Bird's final furlong was. Do you know?


06 May 2009 12:41 AM


Apart from the race itself, I want to thank you for mentioning my wife, Jean, and Second Stride in your wonderful article. She got a thrill out of seeing her name "up in lights," so to speak, and particularly because it was in one of your articles. She's a big fan.

Jean's known as a fairly astute handicapper in some circles, so it didn't really surprise me that she played Mine That Bird across the board and also had the Pick 3 on the Woodford, Oaks, and Derby. The first two were locks, IMHO, but I'd been listening to her talk about Mine That Bird for two days before Derby, so I figured she'd be on him. She and Juliet spent hours with his connections, first getting drenched by a morning rain on the backside, and then later at several events, so they either had a clue about the horse or they'd developed clues... both of them had him across the board.

I'd love to know the final furlong fraction and haven't yet seen it anywhere, but that was one of the most jaw-dropping furlongs I have ever seen in the Derby... and I've seen my share.

Anyway, thanks for your excellent piece. It certainly played well around this house.

06 May 2009 3:59 AM

Poly and dirt don't mix? Soft, rain soaked yielding turf or firm turf, but not both? ...pssst, please don't tell Einstein...he doesn't know...

06 May 2009 6:41 AM

Speaking of Einstein, hey Steve, after the TC series, how about a story on this wonderful horse and the trainer who's kept him healthy and sound while running at Graded Stakes level on 3 different surfaces and the owners who let him run at 7?

06 May 2009 6:44 AM

OOPS and DUH, maybe just the horse and trainer, hoof in mouth here...

06 May 2009 6:45 AM

Hope he's not another Giacocmo? You mean hit the board in 10 of 16 starts (8 grade 1 & 2) and earn over $2,500,000.00?

I'd love to have a Giacocmo in my life!

06 May 2009 7:40 AM

Bottome line, fitness combined with disposition and movement of high calibre.

06 May 2009 8:18 AM

Danylson, in defense of the 3 horses behind MTB, POTN would have finished with a time of 2:04.01 if I calculated it right,(according to a length = 1/5 or .2 second), which is actually faster than Smarty on his muddy track at 2:04.06 and Sunday Silence muddy track of 2:05...what we saw was a little horse on a muddy track with a supposed rail bias that ran the Derby only 1/5 second slower than Silver Charm & Spectacular Bid on Fast tracks, they did it in 2:02 2/5ths...

As far as I can tell, and someone please correct me if I'm wrong, this looks like the fastest mud KD ever....

06 May 2009 9:06 AM

Zito summed it up nicely " that's why they run the race".

06 May 2009 9:18 AM

For that matter, I wouldn't even mind owning a small, brown 3 year old who's 5 wins (2 graded stakes) and one second in 9 starts...and who's already earned $1,791,581.00...

06 May 2009 9:58 AM
Steve Haskin

Good stuff, Predict. Thanks.

Secretation, you could be right. We'll find out in the Preakness. It's just that that performance was so mind-boggling it's hard to say he simply liked the distance.

Johnny, I dont have his final eighth, but you can bet it was :11 and change.

Thanks, Kent. I actually quote Jean in the magazine. But I needed to trim a lot for the online piece. So, if you see the Blood-Horse magazine, look for her quote. Tell Jean it was good seeing her and Juliet again.

Good idea, Da3hoss, something should be written about him.

06 May 2009 11:10 AM

Yeah, I don't get the dogging on Giacomo. Not a single person would turn down having that horse in their stable. He didn't win every time, but he won a lot of money. He was third in the Preakness - similar if not better than many other KD winners. Swale was 7th in the Preakness, Winning Colors was 3rd, Strike the Gold was 6th, Lil E. Tee was 5th, Thunder Gulch was 3rd, Monarchos was 6th.

06 May 2009 11:41 AM


06 May 2009 11:51 AM
The Deacon

I think 12 to 14 horses should be the limit. My point was that if many of our top 3 year olds had not been sidelined then MTB would never have gotten in the race. I still believe that this was a fluke, horses for courses, altitude training, whatever? Everyone will put there own spin on the race. So should every stable move their operation to New Mexico or Woodbine? MTB loved Churchill Downs, and Calvin rode a brilliant race. It is 1 race, no more and I think MTB is a "One hit Wonder", we will see...............

06 May 2009 12:30 PM
The Peacock

Relating to Steve's MTB workout observations(we now know of ex-boy's workout observations/others blowing hard, MTB not): The energy a thoroughbred exudes in the days leading up to the Derby carries far more weight than any result it sustained in a prep race. An earlier prep score is of little consequence  if the present morning work is now stale and uninspired. In fact, preliminary achievement may be a trap for horseplayers since in some cases a horse can peak to soon. The seed of success lies in the blood flowing through an aspiring Derby  contenders veins. Dissecting a pedigree is pivotal in determining what runners are going to successfully endure the demanding ten furlongs.---Eric Floyd, pre-derby May/June issue Horseplayer Magazine.........MTB sure moved like a chess bishop, knifing off and back to the rail in the stretch, didn't he Audra?  

06 May 2009 12:39 PM
For Big Red

Friesan Fire is now listed by his connections as "hopeful" for the Preakness and is back on the DRF list of possibles.

06 May 2009 1:42 PM

As Mine That Bird was champion 2-year-old in Canada, how can he be considered a one-hit wonder?

06 May 2009 1:52 PM
For Big Red

Friesan Fire came out of the Derby with nine cuts. All four of his legs were cut: www.philly.com/.../20090504_Preakness_is_possible_for_nicked_Friesan_Fire.html

06 May 2009 2:46 PM

Wonderful article.  As a Canadian I watched MTB win at Woodbine and was not pleased to see him run in the BC juvenile off 2 weeks rest.  However, I was as shocked as everyone else at his amazing performance.

Steve - must ask because I can't get an answer anywhere else - what happened to Haynesfield?



06 May 2009 2:55 PM

This has been a great thing for horse racing. I have had more conversations with non horse racing fans than ever before regarding MTB performance. People took notice and they are cheering for him in the Preakness. I just watched it again and can't believe it when I see it. That little horse was firing on all cylinders. He will face some tough competition with Big Drama though. I see a lot of the same toughness in both these horses. I'm not sure I can buy into this being a fluke. If he never won another race, that to me still wouldn't make this derby a fluke. Both Calvin and MTB were in the zone. That was complete trust and communication between horse and rider. There is nothing about it that says fluke to me. I am excited to share the next couple weeks with all my non horse racing friends. Maybe now they will understand (atleast) a little of why I love it so much.

My heart is broken for IWR. Another gifted race horse injured way to soon. I am thankful the connections made the call they did. Nothing fishy about that at all.

06 May 2009 2:59 PM

and on the subject of Derbys....

rest in peace Winning Colors. You were one of my favorites.

06 May 2009 3:38 PM
Karen in Texas

predict and Steve---In regard to predict's 5/5/09 10:27 P.M. post about the lack of a current scientific training model for horses as compared to humans, I would direct you to the Altitude Simulation Technologies site and its equine altitude training section. It can be accessed at equinealtitudetraining.com. As race day medications become increasingly restricted, services of this type will probably flourish. Just FYI.

06 May 2009 3:48 PM
2 time valley player of the year

It's all about breeding and the training these horses get. the horses are not as strong or conditioned as the horses of the 40's 50's 60's 70's. they use to have real handicapping races where horses like Kelso or Dr Fager carried weights in the 130's in fact kelso ran and won lugging 142 lbs along with running up to 12 times ina year.Today  the horses  are treated like wimps. The breeding has gotten weaker too much for speed and overall the horses just aren't the atheletes as were in the past.Owners are only interested in making big bucks the real handicapping days  and truly great horses are over.

06 May 2009 5:10 PM

One last interesting tidbit- Calvin Borel's 2 Derby wins-

The first on the winner of the BC Juvenile, the second on the last place finisher of the Juvenile.

06 May 2009 5:15 PM

HorseFirst + Karen2:

Agree with both of you. Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel were fantastic, and their performances should be celebrated. They were much the best on the day.

DANYLSON: I also think it's great Mine That Bird is on the cover of Sports Illustarted. I was at Churchill for the Derby, and immediately after the horses crossed the wire the place was quiet, in shock. However, after a few minutes to recover, the Downs exploded in applause when Calvin brought the little guy back to the winners circle. The wave swept me up too. There is just something about this little gelding, about Borel, about Bennie Woolley that has captured the imagination of many around the country.


I too would have no problem with another Giacomo. Giacomo did win the San Diego Cap and placed in a number of graded stakes. He also ran a huge 4th in the 2006 Breeders Cup Classic. I do realize, however, he was far from being a great horse. It's just my opinion, however, that a bad horse has never won the Derby. The Derby is simply too competitive, and has too many good horses (of which enough have clean enough trips to run well) for anything but a good horse to win. Mine That Bird may never be as dominant in a big race again, but if he runs somewhere close to his Derby performance he is going to be a factor in a number of stakes races.

06 May 2009 5:43 PM


You took the name of one of my favorite horses, a horse from when I first got into racing! I loved Gundaghia! He was a tough, short but broad sprinter trained by Bob Baffert. This was about 5 years before Baffert became the uber-trainer many now know him has. This was when his barn was full of grizzled sprinters, many of them Cal-breds. Gundaghia and Letthebighossroll were my favorites from that era. Gundaghia owned Fairplex, as he was a master of the tight turns. He won a couple of those Fairplex stakes 2 and 3 years in a row.

Tell me about some of your memories of Gundaghia. Did you actually take the name from the horse, or does it have some other meaning? Because seriously, Gundaghia was one of my favorites. I even went to the LA Fair, just to see Gundaghia race. He was trying to win some race, I believe the Governor's Cup/Cap(?) for the 4th straight year. Although he ran out of the money, I was happy to have seen him in the little saddling area before the race.

06 May 2009 5:53 PM
John T.

Lost in all the hoopla of the Kentucky Derby was what was it really like for a young 19 year old kid called Joe Talamo who was scheduled to ride the favourite I Want Revenge and suddenly found himself without a mount.I thought he handled it very well for one so young.May he at least go on to tie the great Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack for five wins each in this race.

07 May 2009 12:04 AM

My comments on Giacomo seem to have brought out some defenders of his honor, to whom I will concede that he was probably a good horse for horse owners and horse players, of which I am neither.  I took an interest in horse racing when I read an excerpt from Ms. Hillenbrand's book on Seabiscuit and then I got bit by the Triple Crown bug when I looked into the sport a little more.  I have followed every Derby (riding the trail with Steve's columns) since War Emblem's hoping to see a Triple Crown winner.  My biggest disappointment was when MTB's dad passed Smarty in the stretch, but the other big disappointments have been when the Derby winner failed to win the Preakness.  When I say, "not another Giacomo" I mean that he was a great story for one race, then two weeks later put the hopes for a triple crown back in the closet for another year.  All of these 2/3s winners in the past decade have been a disappointment, but it's been the next best thing to at least wake up on Belmont day with hopefulness.  That's all I meant.  Hope that helps.  BTW, I know there's more to horse racing than the Triple Crown and I'm a huge fan of the great horses of the past in America, Europe, and Australia but since I'm not a gambler, the two things in the sport that raise my adrenalin level are the Derby call and Belmont day with the Triple Crown on the line.      

07 May 2009 2:06 AM
Matthew W

Hope Jess comes West with Rachael in the Lady's Secret, thus getting her a try on the pro ride (something he shouldda done with Curlin!)....how bout two with Zen and RA....

07 May 2009 3:11 AM

He Steve,

Great discussion on MTB...

Time will tell, but Borel did it again! As for POTN, Musket Man and Papa Clem, POTN ran a courageous race, but not only did POTN bump hard into Papa Clem, but he knocked that one squarely into MM. Musket Man was reeling them both in and if you watch the overhead film he was on his way by when he got bumped. Coa said it cost his horse 2nd place as he only lost by a nose and, according to Coa, those two were backing up at that point.

Gutsy run by all three. But why is the Derby run like a greyhound race? The traffic?

In greyhound racing, incidental bumping is permitted, but bumping before the wire can be a dq. Apparently, bumping anytime is ok in the Derby, but POTN's jockey Gomez is a hypocrit as he cried until Big Drama was DQ'd with Coa on board when that one came out and hit TOFP before the wire, even though Phil was not getting past Big Drama at that point.

07 May 2009 6:16 AM

For Big Red, thanks for the link on Friesan Fire. I hope he heals quickly and does make it to the Preakness. I would like to see him avenge himself. There is no way he is the quality of horse to come in second to last in the Derby. He is one of the best colts running this year.

07 May 2009 9:35 AM
Monica V

I'm really glad MTB won.  I'm glad that a small operation like that won the big one.  It's really what people love to see, the little guy that makes it big.  No one can deny that MTB's performance was astounding.  I'm really looking forward to the Preakness and the Belmont.  This has been a really interesting year so far.  I knew that it would be an upset this year but I didn't expect that big an upset.  This is what makes horse racing fun!

Jess Jackson has another super horse.  Wonder how much he paid for RA.  She is on a whole different level than any other horse.  I hope that she faces the boys.  I think she would trounce them all!

07 May 2009 11:13 AM


It's nice to hear someone besides myself was such a fan of Gundaghia.  He's my all-time fav, so much so that my lic plate is GUNDGIA!

I got to seem him several times at Del Mar and SA, never at Fairplex though, which he WAS the king of.  :)

I just loved that he was a smallish gelding but tried hard every single time he ran.  I talked to Baffert several years ago about him, and he shared with me how much he enjoyed him and how much fun they had with him.

07 May 2009 12:05 PM

MTB wasn't running in $2500 claiming races at Sunland, that Sunland race was (ungraded) $800,000 race!

MTB had earned app. $375,000 in his pre-derby career, all but his 2 maiden races in stakes.

RE: The Altitude discussion...3700 feet does not cause altitude sickness/benefits in adults, that starts at about 6,000-10,000 ft (so I understand)...now children are affected at lower altitudes...

Plus, at the Sunland Derby Day, Bob Baffert had a horse running in one of the races...we haven't heard of any big move up from that horse benefitting from more red cells!

07 May 2009 12:39 PM

FF is a miler and has no business going a 1 1/8th or longer.

07 May 2009 3:08 PM
Karen in Texas

da3hoss---Having any effect from increased RBC/Hgb. levels cannot make a horse or athlete better than he or she already is. That athlete's efforts can only be maximized. If you are standing next to someone at sea level or on a mountain top and you have normal to high normal levels of red cells, and the other person is, say, anemic, then you are probably feeling better and performing better than they are. That's all this altitude thing is. I, personally, do not think MTB had a "big move up" at all; a few extra circulating blood cells could not and would not give him more talent or ability. It would help him to be all that he could be, in other words, to maximize his individual potential. Another horse going from Sunland Park to another location might not do well simply because he was not as good in the first place.

Dr. Wayne McIlwraith,BVSc,PhD, of Colorado State University is on the Board of Directors of Altitude Simulation Technologies equine program. Their stated purpose is to "harness genetic potential". It will be interesting to see how this concept proceeds. If you look at their web page, you can see that they have clients from the "bluegrass" area.

Mine That Bird is a fantastic little horse! He probably always was--just look at his past performances. I sincerely hope he wins the Triple Crown; and, no, it will not be because he came down from Sunland Park, but because he is simply the best.

07 May 2009 5:11 PM

Karen in Texas, it's not me saying he did or didn't benefit, etc, other people are conjecturing he may have, I'm just saying what statistics say, if anything, about altitude, training, benefitting and was being satirical about BB's horse...

PS I like MTB, in fact BEFORE the KD you can find my posts in several blogs about not ruling out little brown horses that motor on while the "better horses" battle it out...but then, I bet his daddy as the only horse to maybe outlast Smarty...;-)

08 May 2009 8:22 AM

Karen in Texas: You make some very interesting comments. Of course MTB was a nice 2yr old. He is a graded stakes winner in Canada. Woodbine is one of the top 5 tracks in NA. Their purses are in the top 3 if I'm not mistaken. Why would people think this track is anything less than world class? BC 2008 saw 2 Woodbine based horses run second in the Sprint and F&M Turf.

Keep us updated on the equine program at Colorado State University. I really enjoy your comments. Thanks!

08 May 2009 10:07 AM
horse man

The article mentions the Niagara Equissage and I am seeing more of these used on horses all the time and hearing good things about how it helps horses.  I am going to find out more about it.

08 May 2009 10:33 AM
Marc W


I had mentioned in a previous post about Gomez herding PC and MM costing MM 2nd. What Gomez did was race riding--in the Derby you get away with things unless you do a Bet Twice. It goes back a ways, but if you ever saw Cordero on Codex in the Preakness come out on Genuine Risk and not come down -race riding-when you bet on them or ride them you want the rider to do it--when you are on the receiving end?

Air/smare -Mine That Bird just ran his eye bolls out, got a great ride, and won. I claim no credit in liking him, being involved with Canadian Racing most of my life the truth is it wasn't a great crop last year so lets not make the 2yr old of the year thing a revelation. If Square Eddy being a Canadian Bred  goes to Canada for the Queens Plate I think he will air(win easily). They are not world beaters this year at 3 or last when they were 2.

We got a shocker-those who say they loved MTB are not big bettors nor handicappers but I still congratulate those who did. Hope it wasn't a fluke. Even if it wasn't--- what happens if Rachel runs in the Preakness--if she can rate off the speed like in the Oaks without getting discouraged it seems to me all bets are off for all the colts.

I hear Kelly Leak may not make the Texas race--pity--he was going to be one of the biggest money makers this year because of smart management. Run your horse where they belong--in the long run there are not that many Mine That Birds.

One last point Giacomo?

Very nice horse--not a superstar but a very nice horse--throughout his career---AND--I wouldn't be shocked if he makes a good sire--A non-suspicious trainer (Lets put that in this terms, I wouldn't have bred to St. Liam before his untimely death)-his brother can run--Holy Bull was a great horse if not a sire. Don't be surprised if he does quite well in the breeding shed.

The last horse I owned and lost in a $15K claimer--I paid $8K won 41K in purses---great horse-absolutely not--he tried hard--he more than paid his bills-lost him for almost double what I paid-a nice horse. To own Giacomo would be a dream for me and the other 90% who are involved in horse ownership--I was happy with my results of the claimer.

08 May 2009 11:44 AM
Karen in Texas

da3hoss and Wanda---It is difficult on these blogs to tell who understands that the altitude concept is a naturally occurring physiologic response and who thinks it's something out of science fiction. As I said on the other blog, I believe it's important enough to try to explain.

Funny about B. Baffert--he has Mayor Marv running at Lone Star Park this weekend, and Marv's last start was at Sunland. Baffert told our newspaper writer that he should have entered him in the Kentucky Derby so that Marv could have stopped and backed up in front of Mine That Bird the way he stopped in front of Mythical Power at Sunland!

08 May 2009 12:52 PM

Calvin Borel won an early 90's running of the Arkansas Derby on Rockamundo at odds of 108-1.  I was at Oaklawn Park that day and a young woman sitting next to me had the exacta, which paid over $8,000 as I recall.  Calvin was given credit for that unlikely win too, but not for a rail skimming ride.  He sensed that Rockamundo was holding his breath so Calvin gave him a whack on the belly and that made Rockamundo start breathing again.  Calvin said proper breathing was the reason the horse ran so well.  I'd never heard of such a thing.  Calvin never ceases to amaze me.  

08 May 2009 1:15 PM

"Mine That Bird turned speed figures into a pile of useless numbers"

Not the ones I used. What part of MTB's last 2 preps on dirt don't you understand? How many of the entrants could run a mile under 1:37 and still run up close at all 4 calls? The answer is Dunkirk, Papa Clem, Mine That Bird. How many had the foundation? Which one ran poorly in the slop 2 back? I'll do my own handicapping thank you very much. EOD...LOL

08 May 2009 2:20 PM
russell maiers

Thanks Steve for all the fine input to the Derby!  Mine that Bird looked like Megahertz running the turf in California with a little Whirlaway mixed in. I did have his half brother to finish first, Summer Bird. Also Chocolate Candy and IWR. The two took 5th and 6th and Mike Smith thought he had the race rounding the turn but CC flattened out. I had to jump on Bird Stones sons when they got in late because  Bird Stone was such a tough, tiny,and good horse and when I saw these colts were little also, I guessed they would inherit his toughness and heart too. I went with Summer Bird because he was finishing really, really good in the Arkansas Derby. Took that over the two year old Canadian champion.  Oh well, I was close, but wrong. Summer Bird still ran respectable and will be heard from again. I believe MTB totally skipped and danced across that goo ball track and like you said Baltimore will tell us more. Calvin said one thing after the race that more trainers and jockeys should learn. He said "these are three year olds and they can only run so fast for so long, my horse was the only horse running the later stages of the race" I know speed can be great, and one can get brave on the front end, etc. etc. etc. Dirt tracks in the USA focus 99% on speed but if you think about it the pedestrian 12 second eigths equal a two minute mile and a quarter which would win most Derby's and shave a second and we are talking Secritariat. I still will never forget the shot with Smarty Jones in front of Edington and Rock Hard Ten. He looked half their size! Then the tiny Bird Stone running by Smarty Jones and he looked half his size! Good luck to Mine that Bird. So hard but I will even cheer for him to beat the fantastic RA.

08 May 2009 5:05 PM

Looks to me like one horse took to the off track, "Mine that Bird, and the rest not really! Again, I will be surprised if "Mine that Bird" hits the board in the Preakness.

08 May 2009 9:14 PM

ZARVONA: Even if you are correct that MTB was the only horse in the Derby that relished the underfoot conditions, face the fact that his performance in terms of speed and time, 2:02 and change for the 10 furlongs is one of the fastest ever under those conditions.  Also, given the horse's pedigree (Unbridled on top Mr Prospector within 1st 3 generations and Northern Dancer 4x4) and solid 2YO foundation, it is more likely that his performance in the Derby was a Break-out, to be followed by similar quality performances, rather than a fluke or flash-in-the-pan.  Watch and see.  The Preakness is shaping up to be a "thrilla in manila", if "Rachel" makes the field and it will take, not a very good horse but a BRILLIANT horse to lower her colours.  Thusly (as you would say) Mine That Bird and Big Drama(our mutual fancy) will be truly tested. A mouth-watering prospect, I might add.    

09 May 2009 2:21 AM

good article this is just what the racing sport needed before this derby this yr i wasnnot as interested but when my man calvin who i always bet on and the little horse that would and could won i am so excited and everyone is thanks calvin and mine that bird

09 May 2009 8:59 PM

There were racetrackers and maybe fans that seemed to be "angry" that Mine That Bird ran such an outstanding race.  That is sad.  After all that is racing and the unexpected can be very thrilling.  Then too we pay too much attention to the east coast and west coast horses and forget about those under the radar.  Well, wasn't MTB an east coaster although a Canadian one?  

I have to mention some nonsense surrounding the Preakness and ask for your opinion.  All of a sudden some owners and trainers are trying to block Rachel Alexandra from being able to race in the Preakness by inducing other owners of triple crown nominated horses to enter their charges.  That to me borders on race fixing.  Are owners so afraid of her?  Several have mentioned that the triple crown races are to showcase the stallion prospects.  Well, MTB is a gelding but Rachel Alexandra has a sire also.  What is your take on all of this ridiculousness?  This is going to sour a lot of people on these big races.

10 May 2009 12:46 PM

I have a sort of "apropos nothing" Derby question.  Why, after the talk about Churchill Downs hiring the English race-caller Mark (whose last name escapes me at the moment), did Tom Durkin call the Derby?  Not that I mind Tom Durkin, trust me -- as a Saratoga regular, I enjoy his work (who could forget last summer and "Arrrrrrr"?) -- but I was just curious.  I notice Durkin did not call the Oaks.

10 May 2009 8:12 PM
Karen in Texas

BlueHen---I think that Tom Durkin called the race on NBC only. Somebody mentioned this on one of the blogs the other day. The track had its regular race caller doing the call at Churchill.

10 May 2009 11:25 PM
Mike S

The people who say that MINE THAT BIRD is a "one hit wonder" are in good company. Andy Beyer cried that "he should have been 200-1" and Mike Watchmaker said, "He was the champion 2 year old in Canada...big deal."

I do think it was a big deal that MINE THAT BIRD won three stakes races as a 2 year old in Canada and was voted their champion. That's a very good accomplishment. When you toss out his one bad race - the one over Pro-Ride at Santa Anita - his record was not bad at all. In fact, his record was pretty good. I didn't think he would even make the top 4, but I didn't think he was such a bad horse. I thought he was OK. He definitely should not have been 200-1, all his races were good, except for one. He's not a one-hit wonder, he has won FOUR stakes races.

12 May 2009 12:51 AM

It appears most trainers are of the opinion that Mine That Bird’s Derby victory was a fluke. They seem to be more fearful of Oaks champion Rachel Alexandra than THE Derby champion going into the Preakness.

I am amazed that the fear lies with RA and not the pint sized gelding MTB who was more impressive in the Derby than RA in the Oaks. I know the immediate question will be, what has Coldfacts been smoking? Well in anticipation of the question I have prepared a response so let’s look at the cold facts.

RA ran against a handful of over matched fillies. She tracked a mile pace and effortlessly pulled away for a 20 ¼ lengths victory.  MTB came from 15 to 17 lengths last against the top 3YO colts that made the derby field. His breathtaking stretch run gave the impression that his rivals were glued to the sloppy/muddy Churchill Downs surface. Folks it is not an easy task to close from so far back on a sloppy/muddy track. Only the very good ones can finish that fast on such a surfaces i.e., Curlin, Midnight Lute etc. Mine That Bird had to negotiate serious traffic when he commenced winning move. The small opening he exploded through against the rails was even more remarkable than his 6 1/4 lengths victory. He overcame overwhelming odd and obstacles to record an emphatic victory against the best in his division. RA was expected to be an easy winner, he was dismissed with disdain.

He entered the Derby as the Canadian 2YO champion. In fact, he was the only Juvenile champion in the field as both US 2YO champions Midshipman and Stardom Bound did not make the derby field. There are those that will argue that being the Canadian champion carries no weight. For those who are of this opinion, they are sadly lacking in knowledge. Two previous Canadian 2YO champions have won the derby i.e., 1964 winner Northern Dancer and 1983 winner Sunny’s Halo.

For those who think he is not capable of winning the Preakness, I would encourage them to revisit the story of the Venezuela champion Canonero II. He was dismissed in the 1971 Derby and won coming from last but one. He was not expected to figure in the Preakness on Pimlico’s speed favoring track. Well, he prompted the pace and set a NTR of 1:54 for his victory.

Remember he is a gelding and will have no interest in staying behind the spectacular filly

15 May 2009 12:26 AM

Sir Barton lost all six of his starts as a 2YO. This unheralded maiden made his 3YO debut in the derby as a rabbit for his more fancied stable companion. He made all to win and went on to Triple Crown glory.

This geldings first three sires were all classic winners. His dam was sire by Smart Strike of Curlin/English Channel fame. He has the pedigree and he just destroyed the derby field which suggest he has ability. He was the second youngest and possibly the smallest horse in the derby. In spite of his size and maturity disadvantage, he whipped his older and bigger rivals.

One hit wonder! No. Brilliant! Yes

15 May 2009 12:27 AM

Really great story on the Preakness.  When you talk about Rachel's and The Bird's final 3/16th, you call it 1/16th.  They were going 3 times as fast!!  No need to post this.  Again, great story!

18 May 2009 11:51 PM

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