Oops! Mine That Bird wins Kentucky Derby

Wow! Well that’s an entire week of my life that I’ll never get back. Since I know I am not alone here on my handicapping analysis of the Derby winner, and because I’m man enough to admit when I am very, very wrong, here’s what I wrote three days ago about Mine That Bird’s chances to win this race:

MINE THAT BIRD (Birdstone- Mining My Own/ Smart Strike), PP#8, 81 Beyer, 50-1 Morning Line

Pros: I can’t really think of any. Finished fourth at Sunland Park last time out, and was twelfth in the BC Juvenile last fall against some of these.

Cons: Really, really seems overmatched here. Observers of his workouts note that he could possibly be “mentally challenged.” He’s the longest shot in the field for good reason. His top Beyer of 81 is abysmal.

Conclusion: The perfect example of Derby Fever, as this horse has no business running against the rest of these. He’s just another body to create a meaningless traffic jam. Reason number 10,000 that the field should be cut down.

Harsh, huh? I almost feel like Mine that Bird read this blog last night before he went to bed and got really, really pissed off. First, let’s take a step back and realize that is a monumental upset- the highest priced winner of the Kentucky Derby in 96 years. Yes, bigger than Giacomo. The $2 Superfecta paid $550,000! Besides, with Giacomo, there were actual reasons to play him based on closing speed that he had demonstrated in prior races. With Mine That Bird, there simply is no handicapping angle whatsoever that could have led to the conclusion that he had any chance to even hit the board in this race, let alone win it. Also, in 2005 when Giacomo pulled the upset, that race completely fell apart, with Spanish Chestnut running a blazing :45.0 half mile and burning out the rest of the field that tried to stay close to that pace. This time, if anything, the pace was slower than I expected as Join in the Dance plodded along through the slop in :47.2. This should have meant that the other three horses near the lead, Pioneer of the Nile, Papa Clem and Regal Ransom, should have battled it out for the win and that all of the closers were in big trouble if they were too far from the pace. (I would have been wrong in that event too). But somehow, some way, jockey Calvin Borel was able to make a move from last place that was nearly identical to the move he made two years ago to win this race aboard Street Sense.

This was a strange day. As soon as I Want Revenge scratched, all of a sudden I was uneasy about my picks. The whole undercard showed no consistency on the slop and I got my face ripped off–early on it would seem that speed was going to hold, and then a closer would come out of nowhere to win a race. Favored Friesan Fire was bumped around early and never got into position, and he was eventually eased to finish second to last. My pick, Dunkirk, stumbled badly out of the gate and probably overcompensated after that, finding himself too close to the leaders and with nothing left to make the final move I expected. Desert Party was wide the whole way, way too close to the pace, and tired, and aside from those three, who really was a surprise to finish poorly? What looked like one of the deepest Derbys in years turned into an incredibly shallow, wide open race over the course of the last week. It really is a shame that we didn’t get to see I Want Revenge or Quality Road in this one, not to mention The Pamplemousse or Old Fashioned, but the race was so bizarre that I’m not even sure if their presence would have changed the outcome. Blame the slop, blame the bumping, or blame the overall strangeness, but just like 98% of the betting public, I still went home with an empty wallet.

So I suppose it was only right that it would end on a strange note. Watch the replay of the race again, and listen to Tom Durkin’s call. Durkin is among the best in the world at calling horse races, yet he failed to even recognize the fact that Mine That Bird had taken the lead until he was nearly three lengths clear of Pioneer of the Nile and driving towards the wire in a romp! He barely was able to make the call of the winner before the horse crossed the wire, and the legitimate shock in his voice at that moment is telling, and classic. If that isn’t testament to how shocking this was, than I don’t know what is. It certainly wasn’t Durkin’s best call of his career (it was arguably his worst), but it fit right in with the outcome, and I definitely had no idea who that horse was driving down the rail either as it happened.


In conclusion, I’m sorry Mine That Bird, for saying those mean things about you. You clearly deserved the spot in the field, and I guess I can no longer argue that the field size should be reduced. And I now realize that you just pretended to be a retarded horse during your workout last week to drive up your odds, you little hustler. My wife noticed how little and cute you were during the post parade. Next year I’ll just let her pick my Derby winner for me during the parade and thereby save myself hundreds of hours of work.

Although I can’t promise you’ll see your name on any of my Preakness tickets.

Additional notes:

– The Apollo Curse still stands, but aside from that, every meaningful statistic or trend that ever existed for evaluating a Kentucky Derby winner is now effectively hogwash. Don’t even get me started on the 100 Beyer rule. How about a 90 Beyer? Mine That Bird barely broke 80 on his best day prior to today’s race. And no horse has ever won the Derby with a dosage figure as high as Mine That Bird’s is. He was actually the only horse in the field with a higer dosage than 4.00, one of many reasons he was overlooked by me and handicappers everywhere. It just goes to show that like in any sport, on any give day, anything can happen.

– I can’t help but point out the pedigree of Mine That Bird and its history of heartbreak in Triple Crown events. Most recently, his sire Birdstone defeated the beloved Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont to stop his quest for the Triple Crown. Before that, his grand sire Grindstone nipped Cavonnier at the wire in the 1996 Derby in a photo finish. And now this. Evil, evil line of horses. But you can bet that I’ll be paying more attention to them going forward.

– You can’t end a post about this weekend without mentioning the most impressive performance of the Derby events, and that was by Rachel Alexandra, winning the Oaks in dramatic fashion by some 20 lengths. Keep you eye on this one, as she appears to be a once in a generation type talent, and has put herself squarely in the race for Horse of the Year.

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