As cameras flashed, a veterinarian joined the elite crowd inside the winner's circle at this year's Kentucky Derby.
-- As cameras flashed, a veterinarian joined the elite crowd inside the winner's circle at this year's Kentucky Derby as part owner of one the most improbable winners in the Derby's 135-year history.
Veterinarian Leonard Blach (right), of Roswell, N.M., part owner of MineThat Bird, joins jockey Calvin Borel (left) and co-owner Mark Allen inhoisting the 135th Kentucky Derby trophy inside the winner's circle atChurchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Leonard Blach, DVM, owner of Buena Suerte Equine in Roswell, N.M., and his neighbor Mark Allen of Double Eagle Ranch together own Mine That Bird, the gelding that hugged the rail and came from dead last at one point to win the race by 6.75 lengths - the longest margin since Triple Crown winner Assault won by eight lengths in 1946.
Running against 50-to-1 odds, the horse covered the muddy, 1.25-mile course in 2 minutes, 2.66 seconds in front of 153,563 stunned spectators.
Mine that Bird will run May 16 in the Preakness at Baltimore, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The winners' share of the $2.17 million Derby purse was about $1.4 million -- a good return on Blach's and Allen's reported $400,000 payment for the gelding, which brought only $9,500 at auction as a yearling. But Mine That Bird has good racing genes: his sire, Birdstone, beat Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes, and Birdstone's sire, Grindstone, won the 1996 Kentucky Derby. Blach and Allen purchased their horse, last year's 2-year-old champion in Canada, after it won four consecutive races. Allen reportedly said they wanted a true racehorse, not a stallion to retire for stud fees, and didn't argue over the price.
Jockey Calvin Borel, who earned the nickname "Bo-rail" for his penchant to run horses close to the rail, did just that aboard Mine that Bird, working his way to the front from dead last; the inside proved to be the driest, smoothest part of the track that was muddied by rains the evening before. Borel also rode the 2007 Derby winner, Street Sense.
Trainer Bennie (Chip) Woolley Jr. hauled the horse in a van on a 21-hour trip from New Mexico to Louisville, stopping once in Texas to allow it to run. Woolley stood in the winner's circle on crutches after a recent motorcycle accident. He and the owners reportedly were thinking of entering their horse in an upcoming Texas race, but changed their minds and decided to go for the roses despite the odds.
Mine That Bird returned the second-largest payout in Derby history -- $103.20, $54 and $25.80. Pioneer of the Nile ran second and Musket Man third in the 19-horse field. Morning-line favorite I Want Revenge was scratched before the race because of lameness in the left front foot.