Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mine That Bird?

Mine That Bird.

Mine That Bird.

Days later, it’s still hard to believe. Mine That Bird, last seen finishing off the board in the Sunland Park Derby, will have his name on Kentucky Derby mint julep glasses for as long as they make them.

I don’t know of a single serious handicapper who had him. I had to cash in a voucher at the OTB after the Derby, and the line was comprised of a handful of drunks who liked the name.

One wag noted that there are probably some rich ornithologists out there. Maybe some Charlie Parker fans, too. I imagine Peter Griffin had him:

So now, Andy Beyer, Randy Moss (not that one) and all the other public handicappers are trying to figure it out. Remembering my dad’s admonition that “they all look good after the race,” I submit the following:

1. Mine That Bird enjoys running through a moat. There was no evidence of this in his past performances, as he had not raced on an off track before last Saturday. While he had some off-track ability in his bloodline, so did several others in the field. There are just some eventualities that you can’t predict in this game.

2. This is a weak 3-year-old crop (forget about Rachel Alexandra for the moment), made worse by several key injuries. By the time the Derby came around, the top four finishers in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile were all out of action, as were the two best hopefuls to arise from the Derby preps, I Want Revenge and Quality Road. But even so, several of this year’s Derby entrants would have wound up in the Withers or the Federico Tesio at this time last season because they wouldn’t have had enough graded stakes earnings. Mine That Bird didn’t have to beat as much as he would have in some other years.

3. To paraphrase the salesmen in The Music Man, Calvin Borel knows the territory. Borel must have been really good to some old man who plays Skee Ball (inside joke for you Dogma fans) at some point. In two of the last three Derbys, “Bo-Rail” has made his patented (OK, he hasn’t really patented it, but maybe he should) move from far back along the Churchill rail, and the holes opened up for him at the right time.

4. It could be that Mine That Bird is better than his prep race form suggests. He was named Canada’s 2-year-old of the year, which is not chopped liver. The Preakness will tell whether the gelding is a one-hit wonder. Remember that Canonero II—who came to the 1971 Derby off a loss in a $3,500 handicap in Venezuela—shocked the world with his victory, then followed it up by setting a track record while winning the Preakness.

There is one thing we know for sure.

The legend of the Kentucky Derby has gotten bigger.

If you missed it, or just want to relive it, sit back and enjoy.

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