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Derby Puzzler

Let me start off by saying “I had Mine That Bird on top”. However, I’m speaking of the $62,500 maiden claimer he won last year. Certainly, no one that can read and understand the Daily Racing Form Past Performances could have given this colt a real shot in the Kentucky Derby. There just wasn’t anything to hang your hat on.

Consider these mind numbing facts:
· Trainer Chip Wooley had won only once in 2009 (and it wasn’t even with this gelding)
· Trainer Chip Wooley had won only one route races since 2007
· Mine That Bird had a Beyer high of 81
· Mine That Bird ran out of the money in the Sunland Derby, a race closer to a $20k claimer than a Grade 1 event
· Mine That Bird faced this type of competition once, in the BC Juv Turf and ran last
· Mine That Bird, following in the Charasmatic mold, was entered into a maiden claiming event in his 2nd start
· Mine That Bird virtually missed the break and was some 25 lengths back early, completely tanking what the connections wanted to do, which was to run near the pace

So, how does a seasoned handicapper get their mind around this most improbable victory? Many are quick to say “horse racing is random, anything can happen”. This might be true but what happened on Saturday wasn’t “anything” or even “random”. It was impossible.

One plausible argument could be made for the strict drug testing that Churchill Downs set up for the Derby. It could be that many of the other, more accomplished, runners were somehow hindered by this stringent testing and an honest runner like Mine That Bird was the beneficiary.

All in all, it was a pretty amazing story. I cannot believe Hollywood would’ve entertained a script like this if it weren’t real. A no name trainer tugs his gelding 1700 miles behind his pickup to take a shot in the Derby. Not only does his horse run well, but it wins in the biggest margin of victory in decades as one of the longest shots on the board.

One note: How could Mine That Bird have only been 50-1? It makes zero sense. He was 140-1 on Betfair and many other services had him at 200-1 the day before the Derby. How could the Churchill crowd have knocked him down to 50-1 considering most of the crowd would likely bet the horses that were touted. I would love to know the sizes of the win bets put on him. It could a bigger story than some may realize.

Thank you,
David Valento