Brave, tough, and able to go the distance. These words describe the warriors that serve in our U.S. Armed Forces that we at Remount Foundation have the honor of serving. These words also describe our mascot, Mine That Bird, who won the 2009 Kentucky Derby as the second longest shot in the history of the Derby.
Mine That Bird’s journey to the Derby was not that of the typical Derby Thoroughbred. Back in 2009, the “Bird” was a scrappy, little gelding from New Mexico that squeaked into qualifying for the Derby. His co-owners, Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach, initially declined the request from Churchill Downs to Run for the Roses®. However, after some further debate, Allen and Blach could not deny the Bird this opportunity no matter the insurmountable odds of placing or the nil chance of victory. He had earned his way into the starting gates, so that’s where Bird should be.
Most Derby starters roll-in to Louisville in luxury horse transports the size of household moving rigs. Several Thoroughbreds descend into the area aboard specialized equine aircraft configured with first-class stalls. Mine That Bird didn’t get a seat in the back of the plane. Mine That Bird’s trainer Chip Woolley along with groom Charlie Figoroa loaded Bird in Woolley’s no-frills trailer attached to his pickup truck. The two men then drove the Bird to what they believed would be a showing nothing short of embarrassing. After the grueling 1,200+ mile, 21-hour drive with a brief overnight stop in Texas, the relatively unknown gelding and entourage arrived with no fanfare to a week of dismal weather and media coverage. The majority of news outlets did not inquire about the gelding who was a last-minute add to the post. Nope. Instead, the story of how Woolley, a black Stetson-wearing cowboy on crutches drove his own horse to the Derby. At a place known for high culture, extravagant hats, and Triple Crown contenders, Bird and entourage were reduced to a quirky, “also-running” story. And at post-time, that coverage seemed appropriate.
Mine That Bird and Jockey Calvin Borel had a terrible start. Right out of the gate, Bird was squeezed from both sides and shuffled to the back. Bird was so far back he wasn’t even visible in the picture on television. Billy Jack Barrett, our Executive Director, recalls watching the televised race:
“I thought Calvin should be carrying a sack lunch or at least a flashlight so he could find his way back to the barn after dark. Calvin could not have thrown a rock and hit the horse in front of him!”
And then the miracle.
In the last three-eighths of a mile, Mine That Bird went from the back of the field to lengths ahead. A culture shock stunned the Derby spectators (and Announcer calling the race for NBC Sports) as the 50-1 longshot came out of nowhere to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
YouTube Video: Flashback of the 135th Kentuck Derby
The second greatest upset in the history of the Derby (along with Woolley’s black cowboy hat, crutches, and unbelievable story) caught the attention of movie producer Jim Wilson. Wilson’s movie, “50 to 1”, is based on the true story of the horse racing legend Mine That Bird came to be.
YouTube Video: Watch the 50 to 1 Movie Trailer
With the theatrical release of “50 to 1”, CINEMARK Theaters in Colorado Springs announced they would donate the proceeds from the opening night to Remount Foundation. Mark Allen and Dr. Blach brought Mine That Bird to Colorado Springs to promote the movie and Remount Foundation.
After promotional appearances at the theater and the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame, Mine That Bird then traveled over to the U.S. Air Force Academy Equestrian Center, the home of Remount Foundation, to support our wounded warriors, military families, and cadets. The Bird finished his visit strutting across the field during a home football game at the USAFA’s Falcon Stadium.
Today, Mine That Bird lives the retirement life at the Double Eagle Ranch outside Roswell, New Mexico. His multiple, spacious paddocks are just yards away from the homes of his co-owners families, the Allens and the Blachs. Bird enjoys the groups of visitors he receives each week at the ranch. Especially those that offer him the ranch-provided peppermints.
The Remount Foundation team thanks Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach for their patriotic support in allowing Mine That Bird to be our official mascot.
Social Media: Mine That Bird on Facebook
KentuckyDerby.com: History of Mine That Bird
MN Star Tribune: Bird is the Word at the Derby
Wikipedia: Mine That Bird’s Wiki Page
The movie “50 to 1” is rated PG-13 and available to rent online from iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, and YouTube.