If you were as shocked as I was to see Mine That Bird explode through the rail into the stretch, you were probably thinking it was "the other" Birdstone horse, Summer Bird, who finished a fast closing third in the Arkansas Derby. But after further review, it was a horse who in 2009 lost both starts in the racing mecca of, wait for it....... New Mexico!
Here I was watching my pick, Pioneerof the Nile, pulling away from the field turning for home after withstanding rapid quarter and half mile fractions of 22.4 and 47.1 (which moderated the middle part of the race) and hearing my long-shot's - Musket Man - name being called into the stretch when a horse skipped the rail and escaped from the field. Of course it would have to be Borel, a crafty cajun' who I was able to cheer the day before as he piloted the legendary Rachel Alexandra in the Kentucky Oaks (future post coming on this remarkable filly and my first "fillies Derby" day). But on this day I was hoping the bastard would come out of his stirrups so I could hit the tri! But alas, it was not meant to be for me yet another year, even though I always take pride in winning my own handicapping challenge (Tin Cup, anyone?) with the 2nd and 3rd place finisher (Musket Man at a nice price!).
After my multiple mint juleps had evaporated, I couldn't shake the familiarity of Mine That Bird. That's when I realized this was my long-shot special in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. My blog posting as appeared on October 23rd follows...
"Handicapping the Juvenile really had me perplexed, but I decided to "give the nod to Square Eddie (9-2) based on his dominant Keenland romp over the polytrack surface. A hunch is telling me to bet a ticket or two on Mine That Bird at 30-1, who has dominated lesser foes north of the border at Woodbine in Canada."
So for the second time in recent years, I had touted a winner a race or two prior to The Derby but jumped off the bandwagon when things weren't going great (my Razorback friends can attest to this). The other scenario was Bluegrass Cat, who I loved in the Blue Grass Stakes but hated that effort and totally dismissed in The Derby as he ran second at 30-1.
Musket Man proved his distance concerns were unfounded... I thought his previous wins at 9 furlongs already proved this. Other closers fared much better as I expected in the 3rd - 6th spots, such as Musket's show, Papa Clem - proved to be able to rate two races in a row, Chocolate Candy and the aforementioned Summer Bird. The post-time favorite honors easily went to Friesan Fire at 3.80 - 1, who finished next to last after bumping hard at the start and splitting a severe quarter crack at the onset of the race. My greatest satisfaction was seeing Dunkirk finish up the track as the 5-1 second choice in the wagering. Sure, he got a bad break along with many others in a 19 horse field... part of the reason I discounted a 3 time starter who had no seasoning as a two year-old. Several other underlays ran poorly, notably General Quarters at 10-1, Hold Me Back at 13-1 and Desert Party at 15-1.
It was a hectic day for me, as I had two flight delays en route back to Dallas, barely arriving in time for our Derby party, which I was greeted with tornados and repeated interruptions of Derby coverage on the local NBC affiliate. And of course, the TwinSpires website was backlogged prior to The Derby to prevent future bets (saved me more $$). But I will close my weary eyes soon in hibernation mode with Rachel Alexandra's 20+ length romp as my last sight. So thanks for all your emails/text messages/phone calls, but just don't expect any future replies until Monday morning. It was a great Derby 135 friends... just THIS CLOSE from a $42,000 trifecta! Ahh, but that's what keeps us coming back for more, just like sinking that 20 foot putt on the 18th green to salvage a 95, but you're right back on the tee box the next weekend!
Until the Preakness Stakes in two weeks, may all your tickets be worthy of cashing. Come see me at Lone Star track in Dallas this summer!