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Mine That Bird flipped the bird to all the billionaires in the racing world at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
The little colt who squeezed through on the rail to win $1.4 million cost just $9,500 when he was originally sold. On his headlong dash to the roses from last to first, he passed horses that cost 100 times as much.
So little was he thought of that he was the only horse in the field running without his, er, genitals. They were removed, or gelded, because whoever sold him never thought he'd have a shot at being a stud.
He was racing in Sunland Park in New Mexico when last seen before the Derby. That's the equivalent of playing in Puxatawney one night and in Yankee Stadium the next. Worse, he wasn't even winning at Sunland!
He is one handsome eunuch now though, earning $1.4M and future millions as well if he comes close to the legendary Triple Crown — or Derby, Preakness and Belmont wins.
His trainer, Bennie L. Woolley Jr., was having his first runner in the race. He arrived at the track on crutches after a recent motorcycle accident. He drove the horse himself in a van 21 hours from New Mexico to Kentucky to save money. He has had one winner from 32 starters so far this year, and he and his horse were the kind of cautionary tale waiting to be written about how no-hopers should not be allowed to compete in the Derby.
Hell, Mine That Bird is not even eligible for the English Derby because he has to have genitals to compete there — no geldings need apply.
An NBC interviewer said to Wooley after his victory that nobody knew who he was.
"They know who I am now," he responded quickly.
Back in third and just narrowly beaten for second was Musket Man, another blue-collar horse trained by Irish native Derek Ryan. He cost just $11,000 when he was sold, and indeed, his breeding is so unfashionable that he was lucky to escape poor Mine That Bird's fate in terms of his future conjugal visits.
Back in tenth place was General Quarters, owned by Tom McCarthy, who bought him for $20,000 and has won over $600,000 with him. GQ is his only horse, and he's owner. trainer, groom, waterboy, whatever it takes. Another Irish trainer, Eoin Harty, from a well-known Kildare racing family, also had a runner in the Derby.
While other horses are fed on the finest hay and supplements — and many are injected with illegal substances — Ryan gave Musket Man a pint of Guinness every day — proving that it IS good for you, and seemingly even better for horses.
Racing may be "the sport of kings," but winning jockey Calvin Borel, known as "borail" for his ability to sneak up the rail, is another blue-collar guy who never got beyond grade school and speaks English badly.
But he is pure poetry on horseback. He just completed the cast for the most-astonishing Derby of modern times, with the second-longest price winner in history and a cast of characters out of a hardscrabble Dickens novel — rather than Blue Blood magazine.
It is what makes racing great — where money can't buy success and little guys quite often finish first. Racing is a sport in tatters these days with drugs, falling crowds, animal-rights activists and just plain incompetence by those who run it.
But on Saturday, its romance shone through.