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It was an inside job all the way

Who in the world was the horse hugging the inside, surging from last place as if he had found his own jet stream, shooting a gap so tight he brushed the rail, pulling himself into not just the lead but a huge lead? Racing forms were consulted, heads scratched. Disbelief spread, jaws dropped.

Even after Mine That Bird, a 50-1 longshot with a crooked gait, crossed the finish line 6 3/4 lengths ahead of the field, and even after jockey Calvin Borel burst into tears, the surreal nature of what had just unfolded didn’t truly sink in until the back story began to trickle out.

Here was a horse who was sold for $9,500 as a yearling and was now trained by Bennie “Chip” Woolley, an ex-rodeo cowboy who had to hobble around Churchill Downs on crutches because he broke his leg in a motorcycle accident two months ago.

Here was a horse owned by two New Mexico buddies, bolo-tie-wearing, cowboy-hat-sporting Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach, who purchased him from Canada of all places and acknowledged that even they didn’t believe their horse had a shot to win the Derby.

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Here was Borel, after his second Derby win (Street Sense in 2007 was his first), acknowledging he had never even seen Mine That Bird in the horseflesh until Monday.

Lastly, throw in the fact that Mine That Bird was so far behind the field at the three-quarters pole that Blach nearly stopped watching.

This wasn’t just an upset, it was possibly the biggest upset in Derby history. The only other horse to win it with longer odds was Donerail at 91-1, in 1913. Giacamo, the 2005 winner, was also a 50-1 shot. A $2 bet on Mine That Bird paid $103.20.

“It just shows what can be done by a couple of buddies who want to have a good time together and want to go to the races and dream a little bit,” Blach said.

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vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com


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