From longshot to favourite

In the days leading to the Kentucky Derby, just about everybody ignored the little gelding tucked away in his stall at Churchill Downs.

Kentucky Derby winner and Belmont Stakes hopeful Mine That Bird is led out of the stable for a bath after working out at Belmont Park

NEW YORK — In the days leading to the Kentucky Derby, just about everybody ignored the little gelding tucked away in his stall at Churchill Downs.

Mine That Bird, the former Canadian two-year-old champion who was a latecomer to the Derby field, had recently arrived in Louisville after a 19-hour trailer ride from New Mexico. His trainer Chip Woolley did the driving despite a broken right leg fused with a metal plate and 12 screws.

This was not big news, though, not with top three-year-olds such as I Want Revenge, Pioneerof the Nile, Friesan Fire and Dunkirk receiving all the attention. A lot has changed in five weeks: Mine That Bird won the Derby by an astonishing 63/4 lengths at 50-1 odds, came up a length short of the filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and now is the 2-1 morning-line favourite for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

From longshot to people’s choice, Mine That Bird has become one of racing’s most popular racehorses, topped only by the sensational filly who won’t be running the final leg of the Triple Crown.

When Woolley led Mine That Bird, who was co-bred by Toronto’s Peter Lamantia, off a van and toward his barn at Belmont Park the other day, there were about 50 media members there to record every step.

“This is a lot different than when we arrived at Churchill Downs,” Woolley said. “Nobody even came to see me for the first week.”

Two days before Mine That Bird tries to win the 11/2-mile Belmont and make Calvin Borel the first jockey to win the Triple Crown on different horses, Woolley was asked if he ever thought he’d be in the national spotlight after a 25 years of training horses.

“It absolutely never crossed my mind,” he said Thursday. “It was a major surprise.”

Starting with the Derby.

Mine That Bird came into the race 0-for-2 at Sunland Park in New Mexico after earning the two-year-old championship in Canada, then finishing 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

A son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone, Mine That Bird was dismissed as the 17th choice in the 19-horse Derby field. Even Tom Durkin, who called the race on national television, was late in spotting him along the rail.

“The only person more surprised than me winning the Derby seemed to be you,” Woolley told Durkin at Wednesday’s post-position draw. Durkin took the ribbing in stride, replying “There are many times I wish I’d seen that race.”

Just Posted

Fire investigators comb through industrial fire wreckage looking for answers

Industrial building in north Red Deer was completely gutted in Wednesday morning fire

Time for a central Albertan in cabinet, says chamber of commerce

Central Alberta had no cabinet ministers in last government

Trump Russia probe finally delivers some answers

WASHINGTON — After nearly two years of waiting, America is getting some… Continue reading

Trans Mountain Pipeline deadline extended

OTTAWA — The federal government is delaying a decision on the Trans… Continue reading

WATCH video of Innisfail resident creating the world’s biggest caricature

Watch as Innisfail resident Dean Foster creates the world’s biggest caricature of… Continue reading

CRA’s automatic benefit registrations give retirees reason to file on time

TORONTO — This is the time of year when procrastinators begin to… Continue reading

Study: Genetic test predicts middle-aged obesity risk

NEW YORK — Can a genetic test identify newborns at risk of… Continue reading

Downtown Red Deer Co-op Plaza Food store closing

Central Alberta Co-op is closing its downtown Red Deer Plaza food store… Continue reading

Earth, meet Polo: Ralph Lauren unveils plastic bottle shirt

NEW YORK — Earth, meet Polo. Polo Ralph Lauren on Thursday launched… Continue reading

Statistics Canada reports retail sales rose 0.8 per cent in February

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.8 per cent in… Continue reading

Inflation rises 1.9% on higher prices for fresh vegetables, mortgage costs

OTTAWA — Canada’s annual inflation was up last month as price pressures… Continue reading

Netflix adds 9.6M subscribers in 1Q as competition heats up

SAN FRANCISCO — Netflix kicked off the year with the biggest subscriber… Continue reading

Liberals find anti-Trudeau sentiment on campaign trail in Prince Edward Island

OTTAWA — When voters in Prince Edward Island go to the polls… Continue reading

Most Read