LOUISVILLE - The biggest race in the Bluegrass State turned Canadian red this evening in a Kentucky Derby shocker.
Mine That Bird, the second longest shot on the board, stunned a field of 19 three-year-olds in the opening jewel of the U.S. Triple Crown, charging through the mud of the Churchill Downs stretch.
A Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top two-year-old, won three stakes races at Woodbine last summer when he was trained and owned by Mississauga’s Dave Cotey.
A gelding that cost a mere $9,500 U.S., is now the winner of America’s biggest race, capturing first price from the $2.2 million purse in front of a stunned crowd at the famed track.
Pioneer of the Nile, who was won of the favourites won the distant battle for second five lengths behind the winner while Musket Man took third.
The 135th edition of the Derby was far from the prettiest thanks to a track listed as sloppy after getting pelted by the rains that soaked Louisville all week.
The field was reduced to 19 horses early yesterday in dramatic fashion when the morning-line favourite, I Want Revenge, pulled out of the race.
“When we got to the barn this morning, we did a routine check of his legs,” trainer Jeff Mullins said. “We detected a trace of heat and a little pressure in the left front ankle. We jogged him twice up and down the asphalt to check for soundness, and he jogged pretty well but we could tell he wasn’t a hundred percent.”
I Want Revenge’s scratch was the latest in a rough week for the favourites. Quality Road, who was expected to be the favourite, was scratched due to a quarter crack in his ankle. Another horse to fall by the wayside was Canadian-bred Square Eddie, who was withdrawn on Tuesday after his troublesome shins acted up again.
With the scratch of I Want Revenge, Friesen Fire inherited the favourite’s role by default, going off at 7-2.
The winner is now based in New Mexico where he is trained by Bennie (Chip) Woolley, who was making his first Kentucky Derby start. Cotey sold Mine That Bird for $400,000 US.
“Everybody around me did a great job,” Woolley said. “We were just lucky to get here.
“They’ll know me now won’t they.”
For his stunning piece of work, Mine That Bird paid a shocking $103.20 to win, making him the second highest priced winner in the Derby’s 135-year history.
Wolley a former rodeo rider turned thoroughbred trainer, paid credit to Cotey in the Churchill Downs winner's circle.
“A guy named Dave Cotey in Canada is the guy who really qualified this horse to be here,” Wolley said. “He deserves a lot of the credit and deserves to be here.”
Cotey watched the race at Woodbine with friends and was understandably ecstatic.
“I am so happy for him,” Cotey said. “I’m ecstatic. I’d love to be down there to give him a big kiss.”
Mine That Bird became the second Canadian champion to win the Derby, joining Sunny's Halo (1983).