Home Sports Local Sports Mine That Bird goes into Ruidoso Hall of Fame

Mine That Bird goes into Ruidoso Hall of Fame

In this May 2, 2009, file photo, Calvin Borel rides Mine That Bird to a victory in the 135th Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (AP File Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

May 2, 2009, Tom Durkin is the NBC horse race announcer for the 2009 Kentucky Derby, where Roswell’s Mine That Bird, a 50-1 longshot, wins the race using the rail to bolt past the field.

A picture of Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby champion. (J.T. Keith File Photo)

Durkin — until the final 1/8 pole on the stretch run — appeared to lose sight of Mine That Bird’s dramatic move around the far turn. But so did the other thousands at Churchill Downs and the millions watching at home that day.

Here is Durkin’s call: “Down toward the inside coming on through … that is Mine That Bird, has come on to take the lead, he comes to the finish, and in a spectacular, spectacular upset, Mine That Bird has won the Kentucky Derby.”

“He was as surprised like everyone else,” said Dr. Leonard Blach, one of the co-owners of Mine That Bird. “Someone had to tell him, it’s Mine That Bird.”

Blach and Mark Allen, the other co-owner of the horse, were inducted in the Ruidoso Downs Racing Hall of Fame with Mine That Bird on Friday night.

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“Mark and I (Doc) were in the horseman’s area watching the race, and to be honest, I never saw our horse cross the finish line,” Blach recalls.

Blach does remember when they bought the horse for about $400,000. “We wanted to race him in the southwest part of the country, which had some large purses,” said Blach. It turned out those top-grade races and Mine That Bird’s top finishes qualified the horse for the Kentucky Derby.

“I knew several people who traveled to Ruidoso to wager on the horse there at the downs. What was amusing was that some of them got carried away and bet a little more on him than they should have. When they won, there wasn’t enough money at the parlor to pay out, so they had to come back Monday to collect,” Blach chuckled.

Mine That Bird’s feat was so rare and remarkable that Hollywood came a calling. After all, the horse won the Derby by more than six lengths, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in more than 60 years, and only once before had another horse won as a 50-1 longshot.

The story was too good not to tell. Movie producer Jim Wilson — who with actor/producer Kevin Costner won the Academy Award for best film for “Dances with Wolves in 1991 — made a film about it, “50-1.” Blach was portrayed by William Devane, who starred in the long-running primetime soap opera Knots Landing.

“Before we started shooting the movie, we got together with the actors who were going to portray us. I met with William a few times and he got to know who I was,” said Blach.

In the 10 years since this remarkable life experience, not much has changed in the lives surrounding Mine That Bird. Allen continues to work on his horse farm.

“I am retired now,” said Blach. “But I am itching to get back in the game. We kind of fell back to what we were doing before. It maybe changed our spirits. We got to know a lot of people we weren’t acquainted with before. It never went to our heads.”

Mine That Bird also has settled into a chilled life. But when the horse is roaming in the pasture and observes other racehorses training, he’ll get excited, his ears will perk. “These championship horses, they know what’s going on, they know when it’s game time,” Blach added. “To calm him down, we teamed him with a little Shetland named Winston.

“It’s sort of a companion that keeps him quiet and calm.”

Mind That Bird also is very aware of his celebrity. “When people drop in to visit, he knows he’s in for a treat. He loves the mints that are fed to him,” said Blach.

Mine That Bird will be at the east end of the Ruidoso grandstand on Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m., then he will be paraded on the racetrack between the fifth and sixth races. There will be a showing of the film “50-1” at 7 p.m., in the Turf Club.

As for Blach and Allen, they will be there today. Jockey Calvin Borel could not make it because of a previous commitment.

“I guarantee you he would be here if he could,” said Blach.

As the evening wore down at Ruidoso Downs, Blach felt like God had smiled on the “Cowboys” referring to trainer, co-owner, Mark Allen and trainer, Chip Wooley.

“Mine That Bird really put New Mexico on the map,” Blach said. “To be honored with an induction here in Ruidoso is just fantastic, there aren’t too many thoroughbreds here, to be enshrined among some of the greatest 2-year-olds is an honor.”

New Mexico is proud of Mine That Bird, and the thrills he gave all the New Mexicans 10 years ago, and the fans showed up tonight to welcome into the Ruidoso Hall of Fame.

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