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50-1 shot wins Kentucky Derby, shakes up sports books

4 May 2009

Las Vegas Sun

CHURCHHILL DOWNS -- Mine That Bird dug up a miracle, stunning the field to win the Kentucky Derby with a dynamic stretch run through the mud Saturday at Churchill Downs.

The 3-year-old gelding and jockey Calvin Borel found room along the rail deep in the stretch then pulled away for a 6 3/4-length win to give the 50-1 long shot one of the biggest upsets in the 135-year history of the race.

It was the largest margin of victory in the Derby since Assault won by eight lengths in 1946. Barbaro won in 2006 by 6 1/2 lengths.

The win also surprised those watching the race at Las Vegas sports books. MGM Grand Race and Sports Book Director Jay Rood said winners were few and far between.

"I heard this during the broadcast, and it is a lot like 'Casey's Shadow.' This is a horse that can't even win down in New Mexico and comes out and wins the Derby," said Rood, who got his start in Vegas as a ticket-taker when the MGM opened in 1992. "It's the biggest upset I've seen. We had a good steady handle all day, but a lot of people did leave right after (the Derby)."

Rood said few people stuck around with winning Derby tickets to try to roll those winnings into something bigger.

At the Las Vegas Hilton, where about 2,000 visitors crammed the Superbook and Hilton Theater, executive director of race and sports Jay Kornegay said, "I can count the number of people with winning tickets on one hand. It just got really quiet in here. Losing tickets that are thrown on the floor don't make a sound."

Kornegay has been in the sports book business for more than 20 years, and he also said the derby upset was the biggest he'd seen.

"We had some people saying, 'Yeah, wait until the (drug) tests come back in two weeks. There's no way that horse can win!' It's not my feeling, but people were saying that. I'll tell you, anyone who won this race got the wrong ticket at the window."

The Derby win was the second in three years for Borel, who used a similar stretch run to send Street Sense to the winner's circle in 2007.

"Calvin did a super job," winning trainer Chip Woolley said. "I just can't say enough about the way things went for us. Calvin picks a spot, every thing fell together. We were really lucky to get through there."

Mine That Bird joins Giacomo, who won in 2005, as one of the most unlikely victors in the Run for the Roses.

The son of Birdstone covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.66 and paid $103.20 to win — the second largest in Derby history behind Donerail ($184.90) in 1913.

Pioneerof the Nile held off Musket Man for second, but neither was a match for the unheralded horse from New Mexico, who became the ninth gelding to win the Derby and just the second in the last 80 years. Funny Cide won in 2003.

Friesan Fire, who became the favorite after I Want Revenge was scratched earlier in the day, finished 18th in the 19-horse field.

Borel thrust his right arm in triumph as he crossed the wire, and Woolley hobbled to hoist the trophy. The trainer from New Mexico broke his right leg in a motorcycle accident over the winter and drove his stable's star 21 hours to Churchill Downs.

"They'll know who I am now," Woolley said from underneath his massive black cowboy hat.

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