is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ride that Rail, Bird! Giddy. Up.

by Kim Thomas

Mine That Bird -- son of Birdstone (whose sire is Derby winner Grindstone -- ran the race of his life yesterday when he took over the 20 horse field of Kentucky Derby runners and impressed the crowd with nothing more than pure heart and a jockey with a smile that would humble the world.

(Photo of Mine that Bird courtesy of Photos by Z)

In the photo here, taken by Enzina Mastrippolito, aka Photos by Z, you can see the trainer Bennie "Chip" Woolley, Jr., in the background with his now-famous crutches at his side, watching the horse who would defy the oddsmakers and make history as the gelding who beat the colts.

During the week before
the Derby, Woolley had said he was optimistic about the Canadian champion gelding, saying “He does everything right, every time. He’s not a problem horse at all. He might stop and look at things, but other than that nothing bothers him. He just stands there and takes it all in.” Despite Woolley's cheerful outlook, the temptation was there by the media to tout I Want Revenge, who was suddenly withdrawn from the race on Derby day itself.

In my pre-Derby mention of Mine That Bird, I'm afraid that I, too, was guilty of giving the horse short shrift, and I am not going to say I'm eating crow today, but I do feel a little sheepish, since I only briefly mentioned that he would be the first Derby starter for Woolley as well as owners Mike Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach. He had won a Grade III race but had been unsuccessful of late, and it seemed he really had not yet made his mark on the racing world -- and he had not, not to anyone other than his owners, trainers and jockey, who had faith in him and guided him down the muddy path that led to the soft grass of the Churchill Downs winners circle.

The real story, however, of yesterday's 135th running of the Kentucky Derby is about a humble group of friends who stuck together and made their dream come true. Faith can carry the day, even it is over overcast, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Absent the customary 8-hours-in-the-Churchill-sunburn, the glow on everyone's face at the end of the day was due to joy and so it will last a lot longer. Most of life's wonderful moments come to us that way, though, don't they?

pray for peace, y'all,

P.S. - More to come re: Derby 2009 in this week's Ace Weekly.

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