11/01/2009 4:58PM

The Derby and the Classic


It has been 19 years since Unbridled became the last Kentucky Derby winner to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, and nobody seems to think that his great-grandson Mine That Bird has much of a chance to end that drought. Yet something keeps stopping my hand from drawing a big red X through his name.


The first four Derby winners who tried the Classic all won it: Ferdinand as a 4-year-old in 1987, beating Alysheba, who returned to win it the next year, then Sunday Silence and Unbridled as 3-year-olds in 1989 and 1990. Since then, Derby winners are 0 for 11 in the Classic, with Silver Charm's second as a 4-year-old in 1998 the best finish in those 11 tries:

Beyond the discouraging historical record, the case against Mine That Bird goes something like this: He's 1 for 7 this year, his lone victory coming in a pace-collapsed Derby on a sloppy track; his two starts since the Triple Crown, a bad third in the West Virginia Derby and a flat sixth in the Goodwood, suggest he might be off form; his two attempts over Santa Anita Pro-Ride have been the worst placings of his career -- the 6th in the Goodwood and a 12th in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

The more optimistic view is that he needed his last start off a 10-week layoff and is poised to improve; that his career before the Derby is irrelevant because that was the race where he blossomed and turned into a different horse when allowed to make one run from far back; and that his three strong efforts in the Triple Crown mark him as a horse of quality in a Classic where no one is that much faster. (From a speed-figure viewpoint, his Beyers of 105 and 106 in the Derby and Preakness, as a May 3-year-old, put him in the mix to run the 107-to-110 that may well be good enough to win this Classic.)

He has been likened to Giacomo, another 50-1 Derby winner who never won another important race, but I think that's unfair to him: All three of his Triple Crown efforts were better than Giacomo's. Even if you dismiss the Derby itself, his second to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness was an excellent effort, and who knows what would have happened in the Belmont if his rider hadn't moved way too soon.

In a race where the three favorites (Zenyatta, Rip Van Winkle and Summer Bird) are a mare who despite all her virtues is coming off two slow victories, and two colts who have never raced on a synthetic track, it may pay to go longshot-hunting. Mine That Bird is unlikely, but not impossible.  

hugs More than 1 year ago
hey steve im just a regular guy who got into horses about 10 yrs ago and being a basesall fan[my father pitched for the brooklyn dodgers]i have real high standards for the "hall of fame".it just seems racing people give younger horses the easy route. sea of stars 3 yr old retired another "greatest horse ever".all im saying is lets let them prove it over a matter of time. iknow the breeding money is the be all end all so lets take into account the success they have there into our hall of fame talk if they retire young..
ljk More than 1 year ago
Actually MTB's PPs between the Derby and BC Classic look very similar to Unbridled. Neither won a stakes in between and their preps were "not good - not bad". Having said that, I agree that Matt, mlnj and I should keep Gio Ponti our little secret.
Robert Slifer More than 1 year ago
I agree with a lot of the post here you will have to go deep in the classic due to many unknown factors I agree with Dan above that just like last year I think prices will be had all day long. MTB ran aweful last time on the poly and I believe in this spot he is a pitch I also agree that Summer Bird is a pitch too but in pick3's and pick 4's I may have to use him he reminds way to much of LAWYER RON who was a summer freak at Saratoga and Belmont and then ran a race in the breeders cup that was perplexing. I'm taking a stand on the filly she won't be on any of my tickets except maybe a savor RVW makes sence gio pointe makes sence throw out last race in bogg and Richards Kids and Eistein. I think the worst favorite of the day will be Zensational if he can run all out from the pole to the finish and win I will tip my cap and move on. good luck everybody.
rhoward More than 1 year ago
In response to C says: If it was up to me, i would never have a BC on the east coast, unless BC was held during early September. I would also consider running the BC over in Europe. Running in Mud doesnt prove anything. Just look at a couple of Rachel's wins.
C More than 1 year ago
ray flack, I think what people mean is that they are not dirt races. rhoward, I've asked this question several times on different forums and have not received a single answer yet. If 2007 was at Belmont (also a bog), would you be proposing to never return to Belmont again? If so, should we never hold the Cup in the East again? To me, that's what you're saying, because the entire east coast was under water that weekend.
brian n More than 1 year ago
I'm with you Steve. Not really sure why MTB is getting trashed so much for his Goodwood. He closed from way out of it to finish sixth while beaten less than 4 lengths in a race he needed over a track he had not been on since last November all at a distance short of his best. Isn't that the definition of a perfect prep? Factor in all the uncertainty about this Classic and MTB at a nice number doesn't seem all that bad. You've got the Euro-miler Rip Van Wrinkle, who will go favored because Raven's Pass won last year taking a similar route? What does one have to do with the other? Then Summer Bird will take money, but he's never run on synthetic and done all his best work over sloppy race tracks. That won't be the case on Saturday. And finally Zenyatta, who i love to death, but let's face it, she'll have to run the race of her life all at an unknown distance to factor. At least with MTB you know he'll get the trip, will be flying late and has run well over the track...and will be anywhere from three to 10 times the prices of the three favorites.
angelo More than 1 year ago
I have the same wierd feeling about MTB. Originally he was my first throwout, but for some odd reason I can't comprehend, I'm having trouble putting a line through him. When it comes down to it, I'm going to make him beat me. With RVW & Zenyatta being overbet, I'm thinking Twice Over & Gio Ponti might offer some value. Yanks sweep...are they playing the 1st game over?
Keith - Triple Dead Heat More than 1 year ago
I can't imagine anyone playing the exotics will leave any of the euros off the ticket. Once bitten, twice shy. As for MTB, that Oct 26th work looks pretty sharp!
John S. More than 1 year ago
Mine That Bird had not raced for two months after a strenuous and superb TC campaign when he went into the briar patch at Mountaineer. Let's just remember: It was Mountaineer. The race should be forgiven. After that came the epiglottis ordeal at Saratoga and the will-he/won't-he run messiness. None of it helped the horse. The Goodwood, then, was critical to getting much-needed fresh conditioning in and to consider his long-term chances. The demoralizing winner of that race, a third-rate Euro invader, led to the quick, easy-off conclusion: That batch of American horses is awful and can be dismissed as serious competitors for the top prize. But Mine that Bird deserves exemption. Since it was only his second start in four months, he ran a pretty decent number. He clearly is not off form, but, rather, rounding into form. Handicappers find it easy to call his Derby a fluke, but no one at Pimlico with a good vantage point on the third Saturday in May would call his charge at Rachel Alexandria anything but electrifying. If she is the consensus horse of the year, no matter what Summer Bird does in the Classic -- and many respected voices say that is the case -- than we must consider Mine that Bird a length behind her on their best days. On a track that favors closing punch, Mine that Bird, off his Goodwood, must be considered a threat to go forward, and if the Euros are not as advertised -- and the U.S. perception of their form is based largely on the success of their forbearers in the 2008 Classic -- Mine that Bird must be considered at ANOTHER generous price.
HorseRun More than 1 year ago
oh great another Breeders Cup on Polycrap is finally upon on us, so we can all see how great the Europeans 3rd String horses are....cant wait