11/08/2010 10:53AM

Derby winner Mine That Bird retired

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel upset the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Mine That Bird has been retired after losing for the ninth straight time since he stunned the racing world by capturing the 2009 Kentucky Derby at 50-1, co-owner Leonard Blach said Monday from his Buena Suerta Equine clinic in New Mexico.

“We don’t want to hurt him or disgrace him anymore,” said Blach, who owns Mine That Bird with his neighbor, Mark Allen of Double Eagle Ranch. “He’ll live out his days here at Double Eagle. We’ve got a special paddock and shed for him.”

A 4-year-old gelding, Mine That Bird finished 10th of 12 starters Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs, marking the fourth straight race in which he finished fifth or worse since Blach and Allen turned him over to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in May.

Mine That Bird, ridden by Calvin Borel, pulled off one of the most dramatic upsets in Derby history at Churchill on May 2, 2009, when he drove through a narrow rail opening in the slop and drew off to win by 6 3/4 lengths, the largest win margin in the Derby in more than 60 years. He became just the second gelding, following Funny Cide in 2003, to win the Derby since 1929, and his 50.60-1 odds were the second highest for a Derby winner behind Donerail, the 91-1 winner in 1913.

Chip Woolley was the trainer of Mine That Bird throughout his 3-year-old campaign, which also included a runner-up finish to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. Woolley, with his trademark cowboy hat and the crutches he used because of a motorcycle accident, became something of a national folk hero as the previously unknown trainer of an unlikely Derby winner.

"I kind of hate to see him retire, with him still being sound and healthy," said Woolley. "I sure would’ve liked to have had the horse back and to prep him myself, but there wasn’t much I could do about that.

"He definitely brought a lot of things to my life, for sure. I’m very proud to have had the opportunity and to have gotten done what we did. He brought me a lot of friends and things in the industry that I probably would’ve never had. I love him I always will."

After the 2009 Triple Crown, Mine That Bird ended his 3-year-old season with losses in the West Virginia Derby, the Goodwood Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was turned out for a few months in New Mexico before Blach and Allen announced they were giving him to Lukas to train at Churchill.

Blach, an equine veterinarian, said he and Allen “were pulling our hair out trying to figure why the horse wasn’t running.”

“He just doesn’t have that kick anymore, for whatever reason,” Blach said. “He’s sound, and we’ve never had to so much as inject one joint. He’s done what he’s needed to do, so before he gets hurt, we just thought it was time to go on and bring him home.”

Blach said he and Allen are sending their own van from New Mexico to have Mine That Bird picked up at Churchill this week.

Lukas said he wished Mine That Bird had panned out “because you see these studs and fillies retired as soon as they do something big, and with a gelding you can usually have them forever.”

“But as good as I thought I had him physically, I just couldn’t get him to come around mentally,” he said.

Mine That Bird becomes the second Derby winner to retire in recent weeks, following the 2010 winner, Super Saver, who also failed to win a race after his Derby triumph.

Mine That Bird, by Birdstone out of Mining My Own, by Smart Strike, was bred in Kentucky by Lamantia, Blackburn and Needham/Betz Throughbreds. In all, he won 5 of 18 starts and earned $2,228,637. He won four times at 2 when trained by David Cotey, and was voted a Sovereign Award as the top juvenile male in Canada in 2008. Blach and Allen bought him privately in the fall of 2008 for a reported $400,000.