05/04/2009 12:00AM

No longer involved, but still thrilled


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Dave Cotey and jockey Chantal Sutherland teamed up to win three consecutive stakes races here at Woodbine last year with Mine That Bird, who went on to be voted Canada's champion male 2-year-old by a wide margin. On Saturday, Cotey and Sutherland both were at Woodbine watching Mine That Bird pull off a stunning upset in the Kentucky Derby.

Cotey watched the Derby in Woodbine's second-floor Finish Line Bar, which is his base here on race days.

"I was ecstatic," said Cotey, who had purchased the Kentucky-bred Mine That Bird as a yearling for $9,500 and sold him to the Double Eagle Farm of Mark Allen and the Buena Suerte Equine operation of Leonard Blach for $400,000 last fall.

"When I sell a horse, I want them to make a million dollars if they can," said Cotey. "I don't want to be known as a guy who sold a lemon."

Sutherland viewed the Derby in the Woodbine jockeys' room, where a crew from Animal Planet was filming her reaction to good friend Mike Smith's performance aboard Chocolate Candy for the television show "Jockeys."

"I felt a shot of blood to my head," said Sutherland, who just had completed her best day of the Woodbine meeting with three wins from seven mounts. "It was exciting, but shocking.

"I thought of what could have been. It was so close, and yet so far."

Sutherland had ridden Mine That Bird in his first start for Allen and Blach, a 12th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last fall.

Sutherland, 32, and her agent recently had been communicating with Blach, and she believed she had a solid shot at getting the Derby mount slightly more than a week prior to entry day.

"I'd called Dr. Blach, and he said there was a good chance I'd be on him," said Sutherland.

In the end, of course, Mine Bird's connections opted to go with Calvin Borel.

Cotey has no regrets about selling the future Derby winner.

Under his nom du course Dominion Bloodstock, Cotey has been buying horses for some 25 years, retaining a 50 percent interest in the majority of his acquisitions with regular partners Derek Ball and Hugh Galbreath and occasional partner Gregg Peacock holding the balance.

Cotey long has been credited with having an eye for a bargain, with Mine That Bird being the apex of a long line of success stories which have included champion Lady Shari and stakes winners including Four on the Floor and Dance to My Tune.

"I don't like to buy cheap horses," said Cotey. "I like to buy nice horses, cheap. I try to keep them under $15,000."

Cotey has been active for years at the Kentucky sales and Mine That Bird caught his eye at the Fasig-Tipton venue in October 2007.

"I look for a horse with a nice walk who's well balanced," said Cotey. "He didn't seem to get too excited; he walked around like he owned the place."

Cotey also didn't mind Mine That Bird's pedigree. The gelding is a son of Belmont winner Birdstone with some interesting Canadian-related ancestry on the dam's side.

Mine That Bird's second dam, Aspenelle, had finished second in the 1993 Canadian Oaks for Peter Lamantia, who is a co-breeder of Mine That Bird.

Racing for the first time here last July 20, Mine That Bird showed little in a fifth-place finish but then won his maiden when dropped in for $62,500. From then on it was onward and upward as Mine That Bird won the 6 1/2-furlong Silver Deputy on Aug. 23, the seven-furlong Swynford on Sept. 14, and the 1 1/16-mile Grey on Oct. 5.

All the while, the interest of prospective purchasers had been building.

"After his first start I was getting calls asking if I would sell him," said Cotey. "After his second start, things picked up a bit, but I told people I wanted to run him in the Grey and then we could talk.

"He was for sale, if the price was right. There was nothing left for him here, and I wasn't going to take him to the Breeders' Cup. It would be too expensive, and he's a gelding - he could get hurt. If there was a time to sell him, that was it."

Trainer Chip Woolley, acting on behalf of Blach and Allen, flew into Woodbine to check out Mine That Bird, and he ended up buying him.

The $150,000 that Mine That Bird earned in the Grade 3 Grey wound up ensuring him a berth in the Derby and an unlikely journey to Churchill Downs.

"It's not like we're in it to sell horses," said Cotey. "We like racing them. We'll sell if the time is right, and the price is right."

Mine That Bird obviously fit that bill and Cotey estimates that the more than $300,000 Mine That Bird earned for him, plus his sale price, enabled him to acquire 35 sales yearlings plus a couple of 3-year-olds.

And, Cotey admits that he didn't add to his unofficial bottom line on Saturday.

"I didn't bet," said Cotey. "I didn't even celebrate with a drink; I'd had one earlier."