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Borel & Mine That Bird moon horseracing

Calvin Borel rides MINE THAT BIRD from last place to first at the 2009 Kentucky DerbyTo watch the replay of Calvin Borel’s ride at Churchill Downs is more captivating than it was live. Even anticipating the 50 to 1 upset, Mine That Bird‘s final stretch weave from last place to first looks like an athletic feat for Maradona.

It happened so fast, Mine That Bird was mentioned only once before the end of the race, even then it was almost an omission. Borel was so far behind, laying back after getting squeezed coming out of the gate by Papa Clem and Join In the Dance, that the broadcast announcer missed him entirely, declaring that “the last of them all is Mr. Hot Stuff.” Midway through his next phrase he corrects himself to add that “–well behind the rest of them is Mine That Bird.”

From that point, Mine That Bird’s wild ride is ignored even beyond his breakthrough into the lead. As Borel bursts into contention along the inside rail, the announcer erupts “Pioneer of the Nile!” by mistake, or if even because he was looking elsewhere. It isn’t until Borel pulls to a several length lead that Mine That Bird gets a credit. Such was the upset.

Seen from the aerial view, the finish was not a surprise at all. Accelerating into the last turn, Borel and Mine That Bird wove between the others like they were plotting the shortest line between points. The speed differential reminded me of a Grand Prix racer when he’s passing the cars he’s already lapped. As the improbable pair began gaining, their momentum seemed all but irresistible. Watching the replay, you can see Borel’s attack, and marvel that it escaped the attention of all the professionals who usually weigh in so liberally with effusive expertise.

Horse racing is a legitimization of eugenics, meaning that when there is money on the line, genetic supremacy is hard science. That is perhaps what is so invigorating about the Churchill Downs upset. Calvin Borel, the physical personification of a toothless street-corner imbecile, and Mine That Bird, a horse sold for a price less than your average Paint, trained outside the gated enclaves of Kentucky.

RACE RESULT with ENTRY NUMBERS:
1. Mine That Bird #8
2. Pioneer of the Nile #16
3. Musket Man #2
4. Papa Clem #7
5. Chocolate Candy #11
6. Summer Bird #17
7. Join in the Dance #9
8. Regal Ransom #10
9. West Side Bernie #1
10. General Quarters #12
11. Dunkirk #15
12. Hold Me Back #5
13. Advice #4
14. Desert Party #19
15. Mr. Hot Stuff #3
16. Atomic Rain #14
17. Nowhere to Hide #18
18. Friesan Fire #6
19. Flying Private #20

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