CSU, Derby winner
By Mike Chambers - The Denver Post - Posted: 05/05/2009
Mine That Bird wins Kentucky Derby One-time Hollywood actor Leonard
Blach, co-owner of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, now has a
story that rivals any on the big screen. Namely, how a no-chance horse
gets trucked to the Derby and pulls off one of the greatest upsets in
horse racing history.
"How this race went, it was good enough for a movie, a couple of
rednecks from New Mexico driving cross country to race in the Derby,"
said Blach, who was raised in Yuma and graduated from the veterinarian
school at Colorado State University.
At 50-1 odds, Mine That Bird's victory was the second-largest payout
in Derby history, and the highest since 1913.
"When we entered, we knew we didn't have much of a chance," Blach
said. "But, we qualified, at 18th, and we talked about going — because
it wasn't on our schedule — and although we cared about how we ran, we
knew the experience would be second to none."
Blach trains horses at his ranch in Roswell, N.M. He and his partner,
Mark Allen, said Monday that Mine That Bird would race in the May 16
Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, the second leg
of the Triple Crown.
Blach's cousin, Perry Blach of Yuma, was a CSU football star in the 1940s.
"Most of us still live here, and we got together for the race on
Saturday," Perry Blach said from Yuma in a phone interview. "I got
crossed up with my TV, and I missed it. But one of my boys taped it,
so I got to see it afterward. It was something else.
"The reporters never gave him a single chance to do anything, so I
suspect there are a few crow feathers laying around down there. It's
certainly a win of a lifetime."
The improbable story rivaled the script from "Casey's Shadow," a 1978
movie in which Leonard Blach played a New Mexico veterinarian who
delivered bad news about an ailing horse. Walter Matthau starred in
the movie about an impoverished Louisiana horse trainer and his three
sons, including 7-year-old Casey, raising a colt named Casey's Shadow
into a promising race horse.
Just before the family takes the colt to Ruidoso, N.M., to compete in
the prestigious All-American Futurity, his front leg is seriously
injured, jeopardizing a lucrative deal to sell him to an established
breeder. Blach's character recommends the horse should not race, but
Matthau's character goes against the doctor's wishes. Casey's Shadow —
surprise, surprise — wins the big race.
"I thought about that. It's kind of ironic," Leonard Blach said.
Now it's on to the Preakness for Mine That Bird. The rest of the Blach
family will be sure to tune in from Yuma.
"It was great to see him win. The whole family was surprised," said
Tom Blach, one of Perry Blach's three sons. "I was helping my
brother-in-law work on the deck at his house, and we shut the project
down to watch the Derby, and then again 15 times after that.
"I can't believe I knew somebody in the Derby, much less win it."