During his four-year racing career Mine That Bird won five races, four at Woodbine, the other in a monumental upset in the 2009 Kentucky Derby at Louisville’s Churchill Downs. He went off at odds of 50-to-1 and galloped from 19th place to win going away, winning by six lengths and paying $103.20, the second largest payoff in Derby history. He was just the second gelding to win the Derby since 1929. The other one was Funny Cide in 2003.
Bred in Kentucky by Toronto’s Peter Lamantia and partners Jim Blackburn of Chicago, and Kentucky horsemen Phil Needham and Bill Betz, Mine That Bird’s Canadian connections trace back to Northern Dancer on both the male and female lines of his pedigree. And like the grandsire of Mine That Bird’s dam, Mining My Own, the bay gelding had not celebrated his real birthday before the Derby. Both the Dancer and Mine That Bird were late May foals. The gelding was viewed as being a little small, with a crooked leg and was withdrawn from the Keeneland September yearling sales. “He was small because of his May birth date and we figured it might help if we sold him later,” said Needham.
The following month he went through the sales ring at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October mixed sale and was bought for $9,500 by Woodbine-based trainer Dave Cotey on behalf of Dominion Bloodstock owners Derek Ball and Hugh Galbraith. Another Canadian connection was the gelding’s dam, Mining My Own, a daughter of Sam-Son Farm’s champion sire Smart Strike. The acquisition of Mine That Bird, a son of Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, was profitable for his owners. At Woodbine he won the Swynford, Silver Deputy and Grey Stakes and was named Canada’s champion male two-year-old in 2008. He earned $324,000 as a juvenile and was sold to New Mexico owners, Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine for a reported $400,000. His new owners aspired to run him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for trainer Richard Mandella. But a demanding 59.2 five-furlong workout prior to the Juvenile hampered his chances and he finished 12th. He was transferred to New Mexico to begin his sophomore campaign for trainer Chip Woolley Jr.
He was second in the Borderland Derby in New Mexico before Woodley vanned him 1,450 miles to Kentucky. The graded-stakes earnings from his win in the Grey Stakes at Woodbine earned him a place in the starting gate at Churchill Downs. Its track was rated as “sloppy” after an overnight rain and Mine That Bird, ridden by Calvin Borel, had trouble out of the starting gate and was left about eight lengths behind the rest of the 18 starters. His gallant trip from 19th place escaped the attention of NBC announcer Tom Durkin as the field sped down the backstretch. Borel, using his ground-saving, rail-skimming riding technique, made up 21 lengths, moving into contention at the turn for home. Durkin, focusing on the leaders, didn’t see Borel steering his mount past tiring horses along the rail until he was three lengths in the lead, pulling away with each stride.
Borel selected the great filly Rachel Alexandra for the Preakness, defeating Mine That Bird and jockey Mike Smith by a length. He closed rapidly in the stretch but the finish line came before he could catch her. Borel was back on the gelding in the Belmont but was third. Later that year the bay gelding was third in the West Virginia Derby and was New Mexico’s Horse of the Year. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas trained Mine That Bird in 2010, but was unplaced in four races before being retired with earnings of $2,228,637 from 18 career starts.
Lamantia was from a horse racing family. Born in 1943, he was a graduate of Notre Dame University and was a running back for the school’s 1966 championship football team. His family was prominent in the wholesale produce business and horse racing. During the 1930s and ‘40s, his dad and uncles raced an outfit called Four L’s Stable. Twice it had starters in the Queen’s Plate, finishing second at odds of 80-to-1 in 1952 with Genthorn and second in 1958 with White Apache to Caledon Beau.
Lamantia now owns a stable of 12 broodmares for the commercial market. Some of his stakes winners over the years include Nurso, Aspenelle, Little To Do, Bouncing Brave and Sweet Briar Too, the dam of Hall of Fame great Langfuhr.