Since winning the Kentucky Derby as a 50-1 long shot, Mine That Bird hasn’t caught a break. Having Zenyatta sail past him in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic yesterday with another one of his jockeys on her back must have been the icing on the cake.
Zenyatta, running on her home track at Santa Anita, was racing against boys for the first time — some of the best male horses in the world, including Mine and his brother, Belmont winner Summer Bird.
It was the longest race (1 ¼ miles) Zenyatta’s ever run, too. Her jockey was Mike Smith, who rode Mine in the Preakness when his Derby jockey, Calvin Borel, abandoned him to ride Rachel Alexandra, who beat him and crushed his Triple Crown dreams.
Walking to the gate, Mine was a dignified pro, but Zenyatta was, as usual, prancing and pawing for the crowd. Then she turned diva when they tried to load her.
But that was nothing compared to the fit Quality Road threw. He refused to be loaded, so they blindfolded him, which only made him madder. He scratched his legs bucking, so they scratched him from the race.
The scene rattled everybody, so the horses were all backed out, dismounted, and reloaded. The change in routine seemed to throw Zenyatta, and she was slow out of the gate, trailing the field with Mine, who probably experienced dreadful déjà vu when he saw his jockey riding Zenyatta.
With every other horse in front of her, Zenyatta regained her sense of purpose and flew in the final stretch to pass the lead horse, Gio Ponti, and win the race. The first female to win in its 26-year history. Her 14th straight victory, keeping her undefeated.
Summer Bird came in 4th. Mine That Bird came in 9th.
Maybe Mine never intended to win, but to show Calvin Borel what happens to fair-weather jockeys.
They’re saying Zenyatta will probably retire. She’ll never race Rachel Alexandra, who skipped the Breeders’. But that’s probably for the best. One of them would have to lose.
They’re also saying Zenyatta deserves to be Horse of the Year. I don’t go that far. Rachel beat the boys 3 times this year to Zenyatta’s one. If anything, they should share the honor.