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In Which We Counsel Patience

More often than not, once the Kentucky Derby result is in the books, it seems obvious in retrospect. Who was going to beat Big Brown? Street Sense was naturally going to win that day, and Barbaro was most assuredly the class of the field.

Sometimes, however, it’s a trickier business. Giacomo? Where did he come from? Charismatic went off as a longshot and I have yet to meet anyone who predicted Lil E. Tee would take the roses. This year fell into that more perplexing category with Mine That Bird flying by the rest of the field on the rail. It was vintage Calvin Borel, and while it was not a move he needed to make on the stunning Rachel Alexandra the day before in the Oaks, it was not unimpressive in its own right, nor was the winning time glacially slow (especially given the wet conditions). Mine That Bird’s margin of victory may not have been anything like Rachel Alexandra’s twenty-plus lengths, but it still stands as the second-largest in Derby history.

The difference with the longshot winners is that it’s much harder to place them in the racing firmament the instant they cross the Churchill Downs wire – hindsight may be 20/20, but it’s going to take a little longer this time to know when to start employing it. Will Mine That Bird take his place among previously-unheralded greats like Canonero II or fellow gelding Derby winner Exterminator? Perhaps he will fall into a middle category and be unfairly overlooked, like Charismatic – or there’s always the chance his victory was a fluke and he will be remembered with horses like Gallahadion or Dark Star, neither of whom ever won another major race.

As of now, we don’t know where he fits – and that makes the next few weeks very interesting indeed. Let’s enjoy watching the next chapter in racing history unfold.

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