Movie News & Reviews

Story of 2009 Derby winner Mine That Bird becomes a movie

Skeet Ulrich plays Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley in 50 to 1. The then-little-known gelding won the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
Skeet Ulrich plays Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley in 50 to 1. The then-little-known gelding won the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

Mine That Bird was just about the most unlikely of Kentucky Derby winners. After a solid start as a 2-year-old in Canada, the son of Birdstone barely qualified for the 2009 Derby. But trainer Chip Woolley, who had a broken foot at the time, drove the gelding 21 hours from New Mexico to get him to Churchill Downs, where he went off as a 50-to-1 long shot and upset Pioneer of the Nile.

Now Mine That Bird's story is on the big screen in 50 to 1, a long shot of a movie. Academy award-winning producer Jim Wilson loved the story but couldn't sell Hollywood on a horse racing movie. So Wilson made it himself, raising $8.5 million to make the film starring Skeet Ulrich as Woolley and Christian Kane as Mark Allen, Mine That Bird's owner. Jockey Calvin Borel, who guided Mine That Bird along the rail to victory, appears as himself. The movie also stars William Devane, Todd Lowe and Madelyn Deutch.

To market the independent film, Wilson has been traveling from New Mexico to Kentucky in a bus emblazoned with movie poster graphics and doing appearances with the film's stars and Mine That Bird, often at racetracks.

This week, the campaign rolled into Kentucky, with an appearance at Churchill Downs' Derby Museum in Louisville on Thursday.

On Friday, the film opens in Lexington, and Wilson, Ulrich, Lowe, writer Faith Conroy, Mine That Bird, Allen and co- owner Leonard "Doc" Blach, will be at Keeneland to greet fans. Mine That Bird, now 8, will parade in the Paddock.

Then, it is back to where the story began: Mine That Bird, who lives on Blach's farm in New Mexico, will be at the Derby Museum's garden through May 10.

After winning the Derby, Mine That Bird finished second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont. But he wasn't able to win again. In November 2010, the horse was retired from racing after earning more than $2.2 million.

As for the movie, numbers in the few cities where it has been released have been good, and Wilson told The Wall Street Journal that "if the numbers are good, we will open nationwide."

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