Kentucky Derby

Post-race number crunching

Random post-Kentucky Derby notes:

■ For those lucky few who cashed that $103.20 win ticket thanks to a $2 bet on Mine That Bird, you have a 2001 decision to thank.

That was the year Churchill Downs eliminated mutuel field wagering.

In the old days, or pre-video-board days, tracks had only so many places on the tote board to show the betting odds for horses in a particular race.

Thus, two or more of the long shots were grouped together into what was a field bet. If you bet on one horse in the mutuel field, you got all the horses in the mutuel field.

Because you received more than one horse for your one wager, many patrons annually jumped on the field bet for the Derby. You got more bang for your buck.

But it also drove down the prices for the longest shots on the board. In 2000, for example, the field went off at 20-1. In 1999, the field went off at 11-1, while winner Charismatic was a 31-1 shot that paid $64.60 to win.

The last field horse to win the Kentucky Derby was Canonero II in 1971. Not surprisingly, that's the same Derby winner veteran trainer Carl Nafzger compared surprise winner Mine That Bird to after this year's running. And, as part of six horses in the mutuel field in 1971, at odds of $8.70-to-1, Canonero II paid just $19.40 to win.

The guess here is that had there been field betting Saturday, Mine That Bird would have been included. Why, trainer Chip Woolley himself joked Sunday morning he was surprised his entry didn't go off at 100-1.

■ Since mutuel field betting was eliminated in 2001, a total of 29 horses have gone off at odds of 50-1 or greater in the Derby.

Four of those 29 have hit the board. At 55-1, Invisible Ink ran second in 2001. At 50-1, Giacomo won the 2005 Derby. And 71-1 shot Closing Argument finished second that same year. Now 50-1 shot Mine That Bird won this year.

Twenty of those 29 long shots finished no better than 10th. Twelve of those 20 finished no better than 15th.

■ Consider, too, that between Donerail's win in 1913, which paid $184.90 on a $2 bet, and Giacomo in 2005, only four Derby winners paid $50 or more.

They were Exterminator in 1918 ($61.20), Gallahadion in 1940 ($72.40), Dark Star in 1953 ($51.80), Proud Clarion in 1967 ($62.20).

We've now had two Derby winners in the past four years pay more than $100 to win.

■ Mine That Bird was the 17th betting choice, ahead of only Join in the Dance (51-1) and Atomic Rain (55-1). Starting with 2001, the 17th choice among the bettors has finished 10th, 18th, 13th, 18th, 14th, 19th and 15th. (Only 16 horses ran in 2003.)

■ Friesan Fire's 18th-place finish was the worst by the post-time favorite in the Derby since Total Departure, coupled in an entry with Marfa, finished 20th out of 20 in the 1983 Derby.

■ Mine That Bird's original selling price of $9,500 is the lowest amount at public auction for an eventual Derby winner since 1971 champion Canonero II, who sold for $1,200 as a yearling.

Of course, co-owners Leonard Blach and Mark Allen paid $400,000 last year for the Canadian 2-year-old champion, but the yearling price was quite the bargain.

Last year's Derby winner, Big Brown, sold for $60,000 at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton sales.

Sackatoga Stables paid $22,000 for 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide as a yearling. Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner, brought $17,500 as a yearling. Silver Charm, the 1997 Kentucky Derby winner, sold for $16,500. Dust Commander, who won the 1970 Derby for Robert E. Lehmann of Paris, sold for just $6,500. But that was way back in 1968.

■ Remember the talk last year that the Eight Belles tragedy would turn off potential racing viewers?

Without a compelling favorite or a dominating pre-race story, this year's Kentucky Derby drew its best TV ratings in 17 years. Go figure.