A Tale of Two Canadian Kentucky Derby Winners
Northern Dancer won the 1964 Kentucky Derby, while Mine That Bird won the Run for the Roses in 2009, and the two have several things in common, like both winning the juvenile championship in Canada and having jockeys hop off in favor of riding other horses.
However, that is where the comparisons end.
Northern Dancer is a true Canadian bred, and won his first race at Fort Erie, and went on to win seven of his nine starts as a juvenile, and was honored with the Canadian Juvenile Championship.
Kentucky bred Mine That Bird was the champion two-year-old in Canada in 2008 with a record of four wins in six starts as a juvenile, winning three stakes at Woodbine including the Grey Stakes (G3).
After winning that race he was sold for $400,000 to Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine, and landed in the barn of Richard Mandella.
His first start for the connections was a 12th place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), snapping a four race win streak.
At three Northern Dancer became a Kentucky Derby contender after wins in the Flamingo (G1) and Florida Derby (G1) under jockey Bill Shoemaker.
His next start was the Blue Grass, and with Shoemaker opting for Hill Rise as his Derby horse, Bill Hartack picked up the mount on Northern Dancer.
The colt won the Blue Grass and ran one of the fastest Kentucky Derby’s on record, winning over Hill Rise.
Mine That Bird started off his three-year-old campaign with a new trainer in Chip Woolley, and the gelding checked in second in the Borderland Derby followed by a fourth place finish in the Sunland Derby.
With his Grey Stakes win as a two-year-old, the gelding had enough graded earnings to start in the Run for the Roses, and Woolley vanned the gelding 21 hours to Louisville.
Woolley picked up Calvin Borel to ride, and the jockey had won the 2007 Derby aboard Street Sense. The veteran jockey dubbed “Bo-Rail” gave one of his patented rail skimming rides, and the 50/1 longshot pulled off the huge upset.
Northern Dancer went on to win the Preakness and run third in the Belmont Stakes, then went back to Canada to win the Queen’s Plate by 7 ½ lengths , and he was named North America's champion three-year-old colt of 1964, and Canadian Horse of the Year.
Mine That Bird finished second in the Preakness, with Calvin Borel giving up the mount on Mine That Bird to ride Rachel Alexandra, which proved to be the right move.
After a third in the Belmont Stakes, the gelding went on to lose his next three starts to close out his three-year-old campaign.
He landed with hall of fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas for his four-year-old season, but was winless in four starts, and was retired.
Northern Dancer went on to be one of the most influential sires of all time, and in the 80’s was demanding a stud fee of an unheard of $1 million.
Mine That Bird, since he is a gelding, has no stud career and is living out his retirement in Roswell, New Mexico.
There is a children’s book and a movie in the works, but the gelding hardly had the influence of the great Northern Dancer.
Unless of course you cashed a Derby bet on the gelding.