Derby runner-up trainer Baffert: 'I thought I had it'
The winner: 50-1 shot Mine That Bird pulls upset | Dream becomes reality
By Jessie Halladay, USA TODAY - 5/4/2009
LOUISVILLE — For a moment Pioneerof the Nile had the lead in the
Kentucky Derby and trainer Bob Baffert thought he was watching his
fourth successful Run for the Roses.
"I thought I had it," he said Saturday as he stood in the paddock at
Churchill Downs after the race.
But with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go, 50-1 long shot Mine
That Bird, ridden by Calvin Borel, came flying along the rail to grab
the win and shock racing fans.
Baffert, recently voted into the Racing Hall of Fame, was emotional
after watching the horse he thought would be wearing a blanket of
roses come in second.
"I had it snatched away from me," Baffert said. "I had No. 4 snatched
right from in front of my eyes. I still can't believe it. Turning for
home, I really thought I had a winner. My horse ran awesome. I'm just
Pioneerof the Nile was making his first start on a dirt track, having
trained in California and run all his previous races on synthetic
With heavy rains overnight Friday, the track never dried out, leaving
it sloppy at post time. Baffert said he was pleased with how his horse
handled the track. "I knew he would be fine," he said. "Good horses
run good on both surfaces, and he ran great. He's a very good horse."
Jockey Garrett Gomez said the dirt was not a factor in the horse's performance.
"He ran really good," Gomez said. "He was able to leave the gate good,
get me in really good position."
Gomez said he saw a flash on the rail but Pioneerof the Nile never let
up as he was heading toward the finish. "Two weeks from now we have
the Preakness," Gomez said, though Baffert did not discuss the next
Gomez said he hasn't had as nice a trip as this in the Derby. "When I
turned for home, I thought I was going to win my first Derby," he
For Baffert, it would have been his fourth, having won with Silver
Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002.
But the rise of Mine That Bird along the rail, where Borel likes to
be, left Baffert shocked. "I looked at my wife (Jill) and said, 'Who
is that?' " Baffert said. "I just kept thinking, 'How did he get
through on the rail?' Honestly, I just couldn't believe it."
But he praised Mine That Bird's trainer, Bennie Woolley Jr., and the
owners, all from New Mexico.
"Those cowboys, they came with a good horse," Baffert said.
Jessie Halladay also writes for The (Louisville) Courier Journal