Westerners crash winner's circle 'Couple of buddies' realize a dream
By Marcus Green • courier-journal.com • May 3, 2009
Longtime friends and New Mexico horsemen Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard
Blach bought their first thoroughbred last September, with hopes of
racing him at the Derby.
The Lone Star Derby, that is.
But after realizing that their 3-year-old gelding, Mine That Bird, had
earned enough for a trip to the Kentucky Derby, they scrapped plans to
race in Texas and headed to Louisville instead.
Mine That Bird, a 50-1 long shot, fell behind early and trailed the
entire 19-horse field yesterday before making a red-hot comeback along
the inside rail to capture the garland of roses -- and installing
Allen and Blach as an unlikely duo of winning owners.
"It just shows what can be done with a couple of buddies who have a
good time together and want to go to the races and dream a little
bit," Blach said, his voice breaking. "Your dreams will come true."
Allen's Double Eagle Ranch and Blach's Buena Suerte Equine farm --
both based in Roswell, N.M. -- bought the horse for $400,000 from a
Canadian owner last fall.
Allen said the negotiations were fairly straightforward, no haggling:
"They wanted $400,000, and we paid it."
Mine That Bird's connections brought a distinctly Western flair to a
race whose winning owners have included thoroughbred racing's elite:
wealthy landowners, established Kentucky farm families and business
Allen's roots are at the racetrack. He said he began cleaning stalls
for family members in the horse business when he was 12. Over the
years, he has gradually expanded from owning quarter horses to
thoroughbreds. His Double Eagle Ranch has about 30 horses of both
breeds in training.
Blach, an equine veterinarian, said he also has been around horses his
entire life. After graduating from veterinary school in 1960, he spent
about a decade in general equine work before starting at Buena Suerte
-- Spanish for "good luck" -- in 1972. Today, he operates the farm.
Allen, 56, and Blach, 74, have joined to buy quarter horses before,
but Mine That Bird is their first thoroughbred together.
After winning the Derby, though, Blach said dryly: "We'll probably
have another venture after this one."
Mine That Bird is the first gelding to win the Derby since Funny Cide
in 2003, and Allen and Blach said they bought him knowing he wouldn't
have a breeding career when his racing days ended.
"We were looking for a racehorse, not a stallion," Allen said.
Allen and Blach decided to enter the Derby about a month ago, after
thinking it over for a bit.
Blach recalled that Allen telephoned him, and pointed out that his
father was 73, and, "you're my partner and you're 74 years old."
Blach said Allen then asked, "When do you think you two old guys will
ever make the Kentucky Derby again?"
Blach told Allen it would probably never happen.
"And he says, 'Let's go.' So I said, 'Let's go.' "