Sunday, May 3, 2009

It’s a horse race… You never know who’s gonna win, but someone should have been minding that bird!

Okay – so my pick for the Kentucky Derby wasn’t the winner - but if my pick, General Quarters, was to lose, I couldn't be happier for who won. I was rooting for General Quarters because I love the story and I always love the underdog.

Or underhorse.

General Quarters is owned and trained by Thomas McCarthy, a retired teacher and high school principal who has spent his entire life dreaming of having a horse in the Kentucky Derby. His passion has always been horses, so to keep it alive he’s always had a horse or two on the side during his 30+ year career in education. At 75 his life-long dream was finally realized…. It's just a great story!

What I also find heart-warming is that General Quarters is not a million dollar horse owned by one of the million dollar stables. General Quarters is owned AND trained by the same 75-year old retired high school principal – a rarity in today’s big money racing circles. Rarely do you see today the horse owner also being the trainer. And rarely do you see an owner /trainer that is the owner of only one horse. Mr. McCarthy poured his entire heart into his one horse, General Quarters.

As sad as I am for General Quarters' loss (but very happy that he and all the other horses are safe), I have to say that Mine That Bird, the winner of this year’s race is another great story. To be honest, I keep up with the horses every year and usually have my pick a good two weeks or more before the race. But – Mine That Bird was simply not on my radar and I feel completely rotten for over -looking him and his amazing story. It’s a good one!

Like General Quarters, Mine That Bird is not your typical big business story, or your typical million dollar race horse. In fact, he sold for $9,500 and was trained by a cowboy in New Mexico, Bennie “Chip” Woolley, Jr. Mine That Bird was a true Derby upset with 50-1 odds of winning; now being considered one of the biggest upsets in Derby history. I love it! The story gets even better…. Mine That Bird (the only gelding in the race), was hauled to Kentucky from New Mexico by his trainer in a pickup truck and trailer. A far cry from the typical air conditioned fancy tractor-trailer getups in which most thoroughbreds of Derby quality travel. Chip Woolley, a former rodeo cowboy and quarter horse trainer, hauled Mine That Bird himself on the 21 hour trek to the Derby. Oh – and get this, he is in crutches after breaking something like 21 bones in his foot from a motorcycle accident! But that didn’t stop him from driving with one foot across the country with his $9,500 horse in-tow.

While in the winner’s circle with cameras all around and traditional roses draped over Mine That Bird, the NBC interviewer said something to him like, you were the un-known trainer coming into this race, very few know who you are. Chip Woolley responded, “They’ll know me now.”

You just gotta love it! Okay – the other reason I can’t believe I didn’t do better homework on Mine That Bird is because of his jockey, Calvin Borel. Calvin is one of my favorite jockeys; I adore his smile and his thick Cajun accent, and of course his successful career. Calvin won the Derby in 2007, and also won the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, the day before the Derby. I love Calvin because he is always so visibly emotional and sweet after winning a race. You regularly see him kiss his horse before a race and affectionately love on them after a race (whether they win or not). After winning the Derby yesterday he said in a very broken, emotionally filled voice about his deceased parents, “Thank you Mom and Daddy, I wish you were here to see all that I have accomplished.” Calvin Borel makes me weep… He’s just that sweet, loving kind of person that you want to take home….

Take home and feed.

During Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, there was footage of him carrying a little girl wearing a surgical mask as she pat his winning horse, Rachel Alexandra, before the race. At the winner’s circle after the race, he was also seen carrying the same little girl. I learned that this little girl’s name coincidentally is also Rachel, and that she has a passionate love for horses. How did this little girl named Rachel land the opportunity to get up close and personal with the race horse, Rachel Alexander, and be a part of history in the winner’s circle?

It was her wish in the Make A Wish Foundation.

It was a good weekend of Kentucky history for Calvin Borel winning both the Oaks and the Derby; for all the running horses that ended both races completely safe and sound; for a broken down cowboy with a winning horse; and for little girl named Rachel who got her last wish….


Diane @ Four Paws and Co said...

Ahhhh, great post Deb! ♥ Diane

Sir Nottaguy-Imadad said...

When you mentioned minding that bird in your title, I thought you were referring to the one that landed on the lady's head in the first picture.

Meg Young said...

I thought you were talking about the woman's hat too! So glad the post was about the race! IT was tremendous! WHAT a great story, bet there IS a movie deal in the works already!

GREAT post!

Nancy and the fatties said...

You tell the Derby story so well, I feel like I was there! It's always been my dream to go. I used to work for a horse racing magazine and got to meet some famous owners and horses, but never got to attend a race. Thanks for sharing, such a great post!

Sand Flat Farm said...

Thanks for this great post! I didn't know their history, but as usual I'm always a great fan of the underdog and the "little guy". I was ecstatic over this win, and now I'm a little sorry for the owner/trainer/75 yr old fellow with General Quarters.

Hill Country House Girl said...


What a wonderful story. So touching on many levels. We didn't watch it and now I really wish we had.

Guess what? I talked to Debbie Phillips yesterday and she thanked me for referring you to her, and she said that YOUR husband is one of the nicest men she has ever met! She is single and when we parted she said "Surely there are just a few more like him somewhere in the world...."I am sure you know you are blessed but thought you'd like to hear that!

Painted Groove Girl said...

I just love this post!! You're such a great writer, Deb!

Justine/Justiney/Tiney said...

I've never paid any attention to the races, but when you know the back stories like you do, it makes it that much more interesting and exciting!!!!!!!!! I Loved this whole post.

And Deb, I got my lotion today! Remember I told you I don't like the scent of lavender? Let me rephrase it that I don't like the scent of CRAPPY lavender-scented stuff. I love this lotion!!!!!!!!!!!

Justine :o )

Dixie said...

Ya gotta love that Derby hat! I've always wanted to go, just so I could sport one of those giant bonnets... LOL

wasn't it a great race!

I posted about my wonderful Lotion on my blog tonight... I just love it... I love the way it smells... and I love the way it feels.. I think you now have a Lavender customer for life!

blessings. Dixie

Livin' Louisiana! said...

Oh, I love that story! Can't wait til you get your lavender website back on line. Gonna' order me some!

Terry said...

I am so happy Dixie over at French Lique ,Texas told her followers about your wonderful blog !
This is my first visit but not to be the last.Love the hat !! Fabulous photo for this post.
I was greatly impressed with your post on the derby ! Thank you .
I truly enjoyed it.
I am very impressed with your lavender farm .
Blessings of joy to you.

justabeachkat said...

Hi there! I'm back from my blog vacation and gradually getting around to visit everyone and "catch up". Sorry I missed out on your giveaway.


Penny said...

I loved reading this post. Thank you for sharing all the touching stories. :-)

Anonymous said...

I jumped over from French Lique
and just wanted to say we go to
Sunland Park Racetrack all the time
(near El Paso, TX). Mind that bird
was housed there!! Great race!!

Anonymous said...

I was utterly amazed at this horse named Mind That Bird, an underdog and a horse that was against all odds.
I believe if Rachel was not in the preakness, he would of won. He pulled the same moves and was right up there with her.
To me, They are both the winners here. Second place isn't bad, and they both deserved it.
She definately was an underdog too, coming in as the only female and boy did she rock their worlds.
They are both beautiful and winners in my eyes. It was hard to pick who I wanted to win, so I said hey whoever wins, I will be happy as long as it was Mind that Bird or Rachel. To have both come in first and second was fantastic.
To the owner of Mind that Bird, he may not have won the Preakness, but he surely did come in second and he is STILL A WINNER and you have a remarkable horse there. Just remember where you came from and remember where HE came from and to win the Kentucky Derby and then come in second at the Preakness is pretty good if you think about it...... and let's not forget the Jockey's, because they are both great Jockey's in my eyes.
We are just thankful here in Maryland, that everything went smoothly and no horses were injured. Let's keep all of them in our prayers.

Viagra Online said...

General Quarters is a lucky horse definitely. Thomas has been very gentle by holding and adopting that horse as though it was his own son.