50:1 is the title, since these were the steep odds against Mine That Bird winning the Kentucky Derby. There are spectacular moments in sports. The turnaround, basket catch by Willy Mays in the outfield is something that comes readily to mind. Others as well are spellbinding and exhilerating. Mine That Bird's entry into legend, too, should be included. The Run for the Roses is often referred to as the most exciting two minutes in sports. Whoever started the rumor was made into an honest man or honest woman in 2009. Simply to see this race on U-Tube can very probably cure what ails ya. Mine That Bird was relatively small and somewhat crooked footed. At first, he failed to win in New Mexico, not known for stiff competition. Somehow, however, mainly due to his improved performance in Canada, the horse qualified for the Kentucky Derby.
Needless to say, the Derby is a high-class, very upper-crust, ultra-Kentuckian event. But in the heat of the race, the most awe-inspiring Richmond, Virginia ancestry is of no avail. Until I saw this movie, I was no racing fan. After having seen it, I can state with absolute conviction that I am a true believer in the majesty of horse and rider. This gelding was and remains a great athlete. His story can only be described as a movie waiting to happen. So, Jim Wilson, credited as director, producer, and writer, did just that. Almost nothing about Mine That Bird and, mainly, his trainer, makes perfect sense. He was a true long-shot. Derby horses race at the age of three. Not much time is allotted for horse breeders and other equine-minded personnel to decide who to back in the arena. In 2007, Mine That Bird sold for less than 10 grand, but subsequently acquired a more respectable price tag of $400,000. He was not a loser by any means. It was only that he never really distinguished himself as either a probable or proved contender.
It was a New Mexican ranch that paid a king's ransom for the horse that came in last in Santa Anita. His trainer, Chip Woolley (Skeet Ulrich), then crashed his motorcycle and wound up hobbling on crutches. What did Mine That Bird think of that? Obviously, this horse was never destined to strut to Kentucky on a red carpet. In fact, a pick-up truck pulled him after having been trained by Woolley along with a female rider (Madelyn Deutch). The horse still did not have a jockey almost until he found himself in the starting gate, stall number 8, as in "behind the eight ball". Theoretically, the race goes to the swiftest. But there is strategy involved. Here is where Calvin Borel comes in, playing himself. Bad luck at the sound of the bell: Mine That Bird is squeezed by two horses and falls immediately behind. Then serendipity, like grace, arrives. Borel was well-known for gaining the rail, literally the inside track. Somehow he was able to move into the exact position he wanted. But he only got his way in the last few seconds. Apparently, that was all he needed to go from dead last to uncontested first.
It is hard to resist such an emotional victory, won not by the high and mighty sippers of mint juleps, but the scrappy cowpunchers from the land of chili peppers. There are a few scenes in the movie that got it a PG-13 rating. Otherwise, Mine That Bird, the movie, could very well be the best family film out there. The owner's prayer that the horse just not finish last was more than answered, to put it mildly. In my opinion, 50:1 also qualifies as a modern Western, the beleaguered genre going through tough times. Recommended.