Mine That Bird Breezing to Screen

By May 1, 2013
Mine That Bird wags his tongue at trainer Chip Woolley

Mine That Bird razzes trainer Chip Woolley, whose crutches are as iconic a part of track lore as the horse's tongue.

The long shot 2009 winner of the Kentucky Derby is ready to make a comeback – on the big screen. The ragtag gelding Mine That Bird is the subject of an independently-financed feature film called “50 to 1,” a reference to his odds on Derby day.

Produced and directed by Jim Wilson, the film stars Skeet Ulrich (“Law & Order: L.A.”) as trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley and Christian Kane (“Leverage”) and William Devane (The Dark Knight Rises) as co-owners Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach.

Wilson, who co-wrote the script with Faith Conroy, is best known for his longtime collaboration with Kevin Costner, including a producer credit on Dances with Wolves, The Bodyguard and Wyatt Earp. Struck by the tale of the misfit group of New Mexico cowboys who journey to Louisville to take on the Kentucky blue bloods and overcome the odds, Wilson tracked down the horse’s owners in Roswell, NM, and began developing the script in 2010.

Filming on the $8 million project began in September 2012 in New Mexico, and continued through December with race footage shot at Sunland Park in El Paso,Texas, where the group held a press conference to discuss the project, which Wilson described as “a romp” and “a piece of fiction based on a true story.”

The truth is amazing enough. The American-bred horse was purchased in Canada by the Roswell partners for $400,000 in 2008. He finished last in his first race for the new owners, who promptly switched trainers. Woolley managed to get him qualified as one of 20 Derby starters. His broken foot in a cast, Woolley personally drove the horse 1,200 miles from New Mexico to Louisville to make it to the race. The rest is horseracing — and soon to be Hollywood — history.

Mine That Bird trailed the field for the first three-quarters of the Derby, storming the homestretch to win by a commanding 6¾ lengths. (Watch it here.)

Woolley and Calvin Borel, the jockey that rode Mine That Bird for his triumphant roses run, will appear in the film.

Mine That Bird was retired in 2010 but in April he once again made the trip from Roswell to Louisville, where he began an extended stay as the Kentucky Derby Museum’s “resident Thoroughbred,” becoming the first Derby winner stabled on the grounds during Churchill Downs’ peak season.

Wilson is currently in post production and said he will begin shopping the film for theatrical distribution as soon as it’s finished.

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