Horse racing film gets Red Carpet treatment in N.M.

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Movies > Mine That Bird, 2009 Derby champ, hits the silver screen

By Gina Velasquez

They said it could never happen, but against odds of 50-1, Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby and shocked the nation of horse racing in 2009.
Now a major motion picture based on that event is headed to the big screen, with Albuquerque being the backdrop for the Red Carpet gala. The World Premiere of “50 to 1” will be 6 p.m. March 19 at the Kimo Theater, 421 Central Ave.
The cast and filmmakers are embarking on a cross-country bus tour to promote the movie. The bus will be in Santa Fe from 2-3 p.m. March 21 at the Regal Theaters, 3474 Zafarano Dr.
Mine That Bird himself will be at the Red Carpet premiere in Albuquerque.
The movie was filmed in several areas in New Mexico, including the Sunland Park racetrack and Santa Fe. Other locations used to film were Kentucky and California.
“I have been looking for a great horse story for decades and I am a sucker for an underdog dog story,” said Jim Wilson, the film’s director, producer and co-writer.
Wilson is the Oscar winning producer of “Dances with Wolves.”
“50 to 1” is based on the cowboy trainer and owners whose equine overcame a long shot to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
The horse’s owner, Leonard “Doc” Blach, is an equine veterinarian in Roswell. Blach and co-owner Mark Allen bought the thoroughbred gelding in 2008, while the horse was racing in Canada. Mine That Bird had repeated training and raced at Sunland Park Racetrack, but did not win. “He was not looked at as a favorite at that time,” Blach said. “He wasn’t on that plateau.”
Allen is a horse trainer who resides in Roswell.
When Mine That Bird did qualify for the Derby in 2009, jockey Calvin Borel, known for his rail skimming rides at Churchill Downs, became available to ride him. “He (Borel) had a lot of confidence in the horse,” Blach said. “No one else would have done it.”
Borel plays himself in the film. Wilson said he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
He and Allen were approached by Wilson to do a movie about the experience. “We were entertained by the idea, but we are not really involved in the film.”
Wilson said he liked the idea that true cowboys had trained this horse and they never gave up.
The tour bus is another way of premiering the film to promote the hard work and dedication the real-life endured.
“We’re bringing ‘50 to 1’ to the people of America,” Wilson said in a recent press release. “The group will travel in a tour bus from New Mexico to Kentucky, making stops in cities and towns along the way, mirroring the trip racehorse Mine That Bird took on his way to the 2009 Kentucky Derby.”
“I’m extremely excited to hit the road with a film I’m very proud to be a part of,” Skeet Ulrich said in a recent press release. “It seems fitting we’d be selling our wares from a gypsy-like caravan, given the underdog nature of our story, and I’m hoping this journey answers three burning questions. One, are audiences tired of the blockbuster and ready to be uplifted by the values of hard work and integrity? Two, can we inspire our audiences to stick to their guns and do what they love at all costs?”
Ulrich plays trainer Chip Woolley in the film. Wilson said Ulrich had the honor of wearing the actual clothing worn by Woolley, during a scene from the Derby.
View the winning race at youtube.com/watch?v=Hv8x9x5A49s.