Owners thrust into racing spotlight

May 2, 2009 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Mine That Bird, the 135th winner of the Kentucky Derby, originally went off the market for a mere $9,500 as a yearling in 2007. That looks like quite the bargain now after Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot, won on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Co-owners Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach didn't get Mine That Bird quite that cheaply. They paid $400,000 to purchase the horse before the 2008 Breeders' Cup.

While Allen and Blach have been longtime acquaintances, they didn't become business partners until just before they purchased Mine That Bird. And with their horse's miraculous run, they've suddenly become major players in the horse racing industry.

"We've been friends for years," Blach said of Allen. "We're very proud of this horse. It just shows what can be done when a couple of buddies get together, go to the races, have a good time, a little fun and dream a little bit and your dreams will come true."

Blach said he really thought Mine That Bird had a lot of talent.

"We just haven't been able to see it all yet," he said. "It made my heart sink when he was last when he came around the first time. I was just glad to see him that far in front when he came around the second time."

Allen and Blach came to Louisville without any Derby experience. Blach grew up in Colorado and has spent much his life around horses: He was in the equine business for 10 years after finishing veterinary school at Colorado State. Blach owns Buena Suerte Equine, a public breeding farm in Roswell, N.M.

"I've always dealt a little bit in Thoroughbreds," he said.

Allen, who owns Double Eagle Ranch in Roswell, N.M., got into racing by mucking stalls at the age of 12.

Both Allen and Blach displayed a down-to-earth, "Aw shucks" cowboy nature when addressing the media after the race.

When asked if there was any haggling during negotiations, Allen said, "There was no haggling. They wanted $400,000. We paid it."

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