ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The improbable journey of Mine That Bird from southern New Mexico to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle has made it to the silver screen.
The cast and filmmakers of “50-1” were embarking Monday on a cross-country tour to promote the movie. After making a few stops between Las Cruces and Roswell, they’re set to arrive in Albuquerque for Wednesday’s world premiere at the historic KiMo Theatre.
They will spend the next month weaving their way across the country until they reach Kentucky, with Mine That Bird scheduled to make appearances along the way.
Oscar-winning producer and director Jim Wilson describes it as a “rock star-style tour” covering 10,000 miles and providing him and the others with a chance to meet and talk with fans.
“I thought, why not meet the audience this movie is intended for, introduce them to the stars and shake their hands,” he said. “It’s the audience that matters the most. It’s why we make these stories, to share them with the world.”
The story of Mine That Bird – a little horse with an unsightly gait – is an incredible one.
In 2009, cowboy hat-wearing trainer Chip Woolley loaded the gelding in a trailer, hitched it to the back of his pickup truck and drove 1,500 miles to the Kentucky Derby, arriving largely unnoticed.
During the race, an inspired ride on the rail by jockey Calvin Borel produced one of the greatest upsets in 135 years of America’s most famous horse race: With 50-1 odds, Mine That Bird pulled away in the stretch to post a 6 3/4-length victory on the sloppy track.
Wilson, a racehorse owner himself, remembers watching it on television. It couldn’t have been more visual – or more perfect – for a filmmaker, he said.
“This horse was so far back he was off the TV screen. It was bad,” he said. “So, when he passes 18 horses in the last quarter mile, it was just stunning. And he didn’t just pass them – he just blew by them.”
The film, scheduled to open Friday in New Mexico and later in several other states.
With a budget of $8.5 million, there aren’t many computer-generated effects – just New Mexico’s vistas and beautiful shots of life in middle America.
“50-1” was shot in more than 30 locations around New Mexico, including Sunland Park, and at locations in California and Kentucky.
The film follows eight months in the lives of Woolley and the owners of Mine That Bird.
“It’s a bit of a romp,” Wilson says. “It’s not quite as serious as some of the other horse-racing pictures you know of. I call them golden halo movies, but this is something a little more gritty, a little more authentic.”