In game of odds, some have all the luck

Some say life is simply a game of odds, in which everything is quantifiable. For instance, the median life expectancy for a person is 73.1 years, so if you know anyone aged 74 or older, they have successfully beaten the odds.
You know what else is a game of odds? Horse racing. It just so happens that one very prominent horse in the racing community happens to belong to Mark Allen, son of former VECO C.E.O. Bill Allen. What are the odds?
The official odds against Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird were listed as 50-1, making the horse’s win an incredible upset. National media has had a field day with Mine That Bird’s win, focusing on every extraordinary detail, turning the entire scenario into somewhat of a folk tale.
Mine That Bird-gelding offspring of Birdstone, winner of the 2004 Belmont stakes-may have originally auctioned for only $9,500, but that was before he became a proven winner. Three race crowns later, Mark Allen’s Double Eagle Ranch and Dr. Leonard Blach’s Bueno Suerte Equine went into partnership to purchase Mine That Bird for a more derby-worthy $400,000-an unheard-of amount for a gelding (a horse that will never go to stud) regardless of its race history.
The horse’s trainer, mustache-sporting cowboy-hat wearing nobody Bennie “Chip” Woolley, may have been on crutches for the Kentucky Derby, but a cast was noticeably missing from the photos that I saw. Woolley has also been seen without the black cowboy hat as well-it’s not permanently affixed to his head – and is in fact a fairly acceptable headdress on dress occasions in the Southwest.
But the real story here has been all but lost to most people outside Alaska. Mark Allen was more than just Bill Allen’s son – a passive relation to the bribery scandal that shook Juneau to its foundations in 2007. Mark Allen, along with his father and two siblings, was a majority shareholder in VECO Corporation. On top of the tens of millions of dollars that Mark Allen received from the sale of VECO – a company whose fortunes were built upon bribery – Mark Allen’s own father, Bill Allen, testified in court that Mark had personally bribed a state legislator.
If this was true, and Mark Allen had been convicted of a felony offense, his license to own racehorses in New Mexico could have been revoked.
So why was Mark Allen smiling in the Kentucky Derby winners circle, cheering Mine That Bird on to a second-place finish in the Preakness Stakes, and urging the gelding on toward victory in the Belmont Stakes? According to Richard Mauer, a writer for the Anchorage Daily News, “If it weren’t for the plea deal that his dad, former VECO chief executive Bill Allen, made with federal prosecutors, Mark Allen might not have been…celebrating the victory.”
That’s right, Bill Allen, in testifying for the prosecution in the 2007 corruption scandal, secured a plea deal that promised amnesty for his family from any incriminating evidence that arose during the trial-no small feat considering the role of the VECO corporation in the corruption of Alaska’s legislators.
Really, Mark Allen has quite a bit more to celebrate than those in the horse racing world may have acknowledged-he beat the odds quite handily.
After all, a 50-1 shot?begins to?look?good in comparison to the odds that put Mark Allen where he is today. Calculate the chances of rising to wealth and power,?owning part of the once most powerful oil company in Alaska. Then factor into that the odds of successively securing a plea deal when said company’s unethical business practices come to light-getting a near $30 million payout in the process. Don’t forget to add in the likelihood that the Kentucky Derby favorite, I Want Revenge, withdraws from the race and the filly at the top of her game, Rachel Alexandra, decides not to run-leaving Mine That Bird a field without his greatest competitors. What you’re left with is something like lottery odds, almost incalculably improbable.
I guess when you really think about it, Mine That Bird’s Kentucky Derby win really was quite an amazing upset-it just didn’t have as much to do with a broken footed cowboy or a $9,500 auction price as some may have thought.