Derby Pays Off in Comfort, Cash

Dan Bershefsky would bet a few bucks on the Kentucky Derby and then watched it with his dad, Ralph. It was a longstanding father-son tradition but this year, the Bershefskys' tradition ended.

Ralph Bershefsky, who worked 35 years as a hydraulic engineer at Sikorsky Aircraft before retiring two years ago, died April 15 after a year-long battle with cancer, the Connecticut Post reports.

Dan wasn't even going to watch the Derby this year , but last Friday on his train ride home from work, he found a newspaper filled with stories about the race and the 19 horses set to run. The entry that caught his eye was the 50-1 shot, Mine That Bird.

"I had been very depressed and bummed about my dad, and especially since this was what we did together all those years," Bershefsky told the newspaper. "But I thought, maybe there would be some kind of sign from my father about the race. I figured, who knows? Our family has always been dedicated to our Catholic faith. Then, it hit me. Mine That Bird had not one, not two, but three amazing connections to my father that told me this was the horse."

First, his grandfather worked as a coal miner in a small Pennsylvania town for 40 years before his death at age 86. Second, his father was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and also loved all kinds of birds. Finally, Mine That Bird was slated to run from the No. 8 slot. Ralph Bershefsky turned 74 on Dec. 8.

He put down $250: $200 for himself and $50 for his mom and siblings and Bershefsky went to his sister's house in Fairfield and watched the race with his mom and one of my brothers. He said he'd bet, but did not say which horse.

"When it was halfway through the race and Mine That Bird was last and trailing badly, I was even more upset and figured I had wasted a lot of money," he told the newspaper. "Then, it was like a miracle. The horse started gaining and gaining, and when he actually won, I never screamed so loud or jumped so high. I sat in front of the television saying, 'Thank you, dad! Thank you, dad!' "

Bershefsky won nearly $13,000. He gave his mother and four siblings $500 each. The rest will likely go for a down payment on a long-awaited condominium.

Dan said he plans to place a "small bet" on Mine That Bird in the Preakness and Belmont, and might even travel to Long Island to see the horse race in the Belmont.

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