Calvin Borel should be a Hall of Famer. There is no doubt about that. His ride in the Kentucky Derby was among his best. But today's Belmont proved to be one of the biggest debacles of his 30,000-plus race career.
Looking for racing immortality, Borel guided Mine That Bird to the back of the pack in the early running of the race, which was a great move; in fact his last smart action of the race.
Surprisingly, Dunkirk was on the lead through the early parts of the race and, even though he was only 11 lengths off the lead, Borel elected to move Mine That Bird to the outside. But this is a horse who sees daylight and runs for it, so a move like that (with only half the race in the book) was very dangerous.
Mine That Bird collared the leaders on the far turn and was in the lead at the top of the stretch. One small problem: he still had a quarter of a mile to go (compare this to the Derby, where he wasn't on the lead until they were halfway down the stretch).
Now Borel has to get his horse down the long Belmont stretch and Mine That Bird was running out of gas quickly. And, he used up even more energy by running on the outside as opposed to Borel's customary spot along the rail.
Summer Bird, who was very patiently ridden by Kent Desormeaux, took advantage of the tiring horses and mowed down Mine That Bird and Dunkirk inside the final eighth of a mile and cruised home.
That was the move Borel should have made and it was there for the taking.
"I thought I had it won when I got the quarter pole," Borel said. "No excuses. He ran his eyeballs out. He took me a little earlier....I might have let him get up earlier but I wasn't going to take the race out of him. Turning for him, I thought I was home free."
Those were similar comments that Desormeaux made when Real Quiet was beaten a nose by Victory Gallop in 1998. Desormeaux played the Victory Gallop role on Saturday and it proved to be a magic formula.
Was not riding at Belmont at all this week a factor? Maybe. It certainly didn't help.
But, the bottom line is that Borel could have and should have gone to the inside and timed his move better. If so, we would likely have seen a Calvin Crown. Now, we have yet another upset in the Belmont and racing goes without a Triple Crown of any sort.