Tuesday, May 19, 2009
However the picture is still fuzzy about who he might ride in the Belmont Stakes. Borel's first choice is still super filly Rachel Alexandra but there has been no decision made yet about her next start.
Meanwhile, the connections for Derby winner Mine That Bird insist that they will make a decision in the "next couple of days." If they are true to their word, that may keep Borel off Mine That Bird.
Of course, there is still the possibility that the "Bird Crew" could follow the same scenario as they did before the Preakness; give Borel the chance to ride Mine That Bird while waiting out Rachel Alexandra's fate. At the same time, they would have a "backup rider" ready if Rachel does try the one-mile-and-a-half "Test of Champions."
Mine That Bird was back on the Churchill Downs oval training for the first time since the Preakness and Rachel will follow suit tomorrow morning.
The only other news was a definite decision for Belmont contender Charitable Man will come on Wednesday. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin indicated that his colt is likely to run but would confer with the owners again to make their final choice.
The son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid has won 3 of 4 starts including the Peter Pan Stakes two weeks at Belmont. His only loss came on the "artificial dirt" at Keeneland in April and is a perfect 2-for-2 at Belmont.
Monday, May 18, 2009
That's the question now left to Mine That Bird's owners and trainer after Mike Smith (left) announced he was vacating the Belmont mount on the Derby winner for a race in California.
After arriving back in Kentucky Monday night and setting up back in their familiar surroundings, trainer Chip Woolley said he's made no decision as to who will fill the void left by Smith.
The wild card, of course, is super filly Rachel Alexandra (right). Her trainer, Steve Asmussen, has been non-committal about their plans for the Belmont. That decision leaves Borel in the lurch until the Rachel crew makes up their mind.
“I don’t know,” Woolley said. “It’s kinda funny. You’d think if you get a horse this good, you’d keep one, but apparently not. So we’ll deal with that here in a couple of days and we’ll see what happens.”
There could be a huge list of great riders available and based on Woolley's comments, there are a lot of agents that have called him looking to pitch their clients to take the mount on Mine That Bird.
Racing would benefit greatly from having Borel back in the saddle on Mine That Bird but it's a tough call for the Bird Crew.
Let's see if Woolley (left) sticks by his word and makes a quick decision. The longer he waits, the more chances that we will get to see Borel back.
We can only hope that the Woolley and company will give enough time to Asmussen and Borel to make their decision because if Woolley is worried about the other riders being available - don't. There are still many jockeys who would love a shot at riding a Derby winner and Preakness runner-up.
Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Will this be a new budding rivalry?
What makes this potential new great rivalry it is not just two great horses. It is two stars of different genders which rarely cross paths.
There have been races where males and females have met but not often during the Triple Crown. The last time the rivarly lasted more than one race was in 1988 when Winning Colors, a filly, and Forty Niner went head-to-head twice. The two ran first and second in the Derby. But the rivarly spilled over in the Preakness when the two dueled each other into defeat as the filly finished third and Forty Niner was seventh.
Chances are Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird won't face each other much more in their careers, but the Belmont Stakes does remain a possibility for both. Mine That Bird's trainer, Chip Woolley, has already committed to run in the 1 1/2 miles "Test of Champions" but what of the filly?
Neither trainer Steve Asmussen nor majority owner Jess Jackson committed to the Belmont but how much fun would it be to see the Derby winner and Preakness winner slug it out in New York?
The temptation for the "Rachel crew" will be great. Jackson, who scored points among racing fans when he kept two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in training after his 3-year-old season. The chestnut colt ammased wins in the Preakness and the Breeders' Cup Classic and earned Horse of the Year honors; then came back and won the Dubai World Cup among others and notched his second Horse of the Year honor.
For those that might be worried about Rachel getting "burned up" early in the Belmont by some other speed horses, there aren't many left in the potential field who could push her early. Quality Road and Chartiable Man could be those obstacles but neither trainer has committed to the 1 1/2 mile race yet.
Racing, as always, needs some good news and attention. What happened today at the Preakness was a huge help but it will be very short lived if it's the last time we see the Derby and Preakness square off.
But Jackson has to do what is right by the horse and if she comes back feeling good, then he oughto to run Rachel in the Belmont. Rags to Riches proved a filly can win the "Test of Champions" and it would certainly cement Rachel's place as the one of the best horses of all-time with a Belmont victory.
Stay tuned over the next few days but we might just have a new rivaly we haven't seen in racing for some time.
Rachel Alexandra was brilliant as Borel kept the filly out of potential trouble the whole way. She dueled with Big Drama through the first half of the race and then she started to open up. Borel kept plenty in the tank and held off a late charge of Derby winner Mine That Bird for the victory.
The Preakness win was not as dramatic as the Derby win but Borel stayed cool throughout the entire race and knew he was sitting on the best horse. He kept as much in reserve as he could when he asked for additional run, she gladly responded and held on for the victory.
"She is the best horse in the country, bar none," Borel said. "My filly struggled the last quarter of mile and I had to reach up and pick her in the last quarter. She has so much determination, it's unbelievable. Turning home I knew I was home free."
Now Borel has a place in racing history. He is the first jockey ever to win the Derby and Preakness on two different horses. and he helped make Rachel the first horse to win from the 13 post position. And he could conceivably become the first rider to win the Triple Crown on two different horses.
Owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen were non-committal to Rachel's next start but the Belmont is a possibility. If she does run in the 1 1/2 mile "Test of Champions" you can be sure that Borel will be there.
1) Big Drama - Off since late March, the colt will have little choice to go out and push the early pace. He seems to have loads of talent and setting the pace could help him. Question is does he want to go the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles.
2) Mine That Bird - The winner of the Kentucky Derby has "flown under the radar" as much as a Derby winner could. New jockey Mike Smith doesn't necessarily help the horse but he will need luck on his side to win again and the track will be fast.
3) Musket Man - One of the blue collar horses in the field. He just runs hard every time as he has won 5 of 7 starts. His third place finish in the Derby could have been better if not for being bumped down the stretch. He is dangerous here.
4) Luv Gov - One question for trainer D. Wayne Lukas - What is this horse doing here? Just won his first career race last time after failing in his first nine tries. No chance here.
5) Friesan Fire - The Derby favorite stepped on his own foot and ran next to last. He came back with a strong workout at Pimlico this week and seems to be healthy. If he's 100 percent, very dangerous at a nice price.
6) Terrain - One of the true closers of the fields but he the Belmont might be better suited for him as it's a longer race. Very well bred and certainly will put his late run in.
7) Papa Clem - Another blue collar horse who also had a tough stretch run while finishing fourth in the Derby. He should be in good position during the running of the Preakness and should be in the thick of it down the stretch.
8) General Quarters - Still one of the best stories of the year for owner-trainer Tom McCarthy and his single horse stable. You can forgive his bad Derby performance but you have to wonder if going this far might be a little too much for him.
9) Pioneerof the Nile - The Derby runner-up has trained great for Bob Baffert and will be a huge threat again today. His Dad won the Belmont in 2003 so distance should not be an issue but needs to avoid getting floating wide on the both turns.
10) Flying Private - This horse isn't as bad as Luv Gov but he appears a little bit overmatched here.
11) Take the Points - Off since running fourth to Pioneerof the Nile at Santa Anita on April 4, trainer Todd Pletcher bypassed the Derby for this race. Jockey Edgar Prado is a master in bgi races and is a perfect 2-for-2 on him. But being outside is a concern.
12) Tone It Down - The local horse, who picked up Hall 0f Famer Kent Desormeaux, will be near the front all the way but appears overmatched.
13) Rachel Alexandra - The super filly comes in with high expectations and after her Kentucky Oaks blowout victory, it's warranted. Jockey Calvin Borel needs to avoid getting caught far outside on both turns. Her talented is unquestioned but running in the Preakness is a whole different story than the Oaks. Hard to pull against her but she will need be 100% to win here.
5) Friesan Fire
7) Papa Clem
13) Rachel Alexandra
9) Pioneerof the Nile
As for the odds, they're like the weather outside, stagnant.
And there probably won't be any huge moves in the odds between now and post time for the race, which should be around 6:15 p.m.
Rachel Alexandra - 2-1
Mine That Bird - 6-1
Pioneerof the Nile - 6-1
Musket Man - 9-1 (Had the huge surge down from 14 to 9 over an hour ago)
Friesan Fire - 9-1
Big Drama - 10-1 (Daily Racing Form reported he scraped his knee this AM. Trainer said it was "minor as could be.")
Papa Clem - 14-1
Terrain - 14-1
General Quarters - 15-1
Take The Points - 16-1
Luv Gov - 22-1
Flying Private - 25-1
Tone It Down - 21-1
Next entry will be my picks. So, in other words, the horses you cross of your list because I picked them.
As my good friend Pat Forde of ESPN.com said "someone unbuckled" on Musket Man. The third place finisher in the Kentucky Derby dropped from 14-1 to 9-1. Someone from trainer Derek Ryan's homebase in New Jersey must have dropped a lot of pesos on the colt.
Rachel Alexandra continues to slowly drift as she now stands at 2-1. At her lowest, she was 6-5 but money has started to spread out more evenly.
Here are the updates on the main contenders:
Big Drama - 10-1
Mine That Bird - 6-1
Friesan Fire - 9-1 (been either 8 or 9 all day)
Papa Clem - 15-1
Pioneerof the Nile - 6-1
Members of the overbet club:
Luv Gov - 25-1
Flying Private - 25-1
Take The Points - 16-1
Tone It Down - 21-1
The infield crowd continues to be well below normal which is disheartening.
No real big change in the odds with three hours to go.
Rachel Alexandra remains the 9-5 favorite while Derby winner Mine That Bird and Pioneerof the Nile are 6-1.
The value still remains with Musket Man (14-1), Friesan Fire (9-1) and Papa Clem (15-1).
I have yet to hear why the true longshots going in the race are not longshots. Luv Gov was 50-1 in the morning line and is now 22-1. WHY????
Same can be said for Flying Private (50-1 ML, 25-1 now) and Tone It Down (50-1 ML, 20-1 n0w.)
I know people don't believe in Mine That Bird but if you are unsure about the Derby winner, why would you put your money into a horse that ran last in the "Run for the Roses", just won his first race in 10 tries or has never beaten any significant competition in Maryland.
The superfilly, Rachel Alexandra, is currently at 9-5. That is a high risk, low return bet. She may well be the best horse in the race but since she is starting from the 13 hole which will likely result in a tough trip, those are short odds.
The odd thing about the odds is that no horse is above 24-1. (Flying Private and Terrain) Strange considering that there are a few horses that seem way over their head.
The value horses appear to be Papa Clem (14-1), Big Drama (10-1), Friesan Fire (left, 8-1) and Pioneerof the Nile (6-1).
The "wise guy" looks to be the Todd Pletcher trained Take the Points. The colt was 30-1 in the morning line but is now 14-1.
Oh, and the Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird is 6-1.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The horses are starting to make their way to Pimlico. Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird left Churchill at 9 a.m. and should arrive at Pimlico sometime before 8 p.m. While Trainer Chip Woolley loaded the horse into his trailer, Bob Baffert wandered over on his pony to take a look.
Also enroute are the D. Wayne Lukas trained duo of Flying Private and Luv Guv and Toyota Blue Grass winner General Quarters. According to Thoroughbred Times, General Quarters' van was involved in a minor accident near Pimlico while attempting to turn into the track. The gray colt was unhurt but looks like the trailer may need a little body work.
After blazing through a work at Pimlico (5/8 mile in :58.20) Tuesday morning, trainer Larry Jones announced Friesan Fire (pictured right) was a definite for the Preakness so he appears to be recovered from the minor injuries suffered during his 18th place finish in the Derby.
A plane from Louisville tomorrow will have an all-star feel to it. Among horses on the plane will be Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, Derby runner-up Pioneerofthe Nile, as well Preakness hopeful Terrain.
On Wednesday is the post position draw for the Preakness. Stay tuned for the latest drama in the Preakness soap area.
(Photos courtesy of Churchill Downs and Maryland Jockey Club.)
Monday, May 11, 2009
The two big stories:
Rachel Alexandra - The superstar filly and Kentucky Oaks winner appears to be "all systems go" to be become the first female to run in the Preakness in 10 years (last - Excellent Meeting). After all the back and forth two owners trying to keep her out of the Preakness, sanity and fairness prevailed. She is set to fly to Baltimore on Tuesday and her new owner, Jess Jackson, will make the final decision to enter Rachel once she is safe and sound at Pimlico. Calvin Borel will ride and she will be the post-time favorite.
Mine That Bird - After co-owner Mark Allen smartened up and gave up blocking Rachel from running in the Preakness, it was back to business for the Derby winner on Monday. The son of Birdstone (pictured left) had an semi-unplanned workout at Churchill Monday morning (1/2 mile - 49.20) under Borel. If Rachel goes, then Mike Smith will take the reigns from Borel. Mine That Bird could be the longest priced Derby winner of all time based on the field that's set to run on Saturday.
The rest of the field (no disrespect intended):
Big Drama - One of the unheralded horses in the field as he has a record of 5-1-1 in seven starts. Jockey John Velazquez will ride him for the first time and should be keeping Rachel Alexandra occupied on the front end of the race. He will be one to watch.
Flying Private - The last place finisher (19th) in the Derby will take another shot at a Triple Crown. Trainer D. Wayne blamed the sloppy track for his bad finish in the Derby and gets star rider Alan Garcia to take the mount. Not sure that will help much.
Friesan Fire - The Derby favorite, who beat only Flying Private in the "Run for the Roses," will work Tuesday morning and then a final decision will be made to run him. If recovered from his Derby injuries, he could be very tough and will be a decent price.
General Quarters - The great story of the Derby has bounced back from his 10th place Derby finish and is set to arrive in Baltimore Tuesday afternoon. Tough to know how he will run but hard not to root for again.
Hull - Trainer Dale Romans pulled the plug on running this unbeaten colt in the Preakness with the presence of Rachel Alexandra.
Luv Guv - The namesake of former NY Governor Elliot Spitzer, who has just one win to his credit, will be a longshot. Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas said this horse has a bright future and will be their Belmont horse. I think Lukas is giving you a hint...don't bet him here.
Musket Man - The third place Derby finisher, who has been training back at his home base at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, will wait until the morning of the race to ship to Pimlico. (A little bit of a concern for me. Why wait that long?) He will workout on Tuesday but his record is one of the best in the field - 5-0-2 in seven starts.
Papa Clem - The Arkansas Derby winner, who currently is only one of two Preakness runners at Pimlico, is looking to better his fourth place finish in the Derby. A dry track should help him and being just off the lead during the Preakness should be to his advantage.
Pioneerof the Nile - With trainer Bob Baffert on hand, the Derby runner-up (right) worked great at Churchill on Monday morning - 1/2 mile in :47.60. The colt will fly to Baltimore on Wednesday and will be one of the horses to beat.
Take The Points - Trainer Todd Pletcher, who is still in search of a win in the Derby and Preakness, will take his shot at the Preakness with this lightly raced colt. He skipped the Derby with this race in mind. His career highlight was second to The Pamplemousse at Santa Anita in February. Not quite sure what to think of him yet but getting Edgar Prado to ride is a huge help.
Terrain - The well bred son of Sky Mesa, who's been idle since a fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass, will head to Baltimore on Wednesday from Louisville. He hasn't won since being placed first via DQ in the Arlington Washington Futurity in September. Not a good sign that he's 0-for-2 this year.
Tone It Down - The true local horse of the field, finished third last time out in the Federico Tesio at Pimlico. He would appear to be overmatched but it always seems like a local horse always is a danger.
Friday, May 8, 2009
This week on the Triple Crown Trail has turned into one of the biggest soap operas in quite a while. In essence, the episode began after Rachel Alexandra won the Oaks in dominating fashion.
The next day, after pulled a huge 50-1 upset in the Derby aboard Mine That Bird, jockey Calvin Borel said if he were confronted with the choice of which horse to ride, he would choose the filly.
Meanwhile, little did almost all of us know that there were secret negotiations ongoing to sell Rachel Alexandra to a consortium headed up by Jess Jackson, best known for owning superstar Curlin and the Kendall-Jackson Vinieries.
On Wednesday, Jackson completed the deal for the superstar filly (the final sales price will probably news be known but it's been reported at $10 million and that sounds about right.) Once the deal was announced, the speculation hit warp speed (that's for you Star Trek fans) about Rachel running in the Preakness. Jackson apparently already gave the idea serious thought but he wasn't tipping his hand quite yet. Entering his filly in the Preakness would cost him $100,000 as she wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown.
On Thursday morning, around 5:15. Rachel Alexandra walked out of trainer Hal Wiggins' barn for the final time and walked into the barn of Steve Asmussen.
“She’s a tremendously fast filly,” Asmussen said. “Hal (Wiggins) and his team did a tremendous job with her. We just got her today and we have no timetable or any plans to announce at this time.” Asmussen kept his mouth shut about the future for his new star pupil but that didn't the rest of us from talking about it. Through all of this, no one quite knew where this put Borel. The jockey who had been aboard for so many of Rachel Alexandra's victories could suddenly be left out in the cold. Borel and Asmussen have not teamed up much over their lengthy careers - just 52 times.
A lot of people assumed that Asmussen and Jackson would choose the jockey that delivered so many times aboard Curlin - Robby Albarado. But, there was no news all day on Thursday. That all changed on Friday when Jackson announced he would all but enter Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and her regular pilot would remain in the saddle.
“It came down the fact that he knows and loves this horse, that he knows how to get the most from her and he knows how to win,”
“We’re very happy to have the opportunity to continue to ride Rachel Alexandra,” said Borel. “I’ve had the chance to ride some great horses, but she is one of the most special horses I’ve ever been around. I appreciate the faith that Mr. Jackson and Mr. McCormick have shown in me, and we can’t wait to be there wherever she runs next.”
So, what about the little ol' Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird? Trainer Chip Woolley had been preparing for the worst all week and had been in touch with other jockeys. Rumors swirled that Mike Smith would take over for Borel but he too was tight lipped about it. Once the news come out on Friday about Rachel Alexandra, Woolley was not giving up on Borel. He said that he will still name Borel on Mine That Bird on Wednesday when he enters the Derby winner into the Preakness. The only thing that could stop him: Jackson ponying up the $100,000 fee.
Preakness Week could turn into racing’s version of sweeps week if Rachel runs: she’s a great story and, though she’d spoil another Triple Crown, a win for her in the Preakness, would bring untold amounts of publicity.
This soap opera will undoubtedly continue over the next few days but all of this attention is a great shot in the arm for racing.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Just a few days ago, superstar filly Rachel Alexandra was targeting a run in the Acorn at Belmont Park next week. Their owners and trainer said that running against the boys was not in the cards.
In a blink of a Wednesday night eye, that all may have changed.
Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Farm, best known for owning the majority of 2008 Horse of Year Curlin, purchased Rachel Alexendra for a reported $10 million. That's a lot of zero's and means trainer Hal Wiggins will likely lose the brilliant filly to Steve Asmussen. (Daily Racing Form is reporting the move will happen.)
That's not a bad tradeoff but Wiggins did a phenominal job but it's a pity he won't able to oversee the rest of her career.
Now, there are two huge questions:
1) Does Kentucky Oaks & Derby hero jock Calvin Borel get to keep the mount on Rachel Alexandra?
2) Will her new owner decide to pay the extra $100,000 and run her against the boys in the Preakness and/or Belmont?
1) Borel has been great for her and he has said on many occasions that she's the best horse around. There is no better face for racing right now than Borel (see Sports Illustrated cover this week) and it would be fitting for him to stay aboard. He's earned that right.
I am afraid that Asmussen will pull Borel in favor one of his regular riders (i.e. Robby Albarado). Borel rarely rides for Asmussen (only 10 rides in the past year and only 52 total throughout their respective careers). I wouldn't blame Asmussen for putting someone on a horse that he is more comfortable with, but it would make more sense to give the mount to the only person outside of Wiggins who knows her best.
2) The Preakness or Belmont. After Mine That Bird pulled the huge upset in the Derby, some people began to speculate that Rachel would have been able to win the Derby. That certainly is debatable based on the track conditions but there is no doubt she is a star. I think the temptation will be too great to pass up for Jackson. Putting up $100,000 extra is small potatoes for Jackson and if she does win, the gamble will pay off in spades.
The Preakness might be a little too close in time but my hunch is she will pop up in one of the final two Triple Crown races.
Either way, this could spice up the remaining legs of the Triple Crown and give a little shot in the arm to racing.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Now, of course, I was one of many, many people who echoed that sentiment but I wanted to acknowledge that I could not have been more wrong about Mine That Bird. I tip my hat (and eating my Derby handicapping hat at the same time) to trainer Chip Woolley and jockey Calvin Borel for an outstanding job. They deserve all the credit.
Looking ahead to the Preakness, Mine That Bird will again be questioned by many (including yours truly) to see if he can repeat his Derby performance.
There appears to be a host of challengers either seeking a rematch or waiting for their first chance.
I will not make any prediction yet as to who will win the Preakness but you can be sure it will be as wide open a race as the Derby.
But, there will be a small part of me rooting for Mine That Bird and all of his connections. They would make a very interesting and somewhat compelling story if there was a Triple Crown on the line.
And you just have to know that Borel would love another shot at winning the Preakness after his narrow and crushing loss to Curlin just two years ago while riding Street Sense in 2007.
I will give everyone a look at the Preakness contenders in my next entry and let me know who you think will win because I was very wrong on Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Monday, May 4, 2009
Some random thoughts and notes from "upset city" at the Kentucky Derby.
The more you watch the
I was speechless after watching the race over and over and not because a 50-1 longshot won the
To give you an idea how big of an impact Borel’s ride had, look no further than Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. On the Churchill Downs backside Sunday morning, the three-time
“He’s the only one who could have pulled that off,” the white haired trainer said. “What he did was just incredible. He won that race. He sat back there and I watched the replay – and he’s last at the three-eighths pole – you just don’t do that.”
Don’t kick yourself if you didn’t come up with Mine That Bird before the race. Not one expert handicapper did and the horse showed no particular likeness for the real dirt after thriving on the “artificial dirt’ in
It’s hard to tell if this is a good group of 3-year-old colts since the
Some random stats:
- Here is a stat I couldn’t believe (and you probably won’t either). Mine That Bird’s 6 3/4-length victory is second largest in the race’s 135 year history. The largest was 8 lengths, accomplished four different times: Old Rosebud - 1914, Johnston - 1939, Whirlaway - 1941 and Assault - 1948. The last two horses won the Triple Crown. The ill-fated Barbaro won the Derby by 6 1/2-lengths in 2006.
- Mine That Bird was the second horse in five years to be winless in races during his 3-year-old campaign before the
. Giacomo (2005) entered the Derby off a fourth place finish in the Santa Anita Derby and was 0-for-3 before the “Run for the Roses.” Derby
- This is the third straight year that the
winner had just two prep races. Before that, there were only two in the previous 60 years. This is an interesting trend that may become more popular among trainers as they may elect to give a horse more rest earlier in the year. Derby
Saturday, May 2, 2009
For those who follow Kentucky racing, jockey Calvin Borel has a nickname: Calvin "Bo-Rail". Why you ask? He has a knack of getting every one of his horses on the inside fence (aka The Rail) as much as possible. It is not always a winning formula but it was magic on Saturday again at Churchill Downs.
Just two years ago, Borel captivated a nation with his daring inside move aboard the favored Street Sense to capture the Kentucky Derby. And the more you watched it, the more you were impressed with Borel's instinct for conserving as much if his horse's energy by keeping him along the inside.
He tried a similar move last year with Denis of Cork as he kept the chestnut on the inside most of the way and netted a third place finish.
Fast forward back to present day and Borel repeated his tried and true style. The horses on the front end were going fast and Mine That Bird settled on the rail and then on the final turn, he asked his horse for run and took off. In a matter of few seconds along the "Bo-Rail", Mine That Bird went from last to first and drew away for the victory.
Just 24 hours before the Derby, Borel was on top of the world when Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks by an unofficial record of 20 3/4-lengths. (He became the fifth jockey to sweep the Oaks and Derby in the same year.)
So if both horses meet up in either the Preakness or Belmont which horse would Borel choose?
"Oh, I'd ride her. Like I told you, I think she's the best horse in the country right now."
Very rare you would hear a jockey willing give up a Derby winning horse but his confidence in the filly is well founded.
And, as a side note, if Rachel Alexandra had run in the Kentucky Derby, Borel would have stayed on the filly. As a result, you can be sure whomever would have ridden Mine That Bird, would not have taken the "Bo-Rail" and it's fairly certain we'd have a different horse wearing roses.
When the top 3-year-olds reunite in Baltimore for the Preakness in two weeks, you can be sure that you will find "Bo-Rail" in his familiar spot. And you can be even more certain, his fellow jockeys will know exactly where he is too. If not, he again will be gone in a flash.
Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Ok...now that the talk is over, it's time to pick a winner.
Unfortunately, my initial selection, I Want Revenge came up with a injury this morning and was scratched.
Now, after spending hours looking over all the contenders again, here is who I settled on in finish order:
6) Friesan Fire - With the track still wet and the morning-line favorite out, the race sets up perfectly for him. He should be just off the front end early on, make his move near the final turn and hold off a host of fast closing horses. The win would give trainer Larry Jones his first Derby victory.
15) Dunkirk - Perhaps the most talented horse in the field will benefit from an expected fast pace early on. The colt, was sold for $3.7 million dollars at public auction, will be closing late and if he avoids trouble, will be very tough. Only question will be how he handles the wet track.
16) Pioneerof the Nile - Trainer Bob Baffert has won three Kentucky Derby's and this colt is on a roll after winning four straight. The big question about him is will he handle traditional dirt. He's only run on "artificial dirt" but his parents both loved running at Churchill Downs.
11) Chocolate Candy - Another horse who ran exclusively on "artificial dirt" has shown a lot of promise this year and was second to Pioneerof the Nile in his last start. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, nicknamed the "King of Northern California", will have his horse in mid-pack
Here's one last look at the Kentucky Derby contenders as we countdown to the "Run for the Roses"
3) Mr. Hot Stuff - The little brother of Colonel John will be another horse coming "from the clounds" down the stretch. Will be a huge price.
Others that have question marks but not picking: 2) Musket Man; 5) Hold Me Back; 7) Papa Clem; 12) General Quarters; 19) Desert Party
Friday, May 1, 2009
Rachel Alexandra left no doubt who was the best 3-year-old filly in the country with an absolutely dominating 20 1/4 length victory. The part that is even more impressive is that she won without being asked for additional run by jockey Calvin Borel.
It was one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen in a race of this caliber and will be remembered for quite a long time.
Now there are two big questions:
1) Should "Rachel" have run in the Kentucky Derby?
2) Will she run in the Preakness or Belmont Stakes?
1) Racing is the land of hindsight and now that we saw the result, it's easy to say she should have been in the Derby.
Owner Dolphus Morrison said, "The Triple Crown races are to showcase the future stallions of our industry and fillies should run with fillies and stallions with stallions."
Running her in the Oaks was the right call. Why pass up a shot at a one of the most prestigious races in the country to run the risk of facing all the trouble that comes with running in a field of 20 horses. There are other opportunities to run against the boys and two other Triple Crown races. No other race is like the Kentucky Derby but winning the Oaks in the way she did was memorable and puts a huge feather in her cap.
2) Depending on what happens in the Kentucky Derby, that may help decide her next move. Trainer Hal Wiggins was quote as saying last week the Belmont Stakes was a remote possibility.
If the Derby falls apart and a long shot wins, you can be certain the people in Rachel's camp will give the Preakness serious consideration and they should.
The horses in the Preakness tend be vulnerable because they are running just two weeks after the Derby. The field will also be smaller and her running style of being close to the lead, fits perfectly.
Let's see what happens but it would certainly make for a great story to see her run in a Triple Crown race.
No matter what happens, she has secured a place in racing history with her performance on Friday. The question will now be how she builds her legacy.
Friesan Fire is currently the early 4-1 favorite. His last race was a win on a sloppy track in Louisiana and has been a horse that got a lot of attention this week.
I Want Revenge now stands at 5-1 while a trio of horses are 8-1, Chocolate Candy, Dunkirk and Pioneerof the Nile. General Quarters, the Blue Grass winner, is 9-1. Hold Me Back is 10-1 while Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem is 14-1.
With the scratch of Zenyatta from the Louisville Distaff, One Caroline, another unbeaten filly, looked to be in prime position to keep his perfect record in tact. After a protracted stretch duel, One Caroline gave in late to Miss Isella at odds of 8-1.
So what looked to be a matchup of two undefeated filly, fizzled out in an upset win. Oh well. Lots of good races to come.
To no ones surprise, the track is sloppy and the turf is Yielding.
The biggest disappointment already is the scratch of champion Zenyatta. Trainer John Sherriffs elected to play it safe with his prized pupil and not run her on a wet racetrack. The shame is that the trainer could have waiting a little longer in the day to see if the rain held off and the track dried out. The fans will miss out in a seeing a superstar run today.
She will make her next start at Hollywood Park on May 23.
With the first four races in the books, there has not been any big bias to the track.
The first big stakes race is the 6th race, the Aegon Turf Sprint and, of course, the highlight of the day is the 135th running of the Kentucky Oaks. That race is set to begin at 5:45 p.m. It will be broadcast on the Bravo Cable Network for the first time.
Will be back later to provide updates on the big races.