Saturday, May 30, 2009


Yesterday, we said Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra should skip the Belmont and later in the day co-owner Jess Jackson made us look smart. Her defection from the race frees up popular rider Calvin Borel who will get back on Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to go for a first ever jockey Triple Crown.

“While she is in great shape ... we feel Rachel deserves a well-earned vacation,” the Preakness-winning filly’s co-owner Jess Jackson said a statement issued late Friday afternoon.

Calvin Borel will get back on Mine The Bird with a chance to become the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont on different horses.

Mine That Bird, meanwhile, will attempt to become the 12th horse to complete the Derby-Belmont double and first since Thunder Gulch in 1995.

“Now that this decision is made, I am excited to come to New York and ride Mine That Bird (pictured below) in the Belmont Stakes,” Borel said, thanking the gelding’s trainer Chip Woolley and co-owners Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach for their patience before naming a rider.

Even though a 31st consecutive year has passed without a Triple Crown champion, this season has certainly captured the public’s attention – TV ratings were up as Rachel Alexandra became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness, and that came two weeks after fans were still buzzing over Mine That Bird’s incredible 6¾-length win in the Derby.

“It may not be a Triple Crown year, but it’s as far as you can get without having one,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “It just all adds up to a lot of great stories going into the Belmont.”

The field for the 1½-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the three races, is just about set with as many as 10 3-year-olds challenging the Derby winner, including Peter Pan Stakes winner Virginia-bred Charitable Man and several horses who ran in the Derby or the Preakness.

Jackson said it was a tough call, but he pointed out that Rachel Alexandra has had a tough schedule — five races and five wins since Feb. 15 — and added “we will always put her long-term well being first. And, of course, we want to run her when she is fresh.”

Mine That Bird is a son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone, who spoiled Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid with a dramatic come-from-behind, one-length upset.

Nick Zito, who trained Birdstone for owner Marylou Whitney, is pointing three horses to the race — Brave Victory, Miner’s Escape and Nowhere to Hide.

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