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PHREAKNESS

The Filly will face The Derby Winner in The Preakness

The Filly will face The Derby Winner in The Preakness

The Preakness must suffer from the “middle child syndrome” — there can be no other reason why this otherwise unremarkable race has offered fans such rich drama and curious occurances over its 134 runnings. 

It’s the only Triple Crown race to have ever been run in two divisions, resulting in 2 different winners in 1918.  The clubhouse has been struck by lightning (1909) and even burned down (1966).  The race was homeless for several years in the late 1800s, when five runnings were held at Belmont Park. 

In more recent history, the Preakness has suffered a track-wide power outage (1998); a drunken (and suicidal) infielder ran out onto the track and punched at horses racing in the 1999 sprint race on the Preakness undercard.  Afleet ALex clipped heels with Scrappy T and stumbled to his knees, but his athletic jockey stayed on and the colt galloped home by daylight in 2005.  Of course, there has been plenty said about Barbaro in 2006.

This year’s drama has so far happened off the track: Rachel Alexandra was sold to Jess Jackson for the sole purpose of competing in the Preakness.  Ahmed Zayat then threatened on TVG that he’d stuff the gate with his own runners so that the filly couldn’t get in.  Marylou Whitney was even wrapped up in the controversy.  By Monday, all of the craziness was over, Zayat recanted and Rachel was in. 

It’s good that Rachel ALexandra will get to face colts.  She is a big, sturdy filly and should have no problems keeping up with the boys.  She’s already faster than most of them.  Borel is sticking with her over his Derby winner, which speaks volumes to her talent.  Borel will also do everything he can to protect her should the race prove to be too much for her.  I’m not worried about her physical condition or of her getting injured.  Rags To Riches ran in the Belmont, for goodness sakes.  So did Silverbulletday, my #1 favorite filly of all time.  Rachel will be fine.

She will also win.  As much as I’d love for Pioneerof The Nile to turn the tables on Mine That Bird, or even for Mine That Bird to continue the impossible dream, I believe Rachel has the speed and strength to win this race.  The pace will be much faster here than the Derby, with Big Drama and Take The Points in the gate.  But she can sit just off the leaders.  She also has a better tactical turn of foot than most of the colts.  Borel can put her anywhere he wants. 

If it rains, Mine That Bird will be dangerous.

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Mine That Bird : The Susan Boyle of Horse Racing

Could it all be just a dream?  Calvin Borel celebrates atop 135th Derby winner Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot.  Photo by AP.

Could it all be just a dream? Calvin Borel celebrates atop 135th Derby winner Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot. Photo by AP.

He stepped onto the stage, a plain, brown gelding, small in stature, and all but invisible among the flashy stars of the Triple Crown trail.  Handicappers, racing fans, industry insiders, racing commentators, all of them rolled their eyes when reading his name in the post parade: Mine That Bird. 

Steven Levitt, economist and racing fan, wrote in his Freakonomics blog, “If I had to pick a last-place finisher…it would be Mine That Bird.”  In the 3-strikes formula employed by Jon White, Mine That Bird had 5.  Message board commenters joked about him crossing the wire next week.  His speed figures weren’t good enough, he wasn’t fast enough, he’d only won on synthetic surfaces, these same colts had beaten him at the Breeders’ Cup, where he’d come in last — there really wasn’t a good reason for him to be there.

The brown horse knew nothing of this criticism.  He went to post #8 with jockey Calvin Borel in the irons, a veteran who’d ridden a Derby winner in 2007.  He was in good hands.  All that was left was for him to perform. 

When the gates opened, he started out so far back, it was as if he’d been left at the gate.   The track was sloppy, and he was hit in the face with the slick mud off the other horses’ hooves.  As the field flew through the backstretch, Mine That Bird began to move up, passing horses swiftly along the rail.  Turning for home, the pacesetters traded the lead in a thrilling duel.  The race caller’s attention was focused on the drama at the front of the pack, but what he didn’t see was the small, brown gelding closing furiously on the rail just behind them.  In a dramatic burst, the muddy gelding slipped through a slot the size of a needle’s eye on that golden rail.  He was in the lead!  He was drawing away by 3!  4!  6 on the wire! 

The people at Churchill Downs — the ladies in the soggy hats and the Infielders as muddy as the horses– stared in shock.  Mine That Bird had done the impossible, at 50-1 odds! 

I love the Kentucky Derby.  No other sports event can compare with its propensity for surprise winners.  All of the experts, this one included, totally ignored him.  But he took flight on the muddy Churchill Down strip and prevailed by 6 3/4 lengths, surpassing even Barbaro in his dominance.  The only thing I can think of that even comes close to the surprise and delight in this horse’s performance is Susan Boyle.

He took the stage a small, plain, brown gelding.  He entered the Winners’ Circle covered in mud and roses, humming “I Dream A Dream.”

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Filed under Churchill Downs, favorite races, Kentucky Derby, mine that bird, promoting racing, results, Underrated Racehorses

MINE THAT BIRD — Laughingstock to Legend!

50-1 longshot Mine That Bird just won the Kentucky Derby by 6! Calvin Borel rode the colt to victory with his signature rail-skimming ride. With his win on Rachel Alexandra yesterday, he joins an elite group of Derby-Oaks double winning jockeys, the last one being Jerry Bailey in 1993.
Mine That Bird — Derby winner

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