Paddock to Post: Triple Crown Diary

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: May 31, 2009

PHILADELPHIA – As the cheering has slightly subsided for Rachel Alexandra, the latest word is that she will pass up running in the Belmont, bypassing one tremendous opportunity for perhaps an even greater one.

With really nothing to prove, Rachel’s running in the Belmont (and win) would have made her the most unusual Double Crown winner ever; as well as the only filly to take two of the three most prestigious races in the sport.

Owner Jess Jackson, citing his decision to have Rachel sit out the Belmont, says it was in the best interest of the hoss and the sport, although the officials at Belmont may disagree.

The potential for a six-figure crowd full of punters and picnickers will disappear on June 6 because Rachel won’t run; but the NYRA may get a boost if Jackson sends her out in the quest for the Triple Tiara.

The Mother Goose Stakes, first leg of the Tiara, will run on June 27 at Belmont, and a well-rested Rachel (between bites of carrots), would only nod and swish her tail a couple of times when asked how she would react knowing she would go into the ‘Goose as a prohibitive favorite…

For as many male Triple Crown winners as the sport has seen, there are even fewer Triple Tiara winners. Only eight filly champions have done the deed since the concept was introduced in the 1960s: Dark Mirage, Shuvee, the aptly named Chris Evert, the beautiful and ill – fated Ruffian, Davona Dale, Mom’s Command, Open Mind and Sky Beauty, the last to wear the Tiara in 1993.

Dirt Over Plastic

Another reason Jackson & Rachel may feel confident about the Tiara is because it may be the last time the format stays on all – dirt tracks. The Tiara series is run at New York state tracks (Belmont Park & Saratoga), where The Coaching Club American Oaks follows in July, and the Alabama Stakes runs in August during the Saratoga meeting.

Many racing traditionalists see the Tiara as the Kentucky Oaks, the Black – Eyed Susan Stakes, and the Acorn, all run at the respective Triple Crown tracks prior to their complimentary races the following day.

But in spite of trouncing the field by 20 lengths in the Kentucky Oaks, Rachel’s handlers feel dirt tracks are in jeopardy with the rise of synthetic surfaces.

The talent bias between East and West coast hosses are further muddied by the implementation of PolyTracks. In California, all major tracks are now synthetic. In the Midwest, Chicago’s Hawthorne, Arlington Park, and Kentucky’s Keeneland and Turfway Park (part of the Churchill Downs system of tracks) are all synth tracks.

All New York tracks (including Aqueduct & Finger Lakes) and all Florida tracks (among them Gulfstream & Calder Race Course) are still dirt, and this matters a great deal to handicappers, many who still say the PolyTracks don’t offer consistent enough performance patterns to indicate how the hoss will do over a stretch of time.

While New York seems steadfast in mindset behind running on dirt, Churchill Downs & / or Pimlico may be headed for a rubberized or plastic/sand alternative. Stay tuned…

The Triple Bo - Rail!

What could be the real reason to get out to Belmont this Saturday may be the rise of jockey Calvin Borel, and the amazing scenario placing him at the starting gate of racing history.

As each hoss gains their moment of fame, the jockey is almost always the complement to that Noble Beast. But Borel’s actions during this Crown’s events have him in the most unique of positions.

In the Derby, Borel’s rail – skimmin’ ride had Mine That Bird looking like the second coming of Little Current; his clever piloting of Rachel Alexandra snagged the Preakness; and now with the mount back to ‘Bird, Borel could be the first jockey ever to pilot to the Triple Crown winners’ circle on multiple hosses.

Borel, who has long been a dominant jockey in Arkansas, Kentucky and parts Midwest, has revealed himself to lay fans as a kind of racing savant; his vast knowledge of hoss sense and refreshing demeanor is a departure from the cock – sure attitude Kent Desormeaux had last year with Big Brown (although that could have been more a reflection of Big Brown’s trainer).

That Borel, nicknamed “Bo – Rail” because of his steely nerves coming up the rail in the stretch, rides a $10K claimer with the same passion as a Grade I stakes winner, endears him to the $2 Army of bettors who live to have him fill out their exacta or Pick Three.

Word from the ‘Bird

And now that Borel’s coming back on Mine That Bird makes him the sure favorite coming to post, how about showing my Main Hoss ‘Bird some respect?

Mine That Birdis from the first crop of babies from Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, who squashed Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown chances a couple years ago.

The ‘Bird won the Run for the Roses with everyone in Horsey Land knowing his daddy’s stud fee was a mere $9500 – can we say money well spent? At 53 – 1 odds, and first across the wire, you better recognize…

With stud fees like $500K for a “date” with Storm Cat, $150K for Distorted Humor or Dynaformer,and $125K for Giant’s Causeway or Ghostzapper, with a win in the Belmont Stakes, the ‘Bird will stand at the winner’s circle and declare…

(With apologies to the Bar – Kays)

“Son of ‘Bird” (Lyrics by MLI)

“I’m the Son of a baaad mutha – shut yo’ mouf!!!”

“I was born & raised

On Apples and feed;

Had the problems of a Hoss

At the age of 3;

My Daddy was bad, so I’ve been told;

And the family stud fee I must uphold

I run to the stretch; and drive to the wire

If you think that I won’t win this race, I’ll make you a liar – yeah!

Bird…Bird…yeah, Bird…check now…

Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa hoohoooo yeah;

I’m the Son of ‘Bird (now you can believe that shit!)

(Whinny!)

Don’t you mess with me; ’cause I’m his Son

One mo’ Time – don’t you mess with me;

Respect my Daddy! Good Gawd!

(whinny!!!)”

With that last word from the Hosses’ mouth, all I can say is:

WORK THAT NOBLE BEAST!!!

Next time: We try for the Superfecta at the Belmont Stakes!!!