News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
BOREL CAN SWEEP “PERSONAL TRIPLE CROWN” IN BELMONT STAKES
Jockey Calvin Borel has been “in the zone” of late. He has won races in bunches at Churchill Downs, charmed network television hosts and their audiences and shaken any friendly, outstretched hand or posed for any fan photograph. And Saturday he will attempt to become the first jockey to win all three Triple Crown races on multiple horses when he climbs back aboard Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Grade I, $1 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y
Borel set this stage on May 2 when he shot the diminutive Mine That Bird through a narrow hole on the rail that brought him to a 6 ¾-length victory in the Kentucky Derby at 50-1. One day earlier, he guided the filly, Rachel Alexandra, to a huge victory in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, and Borel had the two top horses in the three-year-old division to call his own.
That changed when Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stable purchased Rachel Alexandra and announced that she would take on colts in the Preakness on May 16. Borel, calling her “the best horse he ever sat on,” made the tough decision to take off the Derby winner and ride Rachel Alexandra at Pimlico.
She made history that day, becoming one of only five fillies ever to win the Triple Crown’s middle leg. Mine That Bird finished a length back in second.
Last week, Jackson announced that Rachel Alexandra would skip the Belmont Stakes, and now Mine That Bird will once again be ridden by Borel.
“He’ll win,” said Borel of Mine That Bird, who will break from post 7 aboard the 2-1 morning line favorite. “That’s what we’re here for. I see a Derby race, same style. He sits back there. Belmont has a long stretch and I can sit and wait.”
Mine That Bird’s trainer Chip Woolley is more than happy to have the rider known as “Bo-Rail” back on Mine That Bird.
“We understood Calvin’s situation,” Woolley said. “And we are glad to get him back for the Belmont because this is the race we’ve always felt we could win.”
Victory in the Belmont for Mine That Bird is hardly a certainty, however. The race is loaded with horses and horsemen that have strong ties to this 1½-mile race for three-year-olds known as the “Test of the Champion.” Chief among these is Charitable Man, the “now” horse of this year’s Belmont Stakes. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who won the 2006 Belmont Stakes with Jazil, this son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid has won three of four career starts, including the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 9.
And it may not pay to overlook Flying Private or Luv Gov, both trained by four-time Belmont Stakes winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas; or the combo of Brave Victory and Miner’s Escape who will start for trainer Nick Zito, who has won a pair of Belmonts, including last year’s renewal with Da’ Tara.
The complete field for the 141st Belmont Stakes, in post position order, is: Chocolate Candy (jockey: Garrett Gomez, morning line odds: 10-1); Dunkirk (John Velazquez, 4-1); Mr. Hot Stuff (Edgar Prado, 15-1); Summer Bird (Kent Desormeaux, 12-1); Luv Gov (Miguel Mena, 20-1); Charitable Man (Alan Garcia, 3-1); Mine That Bird (Calvin Borel, 2-1); Flying Private (Julien Leparoux, 12-1); Miner’s Escape (Jose Lezcano, 15-1); and Brave Victory (Rajiv Maragh, 15-1).
JOCKEYS ACROSS NORTH AMERICA TO RECOGNIZE RENE DOUGLAS, PDJF SATURDAY
On Saturday, riders at racetracks across the U.S. and Canada will take part in a unified show of support for recently injured jockey Rene Douglas and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF).
Riders at Belmont Park and other racetracks will participate in a moment of tribute and support for Douglas and his fellow injured riders at approximately 3:15 p.m. (CT) All active riders are being asked to consider contributing, as a sign of unity, one losing mount fee from their Saturday earnings to Douglas.
New York Racing Association (NYRA) President and CEO Charles Hayward will make a $5,000 contribution to Triple Crown winning jockey Ron Turcotte and other riders on behalf of the PDJF during the special winner’s circle ceremony at Belmont.
Also, the PDJF and B.E.S.T. (Backstretch Employee Service Team) will be the two designated charities to benefit from the NetJets sponsorship of the riders in the Belmont Stakes.
Douglas was seriously injured on May 23 of this year during a race at Arlington Park. In 1996, he won the Belmont Stakes aboard Editor’s Note and during last year’s Belmont Stakes program, he guided Dancing Forever to victory in the Grade I Manhattan Handicap.
“We appreciate the generosity of NYRA, all the jockeys, racetracks, horse owners and the racing fans whose compassion and support make such a difference in the lives of disabled riders,” said Nancy LaSala, Executive Director of the PDJF.
Contributions in support of Rene Douglas’s recovery may be made out to Rene Douglas and mailed to: Citibank; 539 N. Michigan Avenue; Chicago, IL 60611.
The PDJF’s mission is to assist jockeys who are permanently disabled from an on-track accident and to build awareness for their needs. The PDJF has disbursed more than $2 million to assist with the living expenses of permanently disabled riders.