Friday, May 15, 2009

Five reasons why Mine That Bird will win the Preakness

What, you thought I gave the Kentucky Derby winner no chance in Saturday's Preakness Stakes?

1. Bye-bye, Borel: Believe it or not, I don't think Mine That Bird needs Calvin Borel. Though the jockey's ride in the Derby was masterful, the gelding has shown that he can win without him. Mine That Bird has five wins from nine starts, and those victories have come with three different jockeys; Chantal Sutherland is the leader with three. This loss of jockey really could be much ado about nothing when it comes to race-riding at Pimlico. In fact, if what trainer Bennie Woolley Jr. and primary owner Mark Allen want from the horse is to be taken back early (done in part by necessity and in part by design in the Derby, to great success), replacement jock Mike Smith is among the best at winning with a deep closer. (Remember Giacomo?) ... Besides, Borel, a 14-percent winner in 2009, is at his best at Churchill. The guy getting the pickup mount is a hall-of-famer winning at 18 percent. How bad a trade is that, really?

2. Rachel Won't Win: I'm not saying that's a surety, I'm just saying that Rachel Alexandra as favorite -- probably heavy favorite -- isn't as sure a thing as the final odds (whatever they might be) are likely to suggest. And not just because she's a filly (though it plays a role; first race against boys, her toughest field ever, etc.). Look what's being asked of her. She's won five straight, and streaks do typically end. She switches barns, from Hal Wiggins, who obviously knew her well, to Steve Asmussen, who (despite, no doubt, talks with Wiggins), hardly knows her at all. Shipped to Pimlico, new stall, new grooms, new regimen. ... Tall order.

3. The Race Sets Up For Him: Another point against Rachel, for starters. She draws the 13-hole, which superstitiously is a negative, and could be practically, as well. A filly who runs up front -- no further than a head off the lead in her five straight wins -- Rachel might have to spend considerable energy early to draw clear and be able to drop over toward the rail to avoid being hung out very wide on the far turn; especially if one of the boys on the inside decides to make it extra-tough on the filly. Meanwhile, 'Bird sits in the 2-hole with fairly fleet Big Drama to his inside, permitting Smith to take back only a little and get right on the rail to save ground. He can sit second or he can sit 12th, it's up to him and his horse. (See free Daily Racing Form Preakness PPs here.)

4. Remember His 'Dirty Little Secret?' Well, Forget It: Yesterday I noted Mine That Bird's two efforts over a fast, conventional dirt track have not been nearly good enough to win a Grade 1 race. (They weren't good enough to twin two ungraded stakes races.) A fast strip at Pimlico could be a problem. It also could be a moot point. The Weather Channel's hour-by-hour forecast predicts a 30 percent chance of rain or thunderstorms almost straight through in the 24-plus hours from 6 p.m. Preakness Eve, to the 6:15 Saturday evening post time. And the chance of rain escalates in the forecast to 50 percent shortly after the race, and 60 percent throughout Saturday night. If the track takes on moisture at any time after the Black Eyed Susan card today, and if the heavier or at least more-probable rain comes in just a little earlier than the advance forecast predicts, the field could find itself playing in the Derby champion's birdbath, much to his contentment.

5. David vs. Goliath (or, 'The Birdstone Factor'): In this case, Goliath is a girl, and a talented field she leads, and fate, and the odds, which will still be somewhat stacked against this little gelding, although hardly 50-1 as they were on Derby Day. He's a little guy -- by some reports barely 15 hands -- facing a monumental task. But so was his sire, Birdstone, on the day he stole the Belmont Stakes and a Triple Crown from Smarty Jones at 36-1 odds. Don't doubt for a minute that heart and a spirit can flow from sire and dam to son and daughter, just as surely as more tangible attributes such as color, stature, speed and stamina. Then there are the Preakness myths, of almost biblical proportions, primed for the little hero to overcome. ... "Pimlico is speed-favoring, and the traffic can make it even harder on a closer." He can get through; he's a small horse. ... "But the turns at Pimlico are so tight!" Did you forget he's a small horse? ... "But it is just too big a task." The bigger they come, the harder they fall; eh, Goliath? ... Maybe this 'Bird is just the "David" to do it.

1 comment:

  1. Commenting on myself here, but how about that No. 5 and the myths? ... Ended up the speed held, and in large part because Mine That Bird couldn't get through the traffic and had to go six or seven wide on the final turn. If that isn't worth at least a length, I dunno what is.


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