Sunday, May 10, 2009

The plot is off: Rachel is in

Thank goodness. I was starting to think Mine That Bird wasn't the only member of his team to have been gelded.

A split-second after publishing a lengthy blog post criticizing the Derby winner's connections for trying to conspire to keep filly Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness (in cahoots with Ahmed Zayat, breeder/owner of Pioneerof The Nile), Thoroughbred Times now tells us that the fix is off. Mine That Bird's connections, including Double Eagle Ranch (Mark Allen) and Buena Suerte Equine, have backed away from the idea.

Since Rachel Alexandra, now owned primarily by Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables, was not an original nominee and must be supplemented to the Triple Crown races (for $100,000), Allen, Zayat and, by some reports, even the venerated horsewoman Marylou Whitney (owner of the sire) seemed bound to keep the filly out by all means necessary. Allen planned to enter a nominated maiden, Indy Express, and Whitney a recent maiden-breaker who is 1-for-10 lifetime in Luv Gov. (Edit: Whitney's camp says they'd only enter Luv Gov if he didn't keep Rachel Alexandra out of the race. But you can't convince me they were ever serious about actually running a 1-for-10 horse in a Grade 1 race.)

Sports Illustrated says Allen, who initially told Thoroughbred Times that he just wanted his jockey back (Calvin Borel took off 'Bird to ride Rachel), eventually decided that shutting the filly out of the race "just ain't right." I'm glad he reached that conclusion, whatever coercion there might have been behind the scenes to achieve that change of heart. (Allen says there was none.)

The only bad thing about Allen and Zayat changing their minds is the reduced impact of the awesome illustration commissioned for the first, fuming blog. At least I still think it's funny.

In the long run, provided Rachel runs sound in the Preakness (regardless whether she wins) this is the best resolution for racing, and even for Mine That Bird. Why risk turning a potential folk hero -- the 50/1 Derby long-shot winner -- into the villain? Now if he wins the Preakness under a different rider (edit: Looks like Mike Smith), most fans will be rooting for the diminutive, gelded son of Birdstone to win a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, not against him.

Maybe even me.

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