Sunday, May 17, 2009

Preakness, post-race, post-slumber

A collection of musings spilling forth after a night to sleep on how Rachel Alexandra won the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Rachel Alexandra is as good as advertised. Mine That Bird proved to me he was better than I thought. Probably much better. Barring traffic problems that forced Mike Smith to swing him seven wide, he might have gotten up in time.

So, as some fans feared, Rachel Alexandra might have "stolen" our chance at the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Of course you never know how the race would have turned out with one fewer horse -- the winner, particularly. But if Rachel hadn't taken the Preakness from him, Mine That Bird, who came home second and full of run, might have had a very legit shot at a Triple Crown. He's sure looked like the only horse in the two races thus far who has handled 9.5f and 10f like he wanted even more ground. Of course, if "ifs and buts" were candy and nuts, then every day would be Christmas. (Or as Aussie bull rider Troy Dunn once quipped to me during a post-rodeo interview, "Yeah, and if me auntie had balls, she'd be me uncle.")

And thus, is Mark Allen now regretting his decision that prompted him to say it "ain't right" keeping Rachel out of the race by entering nominated-but-undeserving colts to protect Mine That Bird?

Reading the Preakness chart, I don't know that I've ever seen so many horses with evidence of troubled trips. The order of finish behind Rachel, with "trouble" notes as applicable: Mine That Bird (std'd 1/4, 7w); Musket Man (std'd rail 1/4); Flying Private (steadied early and 1/4); Big Drama(fractious gate, bobbled); Papa Clem; Terrain (run btw, in tight 3/16); Luv Gov (angled 8wd); General Quarters (shuffl early, std'd 1/8); Friesan Fire (bobbled st); Pioneerof The Nile (5wd btw); Tone It Down; Take The Points (6wd to far turn). ... Does this mean nine of 13 exit the race with some sort of excuse?

I love Calvin Borel. I love his enthusiasm. I love how "down to earth" he is. (Though with his upbringing, how could he not be?) I love that all he wants from life is to be around and to ride these horses; how that gives him unbridled joy; how it seems that he finds something to appreciate about every horse he meets, every one is "a good horse"; and how with him, they get better. Cheers, Calvin. May this run through the Oaks, Derby, Preakness and beyond make you one of the most in-demand riders in racing.

What now of the Belmont Stakes? If Mine That Bird comes out of the Preakness well and good, no doubt he should go. He'll be a favorite, if not the favorite, even if Rachel runs. Maybe she didn't like the Pimlico surface that much, or maybe she just hadn't been tested so hard before, but it appeared she was beginning to labor at the end of the Preakness; or at least wasn't as good as him at the end. She didn't look like a filly that would be comfortable at 12 furlongs. But her sire, Medaglia D'Oro, placed in the Belmont (to Sarava), so maybe. It would sure make the race worth watching, a "gender wars" rivalry between these two. But I don't want her going there if it's bad or wrong for her, and I'm not sure it wouldn't be wrong for her. ... Which leads us back to, "So, as some fans feared, Rachel Alexandra might have 'stolen' our first chance for a Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978."

If that's the case, it wouldn't be the first time. Most notable is 1968, when Forward Pass had won both the Derby (edit: by DQ) and Preakness. Then: Cue Stage Door Johnny. ... Having not competed in either prior Triple Crown race, he exited stage left with the Belmont trophy, relegating Forward Pass to second place and robbing him of marquee billing among racing's historic leading men.

And then there was Birdstone, sire of Mine That Bird. He did compete in the 2004 Derby, albeit well-beaten by Smarty Jones. Smarty took the Preakness handily while Birdstone rested and prepped for the Belmont. There, as we all recall, a Triple Crown again was denied, with a devastating late kick by a slightly smallish horse -- a stature and running style passed down from sire to son; a son whose shot at the crown was denied Saturday in Baltimore. ... The Racing Gods giveth, and they taketh away.


  1. I just noticed that Mary Lou Whitney only hurt herself money wise by stopping the "No Rachel" conspiracy by threatening to drop Luv Guv out. She is the sole owner of Birdstone (whose stud fee would have a lot higher) Thank goodness some owners think more long term over a short term money gain.

  2. Did Marylou Whitney stop the scheme? I don't know. I didn't really see anything from her camp saying they'd withhold Luv Gov until the same round of stories in which Ahmed Zayat said he'd gotten enough negative feedback to drop the idea, and Mark Allen said he'd changed his own mind, without any pressure (which I doubt).

    Where the collusion fell apart is hard to say, and I doubt the cadre of racing journalism is really all that interested in knowing. I think it's the most interesting story to spring from racing (other than an actual race) in a very long time, but when the plan fizzled, so did the reporting on it, all but the inevitable recapping for those readers and viewers who somehow missed it while it was ongoing.


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