Saturday, June 6, 2009

Birdstone can't stay out of his own way

The Belmont Stakes is in the books and the little 'Bird that could, 50-1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and his "Jockey Triple Crown" hopeful rider, Calvin Borel, are knocked down two pegs by another bird, Summer Bird.

That's right, the Derby long-shot son of Birdstone (who stole Smarty Jones' Triple Crown in the 2004 Belmont) loses the Belmont himself to another of his sire's sons, at a wee bit of a price ($25.80 to win).

In the end, Mine That Bird finished third behind Dunkirk, who nearly got taken down after some troubles in the stretch with Charitable Man. With a DQ, it would've been a Birdstone-double.

Criticism already is falling on Borel for perhaps moving too soon with Mine That Bird. I actually said it during the race to co-workers who were watching with me.

"It's too early," I said. "I'm afraid it's too early."

Mine That Bird was keen to go down the back stretch and Borel had to let him. But it was winner Kent Desormeaux, with his own Belmont shortcomings, who earlier in the week, called Borel "naive" for approaching the Belmont with confidence despite having no real experience over the track. Race-riding at Belmont is like nowhere else. Unlike most tracks, where the finish line is relatively near when the horses straighten out for home off the final turn, at Belmont, there are still some 1,100 feet left to run.

Mine That Bird had the lead when they straightened out, but having already come from the back -- and this time the long way around, on the outside -- maybe he didn't have enough left to finish like he needed. He was beaten not only by the fellow Birdstone-sired closer, but by Dunkirk, who had done all the work on the front end, but stayed on the rail in doing it.

I won't kick Borel while he's (comparatively) down, though. He's a great race-rider and we wouldn't even know Mine That Bird if Bo-Rail hadn't made one of the greatest moves in Derby history on the first Saturday in May, 2009. The Belmont Stakes has humbled more famous jockeys than he. And he still has the mount on the great filly of 2009, Rachel Alexandra.

I do wonder whether Bennie Woolley Jr. will keep Borel aboard Mine That Bird, though. Even Woolley -- though he said he'd "pat him on the back" when he saw Borel post-race -- was telling Janine Edwards after the race that the jock had moved too soon.

Final thought: How great a start to a stallion career is Birdstone having? A Derby win and a Belmont win in his first crop, and they weren't won by the same horse. And, Kentucky Oaks-G1 runner-up Stone Legacy, Tempted S.-G3 winner Livin Lovin, and multiple-stakes winner Texas Birdstone. ... That deserves a "wow."

1 comment:

  1. I agree that it was naive not to prepare more for the race, but this kind of cockeyed optimism is also Borel's strength. After all, how many other jockeys would have squeezed through that rail gap on the Churchill stretch?


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