Faced with letting his on-again, off-again jockey win a personal Triple Crown without him, Mine That Bird struck a blow for thoroughbreds everywhere by throwing the Belmont Stakes to his half-brother, Summer Bird.
Jockey Calvin Borel had ridden Mine That Bird to an amazing Kentucky Derby victory. But in the Preakness, a filly named Rachel Alexandra was entered, whom Borel had ridden to 5 previous wins, so Borel defected.
His gallantry toward the lady would have been commendable except that Mine That Bird was a TRIPLE CROWN contender. For Rachel, it was just another day at the races.
Mine That Bird accepted a new jockey, Mike Smith, and kept his cool when nobody answered when he kept asking, “Where’s Cal?”
It was only during his last-minute dash to the Preakness finish line, overtaking that filly in the lead, when he glanced over and had a “What the…?” moment.
HIS jockey Cal was on HER back!
I think that split-second loss of focus cost the Bird the Preakness.
Yesterday’s Belmont was the third jewel in the Triple Crown. Mine That Bird had potential to become a soon-forgotten two-thirds winner. Big deal, he probably thought.
But Borel was set to become the first jockey ever to win the Triple Crown himself on different horses. AND, since Rachel Alexandra was a no-show, he was telling everybody Mine That Bird would win with him back on board.
You could see the Bird was up to something by how nervously he walked to the gate. Borel admitted the Bird “fought” him a little mid-race, but then he broke for the finish and even briefly took the lead, just to lull Cal into a false sense of victory.
THEN, Mine That Bird let Summer Bird and Dunkirk get past him, coming in third.
Sorry, Cal. No Triple Crown for you.
Summer Bird’s jockey, Kent Desormeaux, was ecstatic. Last year, his Triple Crown hopes were dashed when his horse, Big Brown, who’d easily won the Derby and the Preakness, inexplicably decided to quit racing. Desormeaux pulled him up, and they walked across the Belmont finish line, dead last.
Mine That Bird’s brilliant revenge boosted his brother’s career, taught Borel a lesson about horse loyalty, and gave Desormeaux a belated victory he deserved for his kindness to Big Brown.