A Cat Picks the 2014 Preakness

May 16, 2014

By Adele

Only the most heartless brute would want to dash the hopes of a horse with a shot at winning the Triple Crown, so I’m betting my treats on Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, the odds-on favorite at 3-5 in the 10-horse field, to win the Preakness Stakes May 17 at Pimlico (4:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

But as always with horse-racing, there’s a bit of drama going on in the barn. “Chromie,” as they call him, has a blister in his throat that makes him cough. His trainer said it was there for the Derby and didn’t get him down, so let’s keep our paws crossed.

Also, it’s been raining, uh, cats and dogs in these parts, and the track may be muddy. Chromie has never run in mud, but he’s never been finicky about the surface, so I hope he’s good with getting his hooves dirty.

He drew the 3rd post position in a field of just 10 horses.

I’ve got a couple of other favorites. A filly named Ria Antonia is the only girl in the race, running from pp 6 with Calvin Borel on her back. They say she’s no Rachel Alexandra (who beat the boys back in 2009) and she has the worst odds at 30-1, but if Chromie can’t pull it off, I hope Ria does.

My pick to show is Ride on Curlin (odds 10-1), although he not only drew the widest post position (10), but he’s in for a rude surprise when he’s mounted this time by Joel Rosario and sees his Derby jockey, Calvin Borel, on Ria Antonia’s back.

Another horse to watch is Pablo Del Monte in pp 9 (odds 20-1). He had earned a last-minute spot in the Derby when Hopportunity got scratched, but took a pass. More rested between his races, he’ll be fresher than Chromie, but does he have what it takes to win a Triple Crown race?

May the best horse win, and all cross the finish line safely.

A Cat’s Picks for the 2014 Kentucky Derby

May 1, 2014

By Adele

Ahhhh… can you smell the fresh hay? Triple Crown season is my favorite time of the year. Why does a cat like me have this thing for horses? Could I have a case of hoof envy? I wouldn’t mind having a set, if they had claws.

The Kentucky Derby is this Saturday, May 3 (beginning at 4 p.m. on NBC), and I’ve been poring over the contenders, searching for the next Triple Crown winner.

Unfortunately, Hopportunity has already been scratched because he just turned up with a sore left front leg, but if it heals he could turn up later to try for 2 out of 3 at the Preakness.

Wicked Strong is one of the human favorites, running in post position 19 with 6-1 odds. He was originally named Moyne Spun, but his owners started calling him Wicked Strong in 2012 after the Boston Marathon bombings. Of whatever he wins during Triple Crown season, 5% will be donated to a fund for the Marathon victims.

Personally, I think this is all too much pressure to lay on a horse, and Wicked has shown it by running a few disappointing races already this year, so I’m not betting my treats on him, but I wish him luck.

The odds-on human favorite is California Chrome, in post position 5 at 5-2, but he’s not my pick either.

To place or show, I’ll be rooting for Ride On Curlin, who will have the wily Calvin Borel in his saddle. This is sentimental, because Ride On is the son of Curlin, and he has Storm Cat in his family tree on his mom’s side. He’s finished no less than 3rd in 8 of his 9 previous races. He’ll be in post position 18 with odds of 15-1, but if 3-time Derby winner Borel can steer him to the rail, Ride On Curlin could make it.

My pick to win is Wildcat Red. He’ll be in pp 10 with jockey Luis Saez. Wildcat has won 4 of his 7 lifetime races, and has never finished farther back than 2nd. His odds are also 15-1.

One other horse I’ll be cheering with all paws crossed to place or show is Medal Count in pp 13 at 20-1 odds. He’s a distant cousin of the amazing Barbaro, who never recovered from his tragic freak accident in the 2006 Preakness, as well as Eight Belles (the filly ran 2nd to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, only to fracture both front ankles and get put to sleep right on the track, I still have nightmares.)

May all the horses and jockeys cross the finish line safely.

Cat Picks the Preakness

May 13, 2010

By Adele

I know, I know. My Kentucky Derby pick sucked. American Lion came in 11th. That’s the last time I underestimate jockey Calvin Borel’s rat-like cunning. It doesn’t seem to matter which horse he rides; the guy knows how to slip through cracks.

On May 1, Borel won his 3rd Derby in 4 years on Super Saver, who must have been surprised because his face was covered with mud. But now Super has dreams of winning the Triple Crown. Who am I to rain on his parade?

Super Saver is my Preakness pick. He’ll be in post position 8 on May 15.

On the other hand, if I were picking an underdog, it would be Paddy O’Prado in pp 10. He came in 3rd in the Derby under Kent Desormeaux, the jockey who won the Preakness in 2008 on Big Brown.

Two other Derby contenders will be back — Lookin at Lucky and Dublin. Lucky was the Derby favorite, but the mud got to him and he came in 6th. Now he’s catching no break with a jockey-switch to Martin Garcia, which never bodes well. He’ll be in pp 7 beside his nemesis, Super Saver.

Dublin ran 7th in the Derby and will be on the outside in pp 12 with Lucky’s Derby jockey, Garrett Gomez.

The only other horse out of the 12 running who intrigues me is Yawanna Twist in pp 5 with Edgar Prado. He came in second against American Lion in the Illinois Derby in April.

There’s no crazy filly like Rachel Alexandra running on a whim with Calvin Borel. That pair cost Mine That Bird his Triple Crown last year. I just hope it’s a pretty day and nobody gets hurt.

Zenyatta Beats the Equine Rodney Dangerfield

November 8, 2009

By Adele

Since winning the Kentucky Derby as a 50-1 long shot, Mine That Bird hasn’t caught a break. Having Zenyatta sail past him in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic yesterday with another one of his jockeys on her back must have been the icing on the cake.


Zenyatta is No. 4 in yellow (Photo - Jae C. Hong/AP, NY Times)

Zenyatta, running on her home track at Santa Anita, was racing against boys for the first time — some of the best male horses in the world, including Mine and his brother, Belmont winner Summer Bird.

It was the longest race (1 ¼ miles) Zenyatta’s ever run, too. Her jockey was Mike Smith, who rode Mine in the Preakness when his Derby jockey, Calvin Borel, abandoned him to ride Rachel Alexandra, who beat him and crushed his Triple Crown dreams.

Walking to the gate, Mine was a dignified pro, but Zenyatta was, as usual, prancing and pawing for the crowd. Then she turned diva when they tried to load her.

But that was nothing compared to the fit Quality Road threw. He refused to be loaded, so they blindfolded him, which only made him madder. He scratched his legs bucking, so they scratched him from the race.

The scene rattled everybody, so the horses were all backed out, dismounted, and reloaded. The change in routine seemed to throw Zenyatta, and she was slow out of the gate, trailing the field with Mine, who probably experienced dreadful déjà vu when he saw his jockey riding Zenyatta.

With every other horse in front of her, Zenyatta regained her sense of purpose and flew in the final stretch to pass the lead horse, Gio Ponti, and win the race. The first female to win in its 26-year history. Her 14th straight victory, keeping her undefeated.

Summer Bird came in 4th. Mine That Bird came in 9th.

Watch the race.

Maybe Mine never intended to win, but to show Calvin Borel what happens to fair-weather jockeys.

They’re saying Zenyatta will probably retire. She’ll never race Rachel Alexandra, who skipped the Breeders’. But that’s probably for the best. One of them would have to lose.

They’re also saying Zenyatta deserves to be Horse of the Year. I don’t go that far. Rachel beat the boys 3 times this year to Zenyatta’s one. If anything, they should share the honor.

Rachel Alexandra Beats the Boys AGAIN

September 6, 2009

By Adele

Nine wins in a row. On September 5, Rachel Alexandra outran 7 older and stronger male horses to take the $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga in New York. The 2008 Belmont Stakes winner, Da’Tara, challenged Rachel right out of the gate, but she never let him get by her. Watch her in action.

So let’s see…

This summer, she beat 2009 Kentucky Bird winner Mine That Bird by winning the second Triple Crown race, the Preakness, herself. Then beat Summer Bird in the Haskell. He was the 2009 winner of the third Triple Crown race, the Belmont. By default, that makes Rachel the unofficial Triple Crown queen.

In the Woodward, Macho Again made a mad dash in the final stretch and almost overtook Rachel, but jockey Calvin Borel helped her beat Macho back and she won by a head and made history. No filly has ever won the Woodward in 56 years.

Rachel was a huge crowd favorite, and their screaming before the race spooked her while she was walking to the gate. Borel jumped off her back to calm her down. Ordinarily, such an incident would not bode well, but Rachel regained her composure and did what she does best — win.

Now they’re saying she’s a shoo-in for Horse of the Year unless her nemesis, the unbeaten 5-year-old mare, Zenyatta, does something freakishly daring on the West Coast. Or Rachel and Zenyatta could have a showdown in the Beldame later this year.

Rachel granted an interview to TimesUnion.com and came off as a bit of a diva, but I’m hoping to score her first interview with a cat before the racing season is over.

Mine That Bird’s Got Jock(ey) Itch

July 2, 2009

By Adele

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird has been unwittingly snared in two horsey love triangles. I caught him by phone at Churchill Downs, where he’s been stabled since placing third in the Belmont. His Triple Crown hopes had been dashed in the Preakness when his jockey, Calvin Borel, ditched him to ride Rachel Alexandra to a narrow victory.

Adele: Thanks for talking to me, Mine. Congratulations on the Derby. Sorry about the other 2 races, though. The Preakness was a squeaker, but what happened at Belmont when you had Borel back? Did you throw that race to spite him, as some (me) have speculated?

Mine: Adele, since betting’s involved, I have no comment, but let us say that we horses think little of jockeys who play us to win a Triple Crown for themselves. It’s supposed to be a horse honor.

A: That brings up your latest dilemma. Calvin Borel rode Rachel last Saturday to win the Mother Goose Stakes, and now he’s been dropped as your jockey in future races because he won’t commit to you through the Breeders’ Cup in November.

M: Me and Borel made a good team while it lasted, but the race is won by the horse, not the jockey. That guy let his head get turned by a fast filly. As far as I’m concerned, he can have her.

A: And now they’re trying to get Mike Smith, your jockey in the Preakness, to commit, but he’s hedging because he wants to ride Zenyatta, the mare he rode to win the Vanity Handicap last Saturday.

M: Zenyatta’s a freak with a thing for fat jockeys. She lets Smith pig out between races and still wins. Personally, I hope they find me a Munchkin jockey. They stay light without all the heaving.

A: I understand you’re running in the West Virginia Derby on August 1, at Saratoga on August 29, and maybe one more before the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on November 7. That’s a pretty heavy schedule.

M: Hey, that’s what I do, baby. Horses run.

A: Rachel Alexandra’s owners are saying she probably won’t run in the Breeders’ Cup because it’s artificial turf.

M: That’s their call. Me, I got no problem. That’s what hooves are for. But I’ll tell ya, win or lose, any race without Borel and that filly is a good race for me.

A: Good luck with your next jockey, Mine, whoever he is.

M: Don’t worry, Adele. Loyal fans like you, I don’t want to disappoint. No matter who’s on my back, I promise I’ll give it my best shot.

Horse Racing Hijacked by 2 Female Phenoms

June 29, 2009

By Adele

Rachel Alexandra, the freakish filly who won the Preakness, robbing Mine That Bird of his jockey and his shot at the Triple Crown, has done it again. On June 27 at Belmont in New York, she became the first filly ever to win her next race after beating boys, and broke 2 other records.

Rachel ran in the Mother Goose Stakes against only 2 other fillies for 1 1/8 mile, but her 1:46:33 time set a new stakes record. Rachel could have blown through Secretariat’s slightly faster record at Belmont, but since she was ahead by more than 19 lengths, jockey Calvin Borel let her ease up in the final stretch.

While racking up her 7th consecutive win, Rachel also beat Ruffian’s 13 ½-length margin of victory from 1975. But this was all in a day’s racing for Rachel.

In California, the amazing Zenyatta wiped the track at Hollywood Park with her 5 female competitors in the Vanity Handicap. Carrying Mike Smith at 129 pounds, which was 13-16 more pounds than the other horses (the “handicap”) and the heaviest weight of her career, the 5-year-old mare came from last on the 1 1/8 mile synthetic course to win by 2 ½ lengths for a time of 1:48:15.

Mike Smith and Zenyatta (Benoit Photo - LA Times)

Mike Smith and Zenyatta (Benoit Photo - LA Times)

Zenyatta is unbeaten, and this was her 11th consecutive win.

The buzz now is all about when these two superstars will match up, but nobody knows. Zenyatta’s only left California once for a race, and Rachel’s owner isn’t eager to have her run on synthetic turf on the West Coast.

I’m kind of hoping the girls never meet. Otherwise, one of them will have to lose.

Mine That Bird Gets Revenge

June 7, 2009

By Adele

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.

Mine That Bird’s Triple Crown Dream Dashed by Fast Filly

May 17, 2009

By Fred

After coming from last to whiz past all the other horses in the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby, everyone was wondering if Mine That Bird’s turbo-charged win was a fluke.

Turns out, the Bird’s the real thing and did have a shot at the Triple Crown — until this tomboy filly, Rachel Alexandra, showed up at Pimlico for the Preakness Stakes yesterday. She had 5 straight wins behind her, all run under the Bird’s Derby jockey, Calvin Borel. For the Preakness, Borel defected back to Rachel, predicting she’d win the race.

Rachel and Calvin (Photo - Garry Jones, AP)

Rachel and Calvin (Photo - Garry Jones, AP)

Mine That Bird took that slap in the face with grace. And he didn’t get rattled at the gate when the horse beside him, Big Drama, started over-acting and had to be backed out and reloaded.

Mine That Bird’s a great horse with or without Borel. He was 18 lengths from the lead at one point, but made it up and lost by only one length to Rachel. Everybody’s now calling her “Alexandra the Great,” since she’s the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924.

Watch the race for yourself.

My former favorite, General Quarters, also ran, only to get lost in the crowd again. He came in 9th, but still beat two of the favorites, Friesan Fire and Pioneerof the Nile.

We don’t know yet if Rachel and the Bird will have a rematch at Belmont in 3 weeks. The last filly to win that one was Rags to Riches in 2007.

This has all created some tension at Cats Working because Adele’s rooting for Rachel Alexandra. But I’m betting my treats on Mine That Bird.

Once Rachel’s racing days are over, there’s talk she’ll be meeting Curlin in hopes they hit it off and produce a super-horse together. Rachel will have her hooves full with Curlin who, in retirement, is reported to be quite a ladies’ man.

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