Saturday, June 6, 2009

In Pursuit of a Triple Crown

In the past, a Triple Crown in thoroughbred horse racing has referred to a horse winning all three races — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.

It is not possible for the same horse to win all three races this year, but it is still possible for the same jockey to win all three races, and that is what Calvin Borel will seek to do this afternoon. They're calling this unprecedented achievement the "Calvin Crown."

Borel rode Mine That Bird to victory in the May 2 Kentucky Derby, then he switched horses and rode filly Rachel Alexandra to victory in the Preakness two weeks later. Today, he's back on Mine That Bird.

Oddsmakers have established Mine That Bird as a 2–1 pick to win, but Charitable Man is a 3–1 pick and Dunkirk is 4–1. Based on the odds, Mine That Bird can expect some stiff competition today.

As Ed Gray observes in the Boston Herald, today's race represents a new challenge for Mine That Bird.

Borel and the horse will "will have to adjust to the 1–mile oval with wide sweeping turns and long stretches," Gray writes. "The pace of the Belmont is usually slower than it is in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, which may not play into the hand of a drop–back, one–run closer like Mine That Bird."

The Belmont track may be a challenge for Mine That Bird, but observes that the jockey has the confidence he needs.

" 'Like I have been telling you, he will win,' Borel said" in a Namath–like guarantee, reports " 'Winning a Triple Crown might not be on the same horse but it'ts very good for me and my career.' "

Wallace Matthews writes, in Newsday, that the Belmont "separates the merely good from the great."

As anyone who has been looking for work in this economy knows, confidence is a significant part of the battle. We'll find out today if it can carry Borel to a "Calvin Crown" — and establish him as "great" as opposed to "merely good."

The 1½–mile track does, indeed, pose a challenge for Mine That Bird. If Borel can ride his mount to victory, it will be quite an achievement.

I hope he can do it. But my guess is that he won't. I'm thinking that Mine That Bird will finish second, just as he did three weeks ago, even though he has a talented jockey riding him.

Here are my picks in today's race:
  1. Charitable Man

  2. Mine That Bird

  3. Chocolate Candy
You can see the race on ABC. Coverage begins at 4 p.m. (Central), but the race won't run until more than an hour later.

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