Barbaro Updates: 867
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Update 5107: NYRA update from Belmont Stakes media lunch:
BOREL WOWS MEDIA AT LUNCHEON, GUARANTEES VICTORY AGAIN
NEW YORK - On his first day in Manhattan, jockey Calvin Borel didn't back off his bold guarantee that Mine That Bird would win Saturday's 141st running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.
"He'll win," Borel said before a packed house during a Belmont Stakes media luncheon at Madison Square Garden. "That's what we're here for."
The Kentucky Derby winning gelding, expected to be a solid favorite over nine other three-year-olds in the Belmont, will be reunited with Borel in the 1 1/2 mile race, setting up the possibility of Borel becoming the first jockey to sweep the Triple Crown races aboard different horses. The 42-year-old Cajun took off Mine That Bird after the Derby to ride filly Rachel Alexandra to victory in the Preakness, then got back aboard the gelding when the filly's owners decided not to run her in the Belmont.
"I'll let him run his race like I did in the Derby," said Borel. "He has an unbelievable turn of foot. He reminds me so much of Street Sense when you set him down. That's why I like the little horse."
Borel said the mile-and-a-half of the Belmont Stakes, the longest of the Triple Crown races, would not faze Mine That Bird, and added he was more familiar with the sweeping oval of America's largest racetrack than most people realize.
"I've ridden there a lot of times," he said, adding with a smile: "It's like any track -- you just turn left."
Borel said it was the way Mine That Bird worked on Monday at Churchill Downs that gave him so much confidence.
"He worked the same was as he did before the Derby," said Borel. "He did super good yesterday morning. He can go all day long.
"I see a Derby race, same style," he added. "He sits back there. Belmont has a long stretch and I can sit and wait. I watch this horse every day, he goes two miles, two-and-a-half miles."
Tuesday's media luncheon was part of a whirlwind of activities in which Borel is participating during Belmont Stakes week. Having already taped a segment that will air Friday evening on the "Late Show with David Letterman," Borel will also make several appearances on national television, and visit Wall Street on Thursday morning to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
As for his own personal "triple," Borel said he wasn't really thinking about it.
"It would be awesome, but it won't sink in until afterward," said Borel. "I'm just going out there to win the race. I want to win it for (trainer) Chip (Woolley) because I owe that to him for giving me the opportunity to ride the horse back. This is a dream, and I'm just riding it right now."
Earlier at the luncheon, jockey John Velazquez, the 2007 Belmont winner aboard Rags to Riches who will be aboard Dunkirk on Saturday, addressed fellow riders Rajiv Maragh, who will ride Brave Victory, and Alan Garcia, aboard Charitable Man, and offered some advice.
"Stay on the rail," said Velazquez, referring to Borel's style of riding, typified by his rail-hugging run from last-to-first in the Derby.
Woolley, who arrived in town from Louisville just before the luncheon, was still on crutches from the broken leg he suffered in a motorcycle crash weeks before the Derby but did not let that dampen his enthusiasm for the way the gelding is training up to Saturday's race. Indeed, the Kentucky Derby Museum has reportedly asked for Woolley's crutches to display after he has finished with them.
"Mine That Bird had a super work," said Woolley. "Calvin started him off soft. He finished strong down the lane. He galloped out super."
Mine That Bird is expected to arrive at Belmont Park midafternoon on Wednesday after flying in from Kentucky along with Mr. Hot Stuff. Expected to pass the entry box as well on Wednesday are Chocolate Candy, Flying Private, Luv Gov, Miner's Escape and Summer Bird.
Also attending the luncheon were Mine That Bird's owners, Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach.
"We've been here a few days now, and we're looking forward to the race," said Allen. "He's ready to go."
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who will send out Charitable Man, said he respects the Derby winner but wasn't about to concede the Belmont, ticking off a litany of reasons his colt is a threat.
"He's 2-for-2 at Belmont, 3-for-3 on the dirt, his sire won the Belmont (Lemon Drop Kid in 1999), he's a fresh horse, he's training great," he said. "Should I go on?"
McLaughlin, who saddled Jazil to victory in the 2006 Belmont, earlier got a laugh from some of the attendees before a shuttle bus departed Belmont for Manhattan. The trainer climbed aboard and told everybody they might as well go home, since Borel had already predicted the outcome of the race.
Velazquez said he was looking forward to riding Dunkirk for the first time for Todd Pletcher, the trainer for whom he usually rides.
"I worked him last week for the first time. He worked really well and galloped out great," said Velazquez. "A mile-and-a-half seems to suit Mine That Bird better than anyone but we still have to go a mile-and-a-half and see what happens."
Update 5106: From OLEX today (report forthcoming), horses wait to be shipped out.
Update 5105: Superfecta here, with your regular weekly update.
Belmont week is upon us - while we know we won't see a Rachel Alexandra-Mine That Bird showdown on Saturday (although I hope that happens in the Travers), we will have a fantastic day of racing ahead of us. Belmont day is one of my favorite days of racing all year, largely because of the fantastic undercard it features, and this year is no exception.
The True North should be interesting, with Fabulous Strike and Kodiak Kowboy taking on Disco's Son and Per Incanto. It definitely has the makings of an interesting betting race.
I'll wait to see the final entries for the Just a Game, but I like Forever Together; I may also go for my Belmont fallback position of 'Alan Garcia's horse' which seems to pay off not infrequently.
The year's Acorn is a little lacking in star power (and out of all the races on Belmont day, it has probably had the most storied list of winners: Gallorette, Shuvee, Susan's Girl, Chris Evert, Ruffian et al.) but Justwhistledixie will likely be the favorite, with Just Jenda and Doremifasollatido getting some action as well.
Perhaps the toughest race on the card will be the Woody Stephens - Like Jessica, I'm not sure what to make of Hello Broadway at this point, but Hull is very interesting and I'm intrigued to see Regal Ransom as a possible starter. This Ones For Phil should like the distance.
In the Manhattan Handicap, 10-year-old Better Talk Now will be making his 50th start and it will have one of the most interesting lineups on the card - Court Vision and Cowboy Cal have both come into their own since moving to the turf, and Grand Couturier and Gio Ponti are always dangerous. While I don't think this will be Better Talk Now's year to grab a second victory in the race, Brass Hat's recent resurgence demonstrates that it's a bad idea to discount the old guys out of hand.
And as for the big race - well, you'll have to check back tomorrow (and the rest of the week) for that. But I'm certainly hoping to see Calvin Borel win his own personal Triple Crown on Mine That Bird - he's going to be a busy man this week, what with ringing The Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday and making various media appearances around town.
I'll just be happy to be back on my old stomping grounds - a real bagel before heading to the track and a Nathan's Famous hot dog with (hopefully) a Brooklyn Lager will be in order once I arrive...
Update 5103: My latest contribution to The Rail: Working to Retire the War Horses.
I ended up riding two horses this morning for Steve at Woodbine. And it was a nice quiet start to the day!
Update 5102: ABR Weekly Facebook e-mail: E-mail 27: Rachel Alexandra, Mine That Bird, Paragallo, Queen's Plate, Pay Attention, Rene Douglas, Natasha Sihota, OLEX.
Nearly a day off. I am just going in to get on one horse. I will then head off to OLEX a little later.
And please keep calling.