NEW YORK – The 1 ½-mile distance at Belmont Stakes separates the race from the Triple Crown’s first two legs.
Jockey Calvin Borel will be making his debut in the “Tournament of Champions” Saturday. But Borel’s inexperience was a secondary concern for odds-makers, which made Mine That Bird a 2-1 morning-line favorite Wednesday.
Borel will be going for history as he tries to become the first hockey to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year with different horses. After winning the Derby with Mine That Bird, Borel will be back on the gelding against a field of nine other 3-year-olds.
As he goes for his personal Triple Crown, Borel embraced the history of New York’s sporting landscape, guaranteeing a victory for Mine That Bird in the 141st running of the Belmont Stakes.
“I was so impressed when I worked him out. He was unbelievable,” Borel said about the horse that won the Derby as a 50-1 long-shot entry. “He was so happy. He was kicking and bucking, which is not normal. So I think he’ll run good. He’ll win, I’m telling you.”
Borel will have challengers. Leading the pack is Charitable Man, the son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid. Charitable Man is raced by 2008 Belmont-winning jockey Alan Garcia, who at 23 is young enough to be the 42-year-old Borel’s son.
Despite not being able to rent a car, Garcia can claim one more Triple Crown victory at Belmont Park than Borel and Charitable Man carried 3-1 morning odds. Garcia isn’t coming off a Letterman appearance like Borel, but Charitable Man trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said his horse’s record at the famous Elmont-based park (two Grade II victories in
two tries) makes him confident the colt can compete in front of an expected crowd of nearly 100,000 Saturday.
“He’s 2-for-2 at Belmont, 3-for-3 on the dirt, his sire won the Belmont,” McLaughlin said. ” He’s a fresh horse, he’s training great. Should I go on?”
Mine That Bird took second in the Preakness. Borel switched horses in that race, riding filly Rachel Alexandra to victory while staving off the horse he led to Derby glory. Talking in Madison Square Garden’s swanky bar during media day Tuesday, Borel elicited laughs when he politely but firmly said “no comment” when asked if Mine That Bird would have completed the comeback if the Pimlico track was just a little longer.”
Belmont’s winding track and sheer distance could play to Mine That Bird’s strength. Trainer Chip Woolley Jr. said his horse might benefit from the fact the race’s early pace could be slower than the first two Triple Crown legs.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Woolley said. “With his running style, we’re going to have to let him run his race. When you start slowing the fractions down, if you let him run his same race, he’s going to move way on up.”