Roll back the clock twelve days to the May 1st Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra’s 20 1/4 length romp, and the question that soon followed. Could she have been good enough to run in the Kentucky Derby? Could she have won the Derby?
Then, move ahead one day to the May 2nd Kentucky Derby. The day the 50-1 3 yr old gelding, Mine That Bird weaved his way through horses to finish his stellar performance with the fastest last quarter mile since Secretariat broke the record in 1973, winning by 6 3/4 lengths.
Rachel Alexandra Arriving at Pimlico
Soon after the race, many exclaimed that, based on her Oaks performance, Rachel Alexandra would have won the Kentucky Derby and defeated Mine That Bird, had she run. Many said wow what a race it might be if she ran in the Preakness.
What a difference a few weeks and millions of dollars can make.
It’s official! Starting from post position #13, Rachel Alexandra will challenge 12 of the best 3 yr old colts and geldings America has to offer in the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes. A race that is shaping up to be the most competitive Triple Crown races in over a decade. Oddsmaker Frank Carulli installed Rachel Alexandra as the solid 8-5 favorite for the $1-million dollar Preakness Stakes to be run Saturday May 16th at Pimlico. It should be noted that no horse has won from that post position in eleven tries, since 1909.
In the days following Rachel Alexandra’s dominating victory in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), a race in which she defeated other 3-year-old fillies by more than 20 lengths, Jackson and Harold T. McCormick purchased the filly from Dolphus Morrison and Mike Lauffer. While Morrison and Lauffer elected not to run the filly against males, the new owners immediately began pointing Rachel Alexandra to the Preakness and paid a supplemental fee of $100,000 to make her eligible to compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
“I think the fans deserve to see the best horses compete, regardless of sex,” Jackson said in a teleconference he arranged. “This is not about male and female. This about the best athletes able to go two turns … We hope this will help the fans enjoy a great sport. She is a perfect athlete. I hope this helps revive horse racing in United States.”
“I was just speaking with Jess and Steve and we’re very happy with it, being on the outside,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “You’ve got a long run to the first turn here. With having a filly in the race, what you’re worried about is traffic and everything that can happen. The 13 hole gives Calvin a chance to get position. In the Derby, when you break they all come together. I think it’s a very good spot for us.”
When asked later about his personal response to the groans when the #13 was revealed, assistant trainer Scott Blasi (left) responded,” They groaned and I smiled.”
Zayat Stables’ Pioneer of the Nile (right) finished 6 3/4 lengths back of Mine That Bird in the May 2 Derby, but was still made the second choice. Once again sending the message that Mind That Bird’s performance in the Derby, and his ability to handle the tight turns of Pimlico, coming from off of the pace, is still in question. Garrett Gomez will ride the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner once again for trainer Bob Baffert, who has saddled four Preakness winners in his Hall of Fame career.
Owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerta Equine, Mine That Bird was made the third choice in the morning line odds at 6-1. Mike Smith, who rode Prairie Bayou to victory in the 1993 Preakness, will replace Calvin Borel aboard Mine That Bird, as he attempts to add the middle jewel of racings Triple Crown to his collection of 5 victories from 9 lifetime starts. If Mine That Bird can win the Preakness Stakes, only a win in the Belmont Stakes stands between him and the Triple Crown title, last adorned by Affirmed in 1978.
“We’ve got speed on both sides of us, speed on the inside and outside of us,” said Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley. “That should clear away from us and leave us in a nice spot to coast down the front side and into the backstretch. It’s a good spot.”
Also at 6-1 is Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire, who drew post 5. The son of A.P. Indy, trained by Larry Jones, will try to become the first beaten Derby favorite to come back to win the Preakness since Point Given did it in 2001. Gabriel Saez will ride.
Larry Jones trains Friesan Fire, left and Big Drama with Celia Fawkes, right
Eric Fein and Vic Carlson’s Musket Man, who finished third in the Derby, was made the 8-1 fourth choice. Musket Man will break from post 3 with Eibar Coa in the irons. When asked about his post position draw Derek Ryan responded, “It doesn’t really matter much to us. We’d be happy with anything from 1-8. We just need a decent pace in front of us, and we should get one in this field.”
At 10-1 is Harold Queen’s Big Drama, winner of five of seven starts in his career. The David Fawkes trainee drew post 1 and is expected to set the early pace. His most recent
race was a victory in the March 28 Swale (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park , but was disqualified for interference in the stretch and placed second after breaking the seven-furlong course record.
“I wanted to be outside of (Rachel Alexandra), but I don’t think that’s an option at this point.”
“I’m going to talk to the rider and talk to the owner in the morning and make a decision (about strategy),” Fawkes said. “I guess you’d have to say we’re committed (to leave the starting gate quickly). We’re going to show speed anyway. That’s the nice thing – he doesn’t have to use himself to get position.
Papa Clem (left) drew post 7, just as he did when finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and was given 12-1 morning line odds.
General Quarters drew post 8, at 20-1. Tom McCarthy (right) remarked, “I loved it, absolutely loved it. I told my wife what number I’d get – and it was 8. That’s the same post he had in the Blue Grass (his only Grade I win). I expect he’ll run better in here. I think the whole difference will be the track. He has always trained good and has always run good when racing on a sandy track.”
Take the Points post 11, at 30-1 Don Lucarelli, co-owner: “We would have liked to have been a little more inside, like the 7hole or inside of that. It looks like we’ll have to use some of our tactical speed at the beginning of the race and see where the horse goes from there.”
Terrain post 6, at 30-1 - Al Stall Jr, trainer, “The speed on the inside, the chalk on the outside, our horse in the middle – I don’t think I could draw it up any better. I like the way things shook out.”
Luv Gov Post 4, at 50-1 D. Wayne Lukas (left), trainer: “The 4 is OK – As long as it’s not the 1-hole. He comes from off the pace. It’s OK.” Also D. Wayne Lukas, Flying Private post 10, at 50-1 “The 10 is OK. I wouldn’t have liked the 6,7,8,9. Bob’s horse has good speed inside of him, and mine doesn’t. Once they put them into the gate it will be a competitive race. The one thing I did not want was the 1-hole. I was getting a little nervous.”
And Tone It Down post 12, at 50-1. Bill Komlo, trainer, “It’s interesting. I mean, you’ve got a lot of speed out there early, and I think that kind of favors us because our plan is to take back and come off the pace. It’s not (too far outside), not going a mile and three-sixteenths. You’ve got plenty of room to maneuver.”
Post time for this years running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, MD is scheduled for 6:15 PM and can be seen on the NBC Sports telecast starting at 4:30 PM EST and ends at 6:30 PM EST.
Don’t miss out on history in the making. This years running has the promise to be a classic!
MORE PREPREAKNESS PHOTOS
PHOTOS BY: Rick Buckley