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The Preakness [May. 16th, 2009|07:19 pm]

A lot of hype and hoorah from various people preceded this race--and it almost lived up to it. 

Mine That Bird lost his Kentucky-Derby-winning jockey, Calvin Borel, because Calvin--who had been on Rachel Alexandra when she won the Kentucky Oaks, thinks she's the best horse he's ever ridden and chose her for the Preakness.   He also lost surprise--as the videos of the race show, jockeys were looking back to keep an eye on Mine That Bird until he passed them--which he did.  But he had to go wide around the turns to catch up, as the inside jocks were as close to the rail as Borel was in the Derby, and though he was closing on Rachel Alexandra at the wire, she had a 3/4 length lead.  Mine That Bird was a closing second.   His jockey, Mike Smith, said if he'd had another 1/16-1/8 mile, he thinks he'd have caught Rachel Alexandra.

Footing was softish, what I call "cuppy"--deep cushion, little support, though not slippery like mud.  It was clear by the middle of the backstretch that Rachel Alexander didn't much like it--you can see her digging at it when asked to accelerate.   Borel said she wasn't happy with the track, that she prefers Churchill Downs, which has less cushion.   He said she struggled when he asked her to speed up--but she did it.   Mine That Bird doesn't seem to give a flip what the track is like: muddy with compaction underneath, or soft, or artificial...what I saw when he turned on the juice was the same determined little horse with a kick like a ramjet working his way up from last to (almost) first.   Rachel Alexandra didn't give up, but she didn't quicken enough to hold Mine That Bird off at an even distance or take back more lead. 

Those who thought Mine That Bird was a one-race horse and maybe a fluke now have to face reality: this horse is good. He won at a mile and a quarter coming out the middle of  the gate after being bumped hard on both sides at the start.  he damn-nearly won today after coming out of the number two hole and forced to go wide around Pimlico's second and notorious turn.   He is perfectly willing to get into the scrum with bigger horses and push right on through--an attitude that many very fast horses don't have.  He can be beaten, but you have to work at it, and he has a late-race kick like I haven't seen in a long, long, LONG time.

So...now we look at the mile and a half Belmont.   If Mine That Bird is fit, I don't think there's any doubt he can handle the distance.  (He looked a bit ganted to me--I'd like to see him pick up 50 pounds or so in the next three weeks.)   I don't think there's any doubt he's got the kind of gutsy fighting spirit you want in a racehorse.  So far, none of the others have shown the closing speed and endurance that he does, not even Rachel Alexandra.  What's the Belmont surface like?  Well...that's going to be a factor for her, though I suspect not for Mine That Bird.   My guess is that she can run a mile and a half on a surface she likes...but what if she doesn't?  


From: badgermirlacca
2009-05-17 11:58 pm (UTC)
I think Rachel Alexandra is a great filly, maybe even a great racehorse, but Mine That Bird IS a great racehorse, period. I think he could have taken her. The ground he lost by having to swing so far outside was substantially more than a length.

I've read somewhere that the Belmont track is deep and sandy. Mine That Bird is definitely going to be there (saving the usual problems). Rachel Alexandra is a question mark.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-05-18 12:07 am (UTC)
I thought I remembered the same thing about the Belmont track...but I wasn't sure. OTOH, she's big and strong and she didn't quit on Borel. If they get her up to Belmont or to another "deep" track and exercise her there, she can probably figure out her own way of dealing with it--unless she's finicky. Some horses (regardless of sex) are, as you know.

But I really, REALLY like Mine That Bird. He's a scrapper. In the long haul, racehorses who will come up through the scrum the way he does will win more races than horses who have to be out front or have a clear path, even if those are a little faster in native speed. The race is not always to the swift...
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[User Picture]From: msminlr
2009-05-18 11:06 am (UTC)
And just think how aggressive he might be if he weren't gelded!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-05-18 03:58 pm (UTC)
It's an interesting thought...but though he's certainly competitive in a race, I hear he's fairly laid-back otherwise...whether that's because of gelding, or he just *is*, I don't know. But a horse that saves the "charge" for the track--that's another good sign. I hope he has a long and successful racing career as a mature horse, and if not, that someone has him for a good OTT riding horse.

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[User Picture]From: witchcraft_shop
2009-05-18 09:14 pm (UTC)
Given the comparative rarity of the distance in Belmont, you cannot be certain than any American horse WILL get the trip. They are no longer bred for it. Speed is of the essence.

The other factor in any Triple Crown attempt, and this still IS just that - even if he has already failed it - is the sheer closeness of the races themselves. 3 weeks is not a long time to recover from world class performances, and BOTH the filly and MTB have now put it in hard enough race twice. Rachel Alexandra seems like a grinder, but she is a brilliant one, and keeps going. MTB has made up ground twice in the last quarter, when other horses are essentially slowing, but the extra distance may blunt that in both of them.

They are both exceptional horses, and it is amazing to think that is has been 75 years since the last filly to tread the same path, but as a betting man i might look beyond them at the likely public pressure prices.

It is great to see the doubters silenced over MTB, however. It is rare to see a horse go so well in both races.

I wish them both well in their careers. It is sure going to be a hell of a race.

The point about the Belmont surface that may be in your mind is the deeper harrowing they undertook last year to make it 'safer' for Big Brown, who had already got a split hoof. This was in direct contrast to the usual practice of compressing the track more and more as the Classic meetings progress, to put the emphasis on speed and produce faster times.



Edited at 2009-05-18 09:16 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-05-19 12:50 am (UTC)
Good to see your phosphors, T...don't be a stranger.

American horses--all breeds--have problems relating to fashion--in TBs,it's the fashion for flat-racing and shorter, faster races, I suppose so you can run more of them on the same day, and the lack of any alternative use for TBs (even more, now that warmbloods have taken over the sporthorse category.)

I could go on for hours (boring everyone, angering some) about the breeding errors of the American horse market...suffice to say that when I finally got to England and saw all those sound lower legs and hocks, it was a revelation. You can have little idea how hard it is to find really good hocks and all four sound, well-shaped, hooves in American light-leg breeds. I grew up in the worst period of the "high-heeled-mattress" phase of QH and Paint breeding...heavy bodies on tiny hooves, which too often means insufficient bone in knees and hocks. Few things are sadder than a QH with the hindquarters of a draft horse and the hooves of a pony, too long a back with a weak loin coupling, and navicular by the time he's five. If you're going to put all that muscle on top--both the weight and the sheer power of a big QH butt--you must have a rock-solid set of hocks to cope with the strain. And 00 size hooves are not enough.

Of course, I own two critters, neither of whom is perfect in this regard. Poor old Illusion has a warmblood body, nice big healthy warmblood hooves, and in between knees and hocks that belong on a horse at least a hand shorter and 400 pounds lighter. Mac's feet combine the worst of the TB/QH cross: not only small, but in front the inside margin is nearly vertical, and both hoof wall and sole are thin.

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