The 141st running of the Belmont Stakes, the third and final jewel of U.S. thoroughbred horse racing's "Triple Crown," is Saturday in New York. Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning jockey Calvin Borel will be trying to become the first rider to win all three Triple Crown races astride different horses. As VOA's Teresa Sullivan reports, Borel will be reunited with his Derby-winning horse, "Mine that Bird," which is the odds-on favorite to win the grueling mile-and-a-half - or 2.41 kilometer - Belmont.
For the second time in five weeks, 42-year-old jockey Calvin Borel will ride Mine That Bird in a Triple Crown race because his usual mount, a filly named "Rachel Alexandra," is not entered in the event.
The first time Borel raced him, Mine That Bird was seen as an undersized, unheralded three-year-old gelding, winless in his last two races, and not much more than a place-filler in the prestigious Kentucky Derby. That is, until Mine That Bird won the Derby by a sizable six-and-three-quarter lengths, vaulting him to instant equine stardom.
A day earlier, Borel and Rachel Alexandra won a non-Triple Crown event, the Kentucky Oaks race by an enormous 20 1/4 lengths. He called her the best horse he had ever ridden.
Now on Saturday, it is the second time Borel and Mine That Bird are teamed up. But this time, the jockey is a two-time Derby winner, adding Mine That Bird's victory to his 2007 win astride "Street Sense" - and the horse is a heavy favorite to win the Belmont Stakes instead of a dead-last 50-to-one shot like he was in the Kentucky Derby.
"Mine That Bird" trainer Chip Woolley says he is pleased heading into Saturday's race. "The horse is doing super. I thought he looked as good as he's looked, period. And I think he will go into this race strong. He's dead fit (very fit) and the mile-and-a-half (2.4 kilometers) should really fit him. But we will just see what happens," he said.
In between the Derby and the Belmont, it was back to business as usual for Rachel Alexandra and Borel as they prepared to run in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Maryland - the second race of the Triple Crown series. The pair went on to win the Preakness. Mine That Bird finished in second place with another jockey.
When the owners of Rachel Alexandra decided to skip the Belmont in favor of giving her a well-earned rest, Borel was free to again race Mind that Bird, and possibly make history as the first jockey to win the Triple Crown riding different horses.