Five Reasons to Watch the 2009 Belmont

The 141st running of the Belmont Stakes takes place today (post time is at 6:30 ET) and although 2009 Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra won’t run, there are still plenty of intriguing storylines surrounding this year’s annual race from Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Here are five of them.

1. Calvin Borel’s quest for his own Triple Crown.
Not many people outside of the horse racing world had ever heard the name Calvin Borel before the 2009 Kentucky Derby, but the jockey started gaining a name for himself after riding 50/1 long shot Mine That Bird to victory at Churchill Downs. Then, when the opportunity presented itself a couple weeks after the Derby, Borel once again was the winning jockey, this time riding 3-year old filly Rachel Alexandra to victory at the Preakness Stakes. With Rachel Alexandra skipping the Belmont, Borel has again hitched a ride on Mine That Bird and if he wins today at the Belmont, he would become the first jockey since Steve Cauthen in 1978 to win the Triple Crown. A win would also make him only the second individual to win the Triple Crown by sweeping the three legs in one year while riding different horses. (The other being D. Wayne Lukas, a trainer, in 1995.)

2. Mine That Bird continues his amazing season.
Entering the 2009 Kentucky Derby, Mine That Bird was a 50/1 long shot to win. But thanks to a sloppy track, this powerful horse was able to claim victory at Churchill Downs and turned the horse racing world on its head. (At least for this season, that is.) Even though he won the Derby, many people were convinced that the poor track conditions at Churchill Downs played a major factor in Mine That Bird’s victory. Therefore, Rachel Alexandra was made the odds favorite to win the 2009 Preakness and even though the 3-year old filly won, Mine That Bird gained respect by finishing second at Pimlico. Now that Rachel Alexandra is out for the Belmont, Mine That Bird is once again a favorite and with a victory, he should at least gain some notoriety as one of the best thoroughbred racehorses of 2009.

3. Watch out for the dark horse (no pun intended).
One horse to keep an eye on today to play spoiler at the Belmont is Charitable Man (5/1). He has the next best odds to win today behind Mine That Bird and for good reason – he’s undefeated so far at Belmont Park and also undefeated on dirt tracks. Charitable Man was bred to race on one and a half mile tracks like the one he’ll run on today at Belmont Park and he’s also fresh, which is one thing Mine That Bird cannot say after racing in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Nobody is going to consider him a long shot today at 3/1 odds, but if you’re looking for a horse to upset Mine That Bird at the Belmont, Charitable Man could be your thoroughbred.

4. Flying Private: The Ultimate Long Shot?
One long shot that is creating a buzz is Flying Private, who has already faced stiff competition at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and could be a potential sleeper to give Mine That Bird a run for his money. At 18/1 odds, Flying Private certainly isn’t the type of long shot that Mine That Bird (50/1) was when he won the Kentucky Derby, but then again odds makers aren’t handing out those kinds of odds today anyway. (The horse with the longest odds to win today is Luv Gov at 25/1.) After a lackluster 19th place finish at the Kentucky Derby, Flying Private seemingly came out of nowhere to finish fourth at the Preakness Stakes and that could mean he’s prime to make another leap at the Belmont today. He certainly has the experience and while he might not be as fresh as some of the other horses, Flying Private has already squared off against Mine That Bird twice and therefore he could be your best shot at cashing in on a long shot.

5. This is the finale, so eat it up while you can.
The Belmont is the third and final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, so soak up the action while you can. While this year’s Belmont certainly lacks the excitement of last year when Big Brown was going for the Triple Crown, there are still plenty of reasons to watch today. Enjoy the race and if you’ve decided to throw a few coins down today, good luck.

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Mine That Bird a 5/6 favorite to win Belmont Stakes

The 141st running of the Belmont Stakes takes place this Saturday and odds makers have made contender Mine That Bird a 5/6 favorite to win the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

Mine That Bird was a 50/1 long shot to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby, but thanks in part to sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs, he shocked the horse racing world by placing first. He also finished second behind favorite Rachel Alexandra at the Preakness, proving that his victory in the Kentucky Derby was no fluke.

According to theSpread.com, Dunkirk has the next best odds to win at Belmont Park this weekend, at 9/2. Following Mine That Bird and Dunkirk, Charitable Man (7/2), Chocolate Candy (13/1) and Flying Private (16/1) round out the rest of the odds for the Belmont.

One of the more intriguing storylines heading into the Belmont is jockey Calvin Borel’s quest to win his own version of the Triple Crown. Borel rode Mine That Bird to victory at the Kentucky Derby and then hopped horses to Rachel Alexandra for the Preakness, and won that race, too.

But with Rachel Alexandra’s owners holding the 3-year old filly out of the Belmont, Borel will once again hitch a ride with Mine That Bird in hopes to claim victory at each of three Triple Crown races of 2009.

Mine That Bird will run out of the seventh post position on Saturday.

Rachel Alexandra to skip Belmont

Despite blowing the horse racing world away with her performance at the 2009 Preakness, filly Rachel Alexandra will skip the Belmont Stakes this year due to fatigue

As a result, Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby and Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, will once again be aboard Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Though it was widely thought that Rachel Alexandra would not run in the Belmont, owner Jess Jackson fueled hopes that she would run by not announcing a decision last Monday after the filly had her first work back from the race. But on Friday, Jackson ended speculation by saying he believes the filly would benefit from more time between races.

“We know the media and many fans would have liked to see her run in the Belmont Stakes – we feel the same,” Jackson said in a press release. “But all of us sincerely interested in the horse must agree that we only want to see her run when it is best for her. While she is in great shape, having strong works, and recovering well from her amazing performances, we feel Rachel deserves a well-earned vacation. Since March 14, Rachel has won four graded races with just two weeks’ rest between her last two victories. We will always put her long-term well-being first. And, of course, we want to run her when she is fresh.”

They have to do what’s best for the horse, but man, what a blow to horse racing. Rachel Alexandra became only the fifth filly to win the Preakness and had finished first in each of the five races she ran in this year. She brought some excitement to racing this year (even though she didn’t compete in the Kentucky Derby and won’t compete in the Belmont) and it’s a shame she won’t run in the third leg of the Triple Crown.

That said, Borel’s story is intriguing on its own. He won riding Mine That Bird (a 50/1 long shot) at the Kentucky Derby and then again on Rachael Alexandra in the Preakness. Now he’ll hop back on Mine That Bird for the Belmont and try to win his own version of the Triple Crown. I haven’t seen any odds yet, but I’d be willing to bet that Mine That Bird will be the favorite to win the Belmont since he was victorious at the Kentucky Derby and finished second to Rachael Alexandra in the Preakness.

Rachel Alexandra wins 134th Preakness

Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness Stakes in 85 years, beating out Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who made a late charge from last place but finished second.

Calvin Borel became the first jockey to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown on different horses. He rode Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby, but switched horses so he could ride Rachael Alexandra, who was an 8/5 favorite coming into the Preakness.

Borel said after the race that the 3-year old filly struggled with the surface, but was quick to note that Rachael Alexandra was the greatest horse he’s ever been on in his life.

Owners from different horses knew the threat Rachael Alexandra was coming into the Preakness, because some contemplated entering more horses in order to keep her out from the 13-horse field. One of those owners was Mine That Bird’s Mark Allen, who thought about entering colt Indy Express to take up a spot in effort to keep Rachael Alexandra out, but eventually said that he wouldn’t.

Rachael Alexandra has now eight of her last 10 races and it’ll be interesting to see if she runs in the Belmont Stakes on June 6, which is third and final leg of the Triple Crown.

A $2 bet on Rachael Alexandra paid $5.60 and her final margin of victory over Mine That Bird was a length. Musket Man, who had 10/1 odds to win, finished third. (Musket Man finished third at the Kentucky Derby, too.)

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