Thursday, June 4, 2009

Derby winner the favorite for Belmont

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Mine That Bird is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, when Calvin Borel will attempt to become the first jockey to win all three Triple Crown races with different horses.

Borel rode Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness Stakes aboard the filly Rachel Alexandra and is back on Mine That Bird for the 1½-mile Belmont.

A field of 10 3-year-olds was entered Wednesday, with Mine That Bird drawing the No. 7 post position. Charitable Man, who missed the Derby and the Preakness, was the second choice at 3-1. He drew the No. 6 post.

Also entered, from the rail out, are Chocolate Candy (10-1), Dunkirk (4-1), Mr. Hot Stuff (15-1), Summer Bird (12-1), Luv Gov (20-1), Flying Private (12-1), Miner's Escape (15-1) and Brave Victory (15-1).

Borel guided Mine That Bird to a breathtaking last-to-first run along the rail to win the Derby by 6¾ lengths on May 2, and the gelding finished a diminishing length behind Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness two weeks later under Mike Smith with another come-from-behind run.

In the Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the Triple Crown races, Mine That Bird may be closer to the leaders because the early pace is not as fast as in shorter races.

"That's what we're hoping for," Mine That Bird's trainer Chip Woolley said at the post position draw at Belmont Park. "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.

"If we can just be within 10 or 12 lengths of them, I feel comfortable he'll have enough to come kicking in," he said.

Charitable Man, winner of the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 9, is expected to set the early pace, and that's just fine with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The son of 1999 Belmont winner Lemon Drop Kid will be ridden by Alan Garcia, winner of last year's Belmont aboard 38-1 long shot Da' Tara.

"I wouldn't trade horses with anybody else," said McLaughlin, who won the 2006 Belmont with Jazil. "Our horse couldn't be doing any better and we're very excited about the race."

Dunkirk is the 4-1 third choice and drew the No. 2 post. He'll be ridden for the first time by John Velazquez.

The gray colt trained by Todd Pletcher will try to rebound from an 11th-place finish in the Derby. Pletcher said Dunkirk stumbled at the start, took four or five strides to right himself and never got into the race.

Trainer Nick Zito, a two-time Belmont winner with Birdstone in 2004 and Da' Tara last year, has two chances to win a third with Brave Victory and Miner's Escape.

Rachel Alexandra was considered for the Belmont, but co-owner Jess Jackson decided last Friday to pass on the race to give his exceptional filly a break after the Preakness -- her sixth straight victory. Borel would have ridden the filly in the Belmont, and Woolley would have had to find a new rider.

"I'm glad she's not running," Borel said.

$1 million Belmont Stakes
Post Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds
1 Chocolate Candy G. Gomez J. Hollendorfer 10-1
2 Dunkirk J. Velazquez T. Pletcher 4-1
3 Mr. Hot Stuff E. Prado E. Harty 15-1
4 Summer Bird K. Desormeaux T. Ice 12-1
5 Luv Gov M. Mena D. W. Lukas 20-1
6 Charitable Man A. Garcia K. McLaughlin 3-1
7 Mine That Bird C. Borel C. Woolley 2-1
8 Flying Private J. Leparoux D. W. Lukas 12-1
9 Miner's Escape J. Lezcano N. Zito 15-1
10 Brave Victory R. Maragh N. Zito 15-1

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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