The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont are in the books and we had different winners in all three legs of the Triple Crown. The winners:
Mine That Bird — The 50-1 Kentucky Derby champion roared home by 6 3/4 lengths, courtesy of a rail-skimming ride by jockey Calvin Borel, who received triple the acclaim he got two years ago when he won the Derby aboard Street Sense. He proved the Derby was no fluke by coming back and running a strong second to Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and finishing third in the Belmont. So why the improvement between two failed efforts at Sunland Park in New Mexico and the Triple Crown? It appears the gelding’s connections discovered the secret to success with the son of Birdstone — let him lag far behind early on and then make one big run at the end.
Rachel Alexandra — She’s the darling of racing these days after becoming the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness, and she did it after setting some serious fractions on the front end. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has won six consecutive stakes races, including five this year. And she’s saved her best for her most recent efforts — winning the Kentucky Oaks on May 1 by a record 20 1/4 lengths and then returning 15 days later to beat the boys in the Preakness. She’s since received a much-deserved rest, and don’t be surprised if she surfaces in the Haskell Invitational or Travers Stakes this summer to take on the boys again. The ultimate showdown against the unbeaten Zenyatta may not occur, however. There’s a strong chance that co-owner Jess Jackson might skip the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 6 because of the way Curlin performed over the track’s Pro-Ride surface last October. Of course, it’s an entirely different situation. Curlin had never run on a synthetic track heading into the Breeders’ Cup, whereas Rachel Alexandra won an allowance race over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface last Oct. 17.
Summer Bird — Forget all that talk about Borel moving too quickly on Mine That Bird and fouling up the Derby winner’s chances to win the Belmont. It was Summer Bird’s day, and no horse in the Belmont field was going to beat the Birdstone colt no matter what type of ride they received. Trainer Tim Ice says he might take the Saratoga route with his colt, bringing him back in the Jim Dandy Stakes on Aug. 1 as a prep for the $1 million Travers on Aug. 29. Whatever, he’s scheduled to be on a flight bound for Louisville with Mine That Bird sometime today and then continue on to Louisiana Downs for a freshening before embarking on a late summer and fall campaign that could lead to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.
So now that the Triple Crown series is history, what do you think? Who impressed you the most these past few months?