Rachel Alexandra, the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness Stakes, will skip the $1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 6, freeing jockey Calvin Borel to ride Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the 1½-mile race.
“After careful consideration, we have decided not to run Rachel Alexandra in the Belmont Stakes next weekend,” said owner Jess Jackson in a statement issued late Friday afternoon. “We have advised Calvin Borel, Chip Woolley (Mine That Bird’s trainer) and Belmont of our decision. We thank them, the media, and the fans for their many courtesies and patience while we pondered.
“We know the media and many fans would have liked to see her run in the Belmont Stakes — we feel the same. 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.”
While Jackson, who purchased Rachel Alexandra for a reputed $10 million, following her stunning victory in the Kentucky Oaks, declined to specify a date, he did say the celebrated filly would make a start at Belmont Park this season.
Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to a 50-1 upset in the Kentucky Derby, took himself off of the Derby winner to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, where Mine That Bird finished second under Mike Smith. Borel will now ride the Derby winner as he tries to become the first jockey in history to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in the same season aboard different horses.
Although he had received calls from a number of jockeys expressing interest in riding Mine That Bird in the Belmont, Chip Woolley said he wanted Borel to ride the gelding and was willing to wait until the last minute.
“Now that this decision is made, I am excited to come to New York and ride Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes,” said Borel. “I would like to thank Chip Woolley, and (owners) Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach for being so gracious and allowing us to wait for this decision. We also thank Mr. Jackson for letting everyone know earlier than anticipated about the decision whether to run Rachel Alexandra.”
Mine That Bird, currently training at Churchill Downs, is scheduled to breeze there on Monday, June 1 before flying to New York on Wednesday, as he attempts to become the 12th horse in history to win the Derby and the Belmont. Thunder Gulch in 1995 was the last horse to win both races.
Lining up to challenge the Derby winner in the Belmont will be Brave Victory, Charitable Man, Chocolate Candy, Dunkirk, Flying Private, Luv Gov, Miner’s Escape, Mr. Hot Stuff, Summer Bird and possibly Nowhere To Hide.