Borel rules roost with Bird

Jockey reunited with Kentucky Derby winner in quest for unique treble

While the Derby remains the template, stamping a 230th edition at Epsom on Saturday, only its most insular devotees would disregard the adaptation staged across the ocean, just a few hours later. The Belmont Stakes, itself being run for the 141st time, is the final leg of the American Triple Crown – a quest that seems only to gain romance and intrigue from a drought now extending 31 years, to Affirmed.

True, New Yorkers will not be getting the rematch they craved after an epic Preakness Stakes last month, when Rachel Alexandra narrowly thwarted another electrifying finish by the Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird. Having taken on the males after a 20-length win in the Kentucky Oaks, the freak filly is now being rested, leaving Mine That Bird as hot favourite to emulate the Belmont success of his sire, Birdstone – who himself thwarted an odds-on shot for the Triple Crown in Smarty Jones.

This, then, looks like another one that only just got away. Had Rachel Alexandra not been adventurously switched to the Preakness by her new owners, Mine That Bird would have flown into New York yesterday in the same tempest of publicity that preceded Big Brown before his shattering failure at 1-4 last year. Instead, the focus is on Calvin Borel, the veteran jockey who rode both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra in Kentucky.

When they met in the Preakness, Borel was vindicated in his unprecedented desertion of the Derby winner – albeit many suspect that his replacement, Mike Smith, would have caught the filly had he not abjured Borel's trademark run along the rails. Either way, Borel now seeks the unique distinction of winning his own "Triple Crown" on different horses. (The only man to achieve something similar is Wayne Lukas, who trained Thunder Gulch to win the Derby and Belmont in 1995, and Timber Country to beat him into third in the Preakness.)

After riding Mine That Bird in the Preakness, Smith announced that he could not do so in the Belmont because of a commitment in California. Chip Woolley, the colourful trainer of Mine That Bird, won more friends with his diplomatic reaction to this bombshell, and was rewarded when Rachel Alexandra was scratched, enabling Borel to get back aboard the little gelding.

With his 10-gallon cowboy hat, handlebar moustache and crutches, Woolley has proved a theatrical addition to the Triple Crown drama. He has only a small stable on the Mexican border and famously drove his gelding 1,466 miles to Churchill Downs in a trailer. Getting home may not be quite so straightforward. A couple of nights ago, someone broke into the truck and made off not only with the GPS, but also Mine That Bird's registration papers. Some villain presumably got himself an unexpected windfall there.

Woolley describes this adventure as the "most humbling experience" of his life. "You think it would make you feel huge," he says. "But I felt like the smallest thing in the world." At first dazed by the attention, he has settled comfortably into his new profile. He "spent 25 years getting to this point, and a lot of hard work. Went broke a couple of times. So it's more of a validation stamp than anything. We're really enjoying it now."

As for Borel, he has somehow ended up as the humble nexus linking the best American thoroughbreds of either sex foaled in 2006. The Cajun is certainly in uncompromising mood for his reunion with Mine That Bird. "We will win," he said. "I'm gonna win it for Chip. I owe him that."

Chris McGrath

Nap: Jafaru (4.20 Lingfield)

Nb: Mountain Cat (3.40 Hamilton)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
Pistorius leaves Pretoria High Court to be taken to prison
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

**ESOL**

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job:* The Tutor will prepar...

Qualified Teaching Assistant Jobs in Blackpool

Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: Qualified Teaching Assistant Jobs in B...

*****English/Maths Teacher*****

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: English/Maths Teacher require...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album