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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital