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
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower