Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Growing in Popularity


Even up to a few years ago, people were saying that horse racing was a dead sport. I have been a horse racing enthusiast for over thirty years, and I do not recall this much excitement since I was a kid. Why? The players in 2009...Calvin Borel, Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra...have captivated the country. Calvin Borel won a Kentucky Derby two years ago aboard Street Sense, so he has been a rising star. This year he rode the second longest long shot (50-1 odds) in Kentucky Derby history -- Mine That Bird -- to victory.

With two Kentucky Derby victories in three years, Borel is at the top of his sport...and maybe in a way that not has been seen since Steve Cauthen in the late 70s. Borel made the amazing decision to leave the Kentucky Derby winner for the filly, Rachel Alexandra, who dominated the Kentucky Oaks...run the same weekend as the derby. Borel had been running Rachel Alexandra throughout the year leading up to derby weekend and was very familiar with her. In fact, Borel was convinced that the filly could not only run with the boys at the Preakness this past weekend, but that she could win. He was right. Borel led Rachel Alexandra to the first filly triumph in the Preakness in 85 years. There will be no Triple Crown winner this year...this is certain. But, Borel has become the first jockey to win the first two races of the Triple Crown -- the third being the Belmont Stakes in a few weeks. He could become the first jockey to win a personal Triple Crown aboard two different horses.

So, we come to the third segment of the show. The big question is -- will the filly ride in the Belmont in three weeks? This is a decision that will be made by the owner and trainer likely in the next week. The concern is that she was overheated and tiring down the stretch at the Preakness. They want to be as certain as possible that she will be good to go racing, because fillies, typically, do not have quite the strength as the colts...and the Belmont is a huge 1 1/2 mile race. Borel will ride Rachel Alexandra if she goes, but if not, he will likely be back on Mine That Bird for the interesting, potential victory trifecta. No filly has ever won two Triple Crown races, so the odds seem to be stacked against Rachel Alexandra, but this is, in part, the drama that is drawing so many people back to the sport. The Borel, Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra trinity has made for some compelling drama that has significantly boosted the television ratings. They are going to have to continue to "mine" this story, because...with no potential Triple Crown horse, there needs to be a catch. We'll see if the drama holds. Blessings,


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