I hate to make a race about a jockey, because the thoroughbred is such a magnificent creature in its own right, but Calvin Borel brought this upon himself. It's only natural to get defensive when someone questions your professional skills (whatever your trade may be), but when you guarantee a victory you set a major bullseye on your back. Not that fellow cajun rider Kent Desourmeaux needed additional motivation, especially after his criticism of pulling up Big Brown in the Belmont stretch last year and getting nipped by the slimmest of margins by Victory Gallop when going for the the elusive Triple Crown with sssshhhhhh... Real Quiet back in 1998.
Calvin Bo-rail had been on an incredible run, with multiple graded stakes winners dating back to The Kentucky Derby, but perhaps his overconfidence caught up with him, like so many Hall of Fame jockeys and others who have gone before him. Most recently, it was the obscure Stewart Elliott, who got lulled into the pace scenario before tiring aboard Smarty Jones in 2004, getting passed in the final sixteenth of a mile by the hottest sire in the business -- Birdstone. I don't know if the fact Calvin had ridden only six previous starts at Belmont Park was the reason for the apparent premature move on the expansive turn of the 1 1/2 mile oval or not, but it's hard to believe after his Derby and Preakness efforts that he is inferior to Summer Bird on his best day. But that's why this race is known as the Test of Champions... sometimes the horse has to be good enough to make up for the rider's faults.
Speaking of Summer Bird, it's yet another feather in the tiara of Oaklawn Park racing, with the third place Arkansas Derby finisher being owned by long-time Hot Springs residents Drs. Jayaraman. Having a classic winner is a big jump from claiming the $50,000 Rainbow and Rainbow Miss Stakes perennially at Oaklawn Park for top Arkansas bred horses, but the Jayaramans had recently moved their expanding broodmare operation to Ocala in hopes of upgrading their matings. However, Birdstone is a Kentucky "homebred" sire and his success in his initial foal crop will only affirm this status.
As I've discussed with several of my "rail bird" friends, this was a mondaine ending to a thrilling Triple Crown series. At this point, I eagerly anticipate the Saratoga "spa" meet to welcome back Quality Road and hopefully Rachel Alexandra to push the Jim Dandy and/or Travers Stakes to another level. Quality Road recently his first published workout (albeit only 3 furlongs) in nearly three months as he attempts his comeback from his hoof problems and Rachel may get a start late in the Belmont meet for 3YO fillies. Whenever the Triple Crown races outcomes are split as they were this year, the summer and fall season tends to dictate who will be the cherished 3 year-old of the year. We have a lot to look forward to!
Until then, may all your tickets be worth of cashing.