The Borel Factor
Imagine the Derby winning rider on another horse, muses Jennie Rees:
Not to disparage the jockeys of the horses below, and maybe it wouldn’t apply at any other track, and maybe not any other race. (And in no way to take anything away from Super Saver’s big effort.)
But wouldn’t you want to know what kind of trips that Lookin At Lucky and Ice Box would have gotten if Calvin Borel had been aboard?
Both might have had better trips with Borel aboard, but would it have mattered for either? I briefly wrote about the Derby fractions yesterday; individual splits were ugly, final fractions lousy. It seems unlikely a rider change would have meant anything to Lookin at Lucky, “bumped two or three times” in the early going. After a troubled first in :25.84, the favorite did pick up the pace a little, running the second quarter in :24.11, the third in the same time, and the fourth in :24.62, but his final quarter was an unexciting :26.95. Whatever else happened, Lookin at Lucky didn’t have it yesterday — not losing ground at the start might have moved him up in the order of finish, but he wasn’t going to win. Ice Box is a little more interesting to consider: He ran every quarter but the first faster than the winner. You can’t begrudge trainer Nick Zito for wondering about what might have been, if the Florida Derby winner had only broken a bit more quickly and not been steadied twice in the stretch.
That Rees is even wondering about what could have been with Borel reflects how big a story is the rider this year: “Borel is the Derby king,” with his uncanny affinity for Churchill Downs. Blame the rider “for turning America’s great race into a rerun” with his rail-riding confidence. Call him “a man of destiny.” “He knows Churchill Downs better than anyone else,” and his “uncluttered mind seems to be an absolute gift in pressure situations.” After winning three times in four years, is there any chance the public will let Borel go to post in the 2011 Derby on a horse that’s more than 3-1?
How Super Saver prepped: Lightly. This year’s winner started in two preps (making him the fourth consecutive horse to win the Derby doing so — it’s time for me to concede such contenders must be taken seriously) and had only one work between the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby:
Of the top five finishers, two came out of the Arkansas Derby (Super Saver, Noble’s Promise) and two (Paddy O’Prado, Make Music for Me) from the Blue Grass Stakes — a reminder that race still has some claim as a legitimate Derby prep, regardless of what handicappers think of the Polytrack era or its longshot winners.
5/3/10 Addendum: Somehow I missed Borel’s post-Derby prediction:
“I’m going to win the Triple Crown this year,” he declared.