JC / Railbird

Calvin Borel

Derby 136 Notes

The winners: Congratulations to Calvin Borel, the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times in four years, and to Todd Pletcher, who won his first Derby, putting an end to springtime stories about his double-digit string of losses. “It feels awfully good,” said Pletcher of his victory. Super Saver, one of the trainer’s four starters, finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Ice Box, a neck in front of Paddy O’Prado, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Make Music For Me (chart).

The tote: Early Kentucky Derby wagering, odd as it looked, was smart. With more than an hour to post, Marcus Hersh observed:

Super Saver is still 8-1 (Calvin Borel money, for the most part, one assumes) with Sidney’s Candy finally showing some movement, too, now at 9-1. Ice Box continues to be remarkably short, 10-1, but not so much as Paddy O’Prado, who is 11-1 despite having one career win — that having come on turf — and a distant seventh-place maiden finish in his lone dirt start.

Little changed over the next 60 minutes. At post time, odds ran from 6.30-31.60, headed by Lookin at Lucky, followed by Super Saver at 8-1. Discreetly Mine was the longest shot. The compressed range probably reflected bettors’ sense of a wide-open race and a belief that anything could happen (see: Backtalk, 23-1 or Homeboykris, 27-1), but the public still turned out to be a fairly accurate judge of contenders’ chances: Of the top four finishers, three were among the top seven betting choices, and five of the top seven picks finished in the top 10, with Lookin at Lucky running sixth, after a trip that had him squeezed out and shuffled back from the start, and the filly Devil May Care finishing 10th at 10-1. Sidney’s Candy, the third favorite at 9-1, finished 17th. (It couldn’t have helped that the colt was unnerved by the crowd — his body tense, ears back, head turning toward the spectacle — as he was being loaded into the gate. He was the picture of an unhappy horse.)

The times: Final time for the Derby was 2:04.45, the slowest since 1989, with splits of :22.63, :23.53, :24.72, :27.07, and :26.80. Conveyance, with Sidney’s Candy pressing, led the field through “ludicrous fractions“; the pace collapsed as anticipated. Super Saver was there to pick up with a fourth quarter of :26.22 and a final quarter of :26.55. Ice Box, though, appeared to be closing faster after clearing traffic twice, and he was, running the fourth quarter in :24.45 (the second fastest split, with only Make Music for Me, :24.01, quicker) and the final in :26.10 (the fastest). It’ll be interesting to see what the figure makers come up with, considering conditions and individual running lines.

The trip: Untroubled. Heading into the final turn, Borel has Super Saver perfectly positioned for the stretch run. They’re in the lead at the eighth pole:

5/2/10 Update: Beyer speed figures for the top three Kentucky Derby finishers: Super Saver, 104; Ice Box, 100; Paddy O’Prado, 100.

Early Wednesday Notes

Belmont week is upon us, and the next few days will be hectic for Calvin Borel, undisputed star of the media luncheon hosted by NYRA on Tuesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. A dense scrum of photographers and reporters formed around the jockey wherever he stopped in the room, and Borel obliged by answering every question with good humor and confidence. Not that there was any reason for the rider to do otherwise: Earlier, he’d continued his conquest of late night by taping a segment with David Letterman that’ll air on Friday; on Thursday, along with trainers Chip Woolley and Gary Contessa, he’ll ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Interest in the rider is so high that, as the Triple Crown season winds to end, he’s retained a consultant to help him sort endorsement offers and media requests.

Standing in the midst of recorders and microphones and cameras, Borel looked like a happy man, unfazed by the drama of the past five weeks, untroubled by the upcoming Belmont and the prospect of facing nine determined rivals and a long, tiring stretch. He was relishing his success, and he was — as he said with certainty several times — sure of his horse. “He’ll win.” Pressed, Borel pointed to Mine That Bird’s work on Monday. “He was kicking and bucking,” said the rider, who was aboard for the four furlong breeze. “He worked the same way as he did before the Derby.” Up on the podium, answering the question yet again, Borel invoked another sporting lyricist: “When he sings, he sings,” and reminded everyone of Mine That Bird’s late run. “He has such a turn of foot,” said Borel. “I’ll ask him to go with three-eighths left, and if he does that last eighth of a mile in :13, we’ll win the race.” Once again, the easy confidence, tempting all who listened to agree.

– Mine That Bird arrives at Belmont today and will gallop over the main track on Thursday and Friday, said Woolley, explaining that he didn’t bring the Derby winner to New York earlier because he “didn’t want him to be miserable.” According to Woolley, Mine That Bird “loves the Churchill surface,” and there was some concern he might not feel the same about Belmont. “The racetrack is very sandy, very deep,” said the trainer, allowing that might be a factor not in the gelding’s favor on Saturday.

– Odds and ends: Overheard, a reporter asking Mine That Bird co-owner Dr. Leonard Blach, “Why don’t you wear a black cowboy hat?” (Mark Allen kept his on through the event) … Rajiv Maragh feels good about his chances on longshot Brave Victory, third in the Peter Pan, and one of two expected to start for trainer Nick Zito. “The race is ideal for him … and his trainer has a history.” Dreams of Da’ Tara redux? “I think a win could help launch my career,” said the young NY-based rider riding in his first Belmont. I wished Maragh much luck … Dunkirk rider John Velazquez drew a big laugh when he said to the crowd, “I want to tell the riders: Stay on the rail,” but there was little joking about his words. Borel won’t have an easy trip on Saturday … Tim Ice said that Summer Bird has bulked up in recent weeks. “He’s put on 150 pounds since the Derby.”

Borel Sums Up the Preakness

“Boo might not be too smart,” he cackled into the phone, “but he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to horses.”

Meanwhile, trainers and riders await Monday, when it may be announced whether Rachel Alexandra is likely for the Belmont and who will get the call on Mine That Bird. “If Calvin is available, we want to give him the opportunity.”

After →