With all the rain recently in Kentucky, and with a minor business matter requiring him to be out of town over the weekend, Calvin Borel had an important project to finish before leaving town. The morning of May 15 he was mowing his grass.
The next day, May 16, Borel will ride the morning-line favorite, Rachel Alexandra, in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Borel is the central character in an unprecedented situation. He rode Rachel Alexandra to win the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 1 and Mine That Bird to victory the following day in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
It was a perfect situation at the time, because he could continue to ride both since Rachel Alexandra was not going to run in the Preakness or Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
But then Rachel Alexandra, by Medaglia d'Oro , was sold and Borel had a decision to make. After being purchased by Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick, Rachel Alexandra was moved from trainer Hal Wiggins to the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen.
"I never dreamed (I would be in this situation), because Mr. Hal had a plan (that did not include the Preakness)," Borel said while speaking from Louisville, Ky., via speaker phone to reporters at Pimlico. Borel will fly to Baltimore the evening of May 15.
"I was at the barn the morning they came to get her and I had tears in my eyes," Borel continued. "They said, ‘She’s yours if you want to ride her,’ and that meant a lot to me. I told them regardless of where they run her, I would ride her."
Now Borel is in the situation where if he wins the Preakness, it will be at the expense of the Birdstone colt he won the Derby on.
"Really, there was no decision to make," Borel said. "If the filly had been in the Derby, I would have ridden her."
Borel said that on the morning of the Preakness he will speak to Mike Smith, who trainer Chip Woolley named to ride the Derby winner.
"I will speak to Mike; Chip asked me to do that," Borel said. "Mike knows how to ride but maybe there is something I can tell him that will help. I think the horse has put on weight since the Derby. The Derby didn’t seem to take much out of him."
Because he had to make a decision as to who to ride, Borel said there is some added pressure in the Preakness. "She (Rachel Alexandra) has a lot to prove and I do, too, because I said she’s the best horse. But if Mine That Bird wins, I will be the first to congratulate them."
Borel is not predicting that situation arising, however.
"This filly has an unbelievable stride," he said. "Not a fast stride, but a big stride. If she’s as good as I think, we will prove better than these."
Then Borel can go home a happy man, though his grass will need mowing again.