At the post position draw at Belmont Park June 3, Mine That Bird drew post 7 and was installed the 2-1 morning-line favorite by New York Racing Association odds maker, Eric Donovan.
Jockey Calvin Borel, aboard for the Derby, is back aboard Mine That Bird, and is going for unprecedented personal sweep of the Triple Crown. Borel, who did not attend the post position draw, won the Preakness (gr. I) aboard filly Rachel Alexandra. Mine That Bird, with Mike Smith aboard, finished second in the Preakness.
Chip Woolley, Mine That Bird’s trainer, had the breakfast crowd in stitches when he said to master of ceremonies and track announcer, Tom Durkin: “The only person more surprised about winning the Derby than me was you.” The good-natured comment was in reference to Durkin failing to pick up the gelding’s presence in the stretch, until Mine That Bird had a couple-length lead on the field.
“If we can be within 10 of 12 lengths of (the leaders), I feel comfortable he has enough kick left,” Woolley said of Mine That Bird’s pronounced closing style.
Peter Pan winner (gr. II) winner Charitable Man is the 3-1 second choice and drew post 6. Dunkirk, 11th in the Derby, is the third choice at 4-1 and drew post 2.
Charitable Man’s trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, is seeking his second Belmont Stakes win after saddling Jazil to victory in 2006.
“Hopefully, (my record) will be 2 for 2,” McLaughlin said. “My horse couldn’t be doing any better.”
Charitable Man, who the trainer said would be “on or near the (early) lead,” in the Belmont Stakes, galloped 1 3/8 miles over Belmont’s training track June 3. After the gallop, an enthusiastic McLaughlin remarked: “I wish the race was now; he’s is ready to go.”
Todd Pletcher, Dunkirk’s trainer, is also searching for his second Belmont Stakes win, after scoring with filly Rags to Riches in 2007. Pletcher would like some redemption for his colt in the Belmont, after Dunkirk didn’t fire in the Derby as the second choice. The trainer believes his colt didn’t handle the sloppy and sealed surface at Churchill Downs that day.
“I’m drawing a line through the Derby,” Pletcher said. “I never felt he ran to his capabilities.”
Since 1905, post 1 has proven to be the winningest position with 23 horses going on to victory after breaking from the rail. Chocolate Candy, fifth in the Derby, drew the rail this year. Chocolate Candy also has something else in his favor, at least in terms of Belmont history: The letter “C” is the most popular initial for (20) winning Belmont runners.