Plop Go the Birds: Alibi or Omen?

The Alibi Breakfast is now known for humorous sound bites.

Good luck or bad luck? For those who believe in such things, it wasn’t a good sign, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

The week leading up to the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Ahmed Zayat, owner of Pioneerof the Nile , was hit in the head by bird droppings. The owner saw it as a positive and believed his colt had a good chance in the Derby.

“Little did he know two birds were going to crap on him in one week,” Baffert said in reference to Mine That Bird, who finished 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Pioneerof the Nile in the Derby.

Baffert was among the trainers and owners on hand May 14 for the annual Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico Race Course, where the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) will be held May 16. The breakfast offers the connections a chance to offer alibis, but it has become better known for humorous sound bites.

Baffert likes his colt’s chances in the Preakness, but he noted the “amazing” filly Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), is in the field. He said he got “goose bumps” watching her 20 1/4-length victory.

“A part of me wants her in there, and a part of me doesn’t want her in there,” Baffert said.

“Bob, what part of you wants her in there,” asked trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who sat beside Baffert at the breakfast.

Lukas has two in the Preakness—Luv Govand Flying Private, both of whom are 50-1 in the morning line. Lukas also bowed to Rachel Alexandra, saying the filly is “exceptional” and should help boost public interest and television ratings for the race.

Trainer Larry Jones is taking another shot with Friesan Fire , who checked in 18th of 19 in the Derby after a troubled trip that produced cuts and bruises. Jones was asked about his planned retirement from racing—even if it’s only for a while—at the end of this year.

“If this horse runs like he did in the Kentucky Derby, I might move (my retirement) up to Sunday,” Jones said.

Several awards were presented at the breakfast. Tom Pedulla of USA Today won the David F. Woods Memorial Award for best Preakness story of 2008; Jeannine Edwards of ESPN and Bob Fortus of the New Orleans Times-Picayune won Old Hilltop Awards for those who have covered racing with excellence and distinction; and Robb Carr of The Associated Press earned the Jerry Frutkoff Preakness Award sponsored by Nikon for Preakness photography.

Edwards, who started her broadcast career with the Maryland Jockey Club, thanked horsemen for being accessible.

“Without your generous time and cooperation, we can’t get your stories out there, and by getting stories out there, we make the public care about the sport.”