BALTIMORE - The first time Calvin Borel rode a filly in the Preakness, he won it in 2009 on Rachel Alexandra, the eventual Horse of the Year. Borel was so high on the runaway winner of the Kentucky Oaks that he made the unheard of move of jumping off 50-1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who ran a close second at Pimlico for Mike Smith.
Borel, 47, also won the Derby in 2007 (Street Sense) and 2010 (Super Saver), making him the only rider to get the blanket of roses three times in four years. He was asked how high Rachel Alexandra's Preakness ranks among his career highlights.
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"Top five?" Borel said. "No, all-time it's in the top three."
He had an instantly forgettable experience yesterday on the overmatched filly Ria Antonia, who finished last, 31 lengths behind California Chrome. After she finished a distant sixth behind the brilliant Untapable in the Oaks, few could comprehend why her connections chose to take on males at Pimlico.
"This can't be any harder than running against Untapable," co-owner Ron Paolucci said. "How can people say she does not belong?"
Predictably, they were right.
Such a lovely vase
Quick, name the most valuable trophy in North American sports. The one named for Vince Lombardi? Nope. How about Lord Stanley's Cup? Wrong again. It's the Woodlawn Vase, created by Tiffany and Co. in 1860 and housed in the Baltimore Museum of Art. The elegant silver bauble was appraised in 1983 for $1 million, and there's been a lot of inflation the past 31 years.
Every Preakness winner receives a smaller silver replica (valued at approximately $30,000) of the Woodlawn Vase, a prize at many racetracks before Pimlico took possession of it in 1917. Among the places it was awarded were Louisville, Kentucky; Elizabeth, New Jersey; the Coney Island Jockey Club, and two New York tracks of long ago, Morris Park and Jerome Park.
As always, it was on display Wednesday at the Preakness draw, on a table near the front of the room. As the media prepared to descend upon trainers for the traditional quote grab, emcee Dave Rodman, Pimlico's race caller, jokingly asked them "not to rush the stage because security is guarding the Woodlawn Vase."
Baffert a Rosie fan
Trainer Bob Baffert is a big fan of Rosie Napravnik, who finished ninth on his colt Bayern in the Preakness.
"A lot of jockeys are intimidated when they ride for me. She's not," the 61-year-old Hall of Famer said. "She just rides her horse. She does her homework, and I hardly ever say a word to her. I just throw her on there, that's it, and I just leave her alone."
Rail not the answer
When Borel was a 16-year-old apprentice in Louisiana, his mentor and older brother, Cecil Borel, taught him that hugging the rail was the shortest way around. That basic geometry lesson helped Calvin reach the Hall of Fame, yet nothing works all the time.
Two weeks ago in the Derby, Borel moved immediately to the rail after breaking from post 18 on Ride On Curlin. The colt got jammed up in the back of the pack behind slow fractions and had nowhere to run until it was too late, but still came in seventh of 19. A perturbed trainer Billy Cowan replaced Borel for the Preakness with Joel Rosario, who finished second.
"He doesn't have to be dead last like he was in the Derby," Gowan said. "He's got tactical speed."
Speaking of Borel's sharp left on Derby Day, Gowan said, "It wasn't anything we discussed. That was his idea, not mine."