Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel swept four-wide into the lead at the quarter pole, and for an eighth of a mile, they looked like winners. Then Belmont Park's stretch took its toll, and there would be no Calvin Crown in yesterday's Belmont Stakes.
Entering the stretch, Mine That Bird led Charitable Man by half a length as a roar went up from the crowd of 52,861. At the eighth pole, the little gelding's edge was still a half-length, but over pacesetter Dunkirk, who battled back after retreating to third. Then another Bird came flying by them all. Summer Bird zoomed from ninth to first down the middle of the track while overcoming a six-length deficit in the final half-mile.
The Kentucky Derby winner couldn't even hold on for second after his premature move from last, running third behind 11-1 Summer Bird. "I was worried I couldn't catch the leaders," said jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won four races on the card. "But when I set him down, he really took off."
After being steadied early and on the backstretch, Summer Bird was in traffic before swinging outside at the five-sixteenths pole. He surged six-wide in the stretch and made the lead leaving the sixteenth pole. Summer Bird, like Mine That Bird a son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone, beat Dunkirk by 2¾ lengths. The 6-5 favorite was a neck farther back, with Charitable Man 3¾ lengths behind him.
Borel followed a 50-1 Derby shocker with a length victory on the filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. No rider had ever swept the Triple Crown on different horses, and he promised he would. The guarantee was reminiscent of Patrick Ewing's false prophecies for the Knicks.
"No regrets," said Borel, who will be accused of an overconfident ride. "I was on the best horse going in, and when we made the lead at the quarter pole, I thought he was home free. No excuses. He ran his heart out. I put him in position to win and we just got outrun."
"I'm disappointed," trainer Chip Woolley said. "Calvin said he was fighting him down the backside. He might have set him down a touch early, but it was a judgment call. I thought we were in good shape."
Summer Bird, trained by Belmont rookie Tim Ice, paid $25.80 after running 1½ miles in 2:27.54 on a fast track. Ice spent five years as an assistant to Kent's older brother, Keith Desormeaux. Summer Bird earned $600,000 for Mr. and Mrs. K.K. Jayaraman, retired doctors, for his second win in five starts, all since March 1.
"Tim Ice is an old family friend, and I'm so happy for him," said Kent Desormeaux, who was 0-for-6 in the Belmont, including heartbreak on Real Quiet, by a nose, in 1998 and on heavily favored Big Brown. "Last year, what a pill to swallow," he said. "I didn't think Big Brown could lose."
The Test of the Champion has become the Ultimate Disappointment. Since 1997, seven horses have been denied a Triple Crown on Long Island, and add Borel to that list.
Although Borel's bid for history was denied, Desormeaux completed a Cajun Triple Crown. He, Borel and Robby Albarado, graduates of Louisiana's bush tracks, have won seven of the last nine 3-year-old classics.
Borel hadn't ridden since Sunday, when he took off his final two mounts at Churchill Downs because of dehydration. It was only the fifth ride on Belmont's dirt for Borel, who had said he wasn't worried about his limited experience at North America's biggest race place. "It's like any track," he said. "You just turn left."
As it turned out, it wasn't quite that simple.