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Even without riding, Borel has been busy
ELMONT, N.Y. - Calvin Borel has ridden 31,209 mounts in his 26-year career. Seven have come at Belmont Park, only four on the dirt. None has been at 1 1/2 miles.
Borel's fifth dirt mount at this track won't come until he climbs aboard Kentucky Derby Mine That Bird in Saturday's 141st Belmont Stakes.
It is his only dirt mount on the 13-race card - he is named to ride one horse earlier on the card on turf. The lack of experience here is not something Borel's agent, Jerry Hissam, believes is a big deal. His lack of other mounts here this week was "not absolutely by design," Hissam said.
"No one really called about the [undercard] stakes, and I really didn't want to ride any of the other undercard races," Hissam said by phone from Kentucky Wednesday morning.
Borel, who appears to enjoy nothing more than riding a racehorse, will go nearly six days between mounts. His last ride came Sunday at Churchill. Hissam believes Borel could benefit from a break.
"He's been under a lot of scrutiny," Hissam said. "He's done a lot of interviews, I'd say 165 to 170 interviews since the Derby. He has done half a dozen things since he's gotten to New York."
Borel was scheduled to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday as well as conduct a Thursday noon press conference at the track. Hissam said that ABC television's Good Morning America is attempting to line up an interview with Borel on Friday.
Borel's lone win over Belmont Park's dirt track came aboard Kelly Pond on July 10, 1999, in a 5 1/2-furlong race. His last mount on the dirt here came on June 30, 2007, when he rode Lady Joanne to a second-place finish in the Mother Goose. His other dirt mounts were a last-place finish in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Sprint and a second in the 1999 Shuvee.
Borel has ridden each of the last two years at Belmont, but both rides came aboard Grand Couturier in the Man o' War, a 1 3/8-mile turf race.
Hissam doesn't see Borel's lack of familiarity with the only 1 1/2-mile dirt track in North America as a concern.
"They all turn left," Hissam said. "The key is to wait to the head of the lane and turn him loose then."
Angel Cordero Jr., the Hall of Fame jockey who was a New York regular, agrees.
"Belmont is such a big track, it's an easy track to understand,"he said. "Going a mile and a half it's the same theory, you want to save your horse and just run the last part. There's nothing new. The grass would probably be more important for a jockey to know, because it's a tricky grass course, but the main track is easy."
Three of the last four Belmont Stakes have been won by jockeys riding the race for the first time: Jeremy Rose (on Afleet Alex 2005), Fernando Jara (Jazil 2006), and Alan Garcia (Da' Tara 2008). Jara and Garcia were regular riders at Belmont.
Klesaris tabs Malibu Beach for Alyssum
Trainer Steve Klesaris entered a trio of 3-year-old fillies in Friday $65,000 Alyssum Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs, but indicated Wednesday that he will just run Malibu Beach. He plans to scratch the Grade 1 winner Mani Bhavan and the unbeaten Hollywood Hills.
Malibu Beach finished second in her debut at 2, and emerged from the race with an injury that sidelined her for the remainder of the year. She returned with a good-looking maiden win at Delaware on May 20, beating older horses by 3 1/4 lengths.
"She's always been a good filly in my eyes," Klesaris said. "I liked the race the way she did it. Since then she has trained very forwardly and should be ready for this type of test."
Jerry Hollendorfer, here to run Chocolate Candy in Saturday's Belmont, has Pretty Catherine to run in this race. This will be Pretty Catherine's first race on dirt, but her exercise rider, Lindsey Molina, said the filly "trains like a freak" on the dirt.
Mott wheels Missvinski back in Lucky Copy
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott remembers when it was the norm to run horses every week. Mott will recall those glory days when he runs Missvinski back in Friday's $65,000 Glowing Honor Stakes at six furlongs on the turf.
Last Saturday, Missvinski finished last in the Mckaymackenna Stakes going 1 1/16 miles after setting the early pace. Mott, who is removing the blinkers from Missvinski's equipment, points out that the 5-year-old mare is 3 for 4 sprinting on turf. The best race Missvinski has run in this country was a one-length loss in a stakes at Hollywood Park when trained by Julio Canani.
"She don't give milk and she don't lay eggs," Mott said. "When I started training we always used to run them once a week. If we gave them a break, then it was once every two weeks."
Mott will also run J Z Warrior, who has run two decent races on turf, but may prefer if this race is moved to the dirt.
Frolic's Dream, a Grade 2 winner on dirt, tries turf for the first time for trainer Barclay Tagg, who has a solid success rate moving horses dirt to turf.
Secretariat officially back
It took a few more days than originally anticipated, but the statue of Secretariat returned to the paddock Wednesday, atop a mahogany wood base with the nameplate that bears the 1973 Triple Crown winner's name.
The bronze statue had been knocked over in a paddock accident on May 20 when the horse City on Line unseated his jockey in the post parade and ran through the tunnel back to the paddock and crashed into the statue, knocking it over. City on Line had to be euthanized. Aside from a few scrapes, the statue was largely unscathed.
The engraved concrete pedestal was cracked into three pieces. New York Racing Association officials have said the pedestal will be replaced by the fall meet, which begins Sept. 11.
Lukas, Harty debate Triple Crown
D. Wayne Lukas has won more Triple Crown races than any other trainer, but on Wednesday morning, following the post-position draw for Saturday's Belmont Stakes, he maintained that the spacing of the Triple Crown races needs to be altered.
"As a trainer, time is your ally," Lukas said. "We need to keep the fields of the Triple Crown races together to develop a fan base. You don't have to change the distances. My proposal is to keep the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, but then run the Preakness on Memorial Day, and the Belmont around the fourth of July. This would help the problem we're facing right now, which is keeping the fields together."
In this year's Triple Crown, only Mine That Bird and the Lukas-trained Flying Private will compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown, but none since Affirmed in 1978. Eoin Harty, who sends out Mr. Hot Stuff in the Belmont, thinks the current spacing helps make the Triple Crown special and helps determine the truly great horses.
"I don't want to change the Triple Crown," he said.
Guarantees all around
Jockey Calvin Borel already has guaranteed that Mine That Bird will win the Belmont. On Wednesday, Charles Hayward, the president and chief executive officer of the New York Racing Association, which operates Belmont Park, issued his own guarantee.
"I guarantee that all the plumbing and all the toilets will work," he said.
On a sweltering Belmont Day last year, both failed, adding misery to an already miserable day.
Durkin pokes fun at himself
Both Chip Woolley, the trainer of Mine That Bird, and Nick Zito, who has Brave Victory and Miner's Escape in the Belmont, joked with Durkin over his missed call of Mine That Bird's charge up the rail in the Derby. But Durkin took it well.
Durkin remarked he should get a hair shirt and beat himself up, then later, when talking about trips in the Derby, joked, "Mine That Bird took the inside route, I'm told."
* The apparel company Under Armour is a sponsor of the Belmont Stakes, Hayward announced Wednesday.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman