05/24/2007 12:00AM

Preakness ride goes to class


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - If nothing else, Calvin Borel can be consoled by the fact that his ride in the Preakness Stakes aboard Street Sense already has become part of the study program at the North American Racing Academy.

Chris McCarron, Hall of Fame jockey and hands-on director of the racing academy program, plans to use the 2007 Preakness, as he does almost every major event, to enlighten his class of aspiring young riders assembling daily at the Kentucky Horse Park, near Lexington.

McCarron's mandate is not simply to teach riding skills and send his students forth into the world with a "Good luck!" and a slap on the jodhpurs. His approach is comprehensive, offering insight and guidance on every possible challenge a jockey might face, from throwing crosses to dodging media bullets.

For instance, in the immediate aftermath of Street Sense's narrow loss to Curlin last Saturday at Pimlico, Borel was asked by NBC's Bob Neumeier if the jockey thought he "moved to soon."

"Students were asking me about that, so I shared my experiences with handling tough questions," McCarron said this week between classes. "I told them I hoped they'd be in such a position some day, and I'm planning a course next semester on communication skills with trainers, owners, media and the betting public."

Neumeier's question needed to be asked, given the fact that Street Sense appeared to go by Curlin and Robby Albarado with authority entering the stretch before being caught by the same horse at the wire. McCarron pointed out, however, that it was Curlin's temporary inability to get his act together that created the illusion of Street Sense moving too fast too soon.

"Curlin was getting out pretty good with Robby coming off the turn," McCarron said. "He had a real snug hold of that left rein. Curlin was leaning out, and Calvin had more than enough room to get up in there. After Robby realized he couldn't stop Street Sense, he had to work on getting Curlin's body straight.

"Watch Robby struggling, trying to get Curlin to change leads," McCarron went on. "He shifts with the bit, doesn't change. Shifts again, doesn't change. Shifts a third time, and Curlin finally goes to his right lead. That's when Robby went to riding, and his colt really took off."

As for Borel's performance, McCarron described it as "brilliant," with one exception.

"The only mistake he made in the Preakness was his little glance back near the end," McCarron said. "There will be people who suggest he lost focus for a brief moment, and he'll probably take some heat, especially when a horse gets up to nail you."

Moving from perception to reality, did McCarron think that Borel's peek over his right shoulder in any way disrupted the forward momentum of Street Sense? Did the glance, in fact, cost him the race?

"Horses in a show ring, going from jump to jump, know which way you're looking," McCarron noted. "That's not the same as the heat of a race, but it is possible they could detect where you're looking, even while going 35 miles an hour.

"If Street Sense reacted to the glance in a way that cost him that head at the finish, it's going to be imperceptible to our eye, unless there was something glaringly obvious - like he throws an ear up, which I didn't see.

"In my opinion it didn't cost him," McCarron concluded. "It just looks bad, and it's hard to justify. But I looked back countless times in my career. I'm sure people remember when I looked back when I was on Sunday Silence in the Breeders' Cup Classic, when Easy Goer was flying at us. Fortunately, we were able to hang on."

Mailbox stuffed

Feeling lonely? Kinda blue? Here's the ticket: Get a column, make a list, make a mistake on that list, then sit back and watch the fan mail roll in. Like this, from a Mr. Jeremiah J. of Truth or Consequences, N.M.:

"Moron! So Bobby Frankel never won a Triple Crown race, huh? What was the 2003 Belmont Stakes? A mirage? Some figment? I know you probably had a book deal wrapped up if Funny Cide wins, but the smart money was on Empire Maker and Frankel, and guess what. Scoreboard, pal."

Or this, sent by Mr. Illya Kuryakin of Queens, and copied to 750 of his e-friends:

"Ah, you kids today. Just because it happened before Jessica Alba was born means you got no clue it even happened. It just so happens that Bill Molter, among those great trainers you said never won a Triple Crown race, won the Kentucky Derby - the Kentucky Derby! - in 1954 with a colt named Determine. You can look it up."

And finally, just to put me firmly in my place, this from Elder Bosco Sandoval of the Pierre, S.D., Sandovals:

"Your failure to make room for Bill Mott on the list of great trainers who never won a Triple Crown race is troubling. Certainly, he deserves to be listed alongside Mandella, Jerkens, McAnally and the others you pulled out of your hat. Mott's omission begs the question - just what combination of medications are you currently taking? Get help."

Good advice.