05/03/2009 11:00PM

What's next for Derby cast?


So who was that coming through the pin hole on the rail that made NBC's outstanding race caller, Tom Durkin, have to look twice to see who was winning the Kentucky Derby?

It was Calvin Bo-rail-Borel of course, aboard 50-1 shot Mine That Bird, doing what he has done repeatedly throughout his career, taking added advantage of a glib inside rail path that was playing faster than any part of the rain-soaked Churchill Downs track.

Borel, who also rode the top-notch filly Rachel Alexandra to her dominating 20 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks the day before, had used similar rail-skimming tactics to win the 2007 Derby aboard Street Sense. Identified forever as a ground-saving savant, this second Derby win might even get Borel into the Hall of Fame when his name is properly placed on the ballot.

Mine That Bird? At the very least the connections deserve applause for their perseverance and for their wisdom in securing the services of such a strong willed, ultra-consistent, down-to-earth jockey.

Here was a gelding purchased for $400,000 after he won the Grade 3 Grey Stakes at Woodbine last fall, only to finish last in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Things were not much better in 2009, as Mine That Bird tasted defeat twice in ungraded stakes at Sunland Park in February and March. If you listen closely, you probably can hear Sunland Park's owner Stanley Fulton still cheering. Having invested millions in trying to get the Sunland Park Derby a graded stakes rating, this Kentucky Derby victory should clinch the issue. Remember, Derby starter Advice also ran in the Sunland Derby and won the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 18.

For much of April, Mine That Bird was intended for the $400,000 Lone Star Derby on May 9. But trainer Chip Woolley convinced the ownership group that the gelding had earned a shot in America's most famous race. Talk about vindication!

So now what?

It is way too early to forecast the Preakness field, but the top four Derby finishers may be there.

Woolley said on Monday that Mine That Bird will go on to Baltimore if all remains well with the horse. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert may also be there with second-place finisher Pioneerof the Nile, pending how the son of Empire Maker checks out. At the very least, Pioneerof the Nile's Derby performance laid to rest the skeptical view that "he can't translate his synthetic track form to the dirt."

Musket Man, third in the tight three-way photo for second, is shipping to Monmouth Park, where his Preakness status will be determined.

"I can't complain about the way he ran in the Derby," trainer Derek Ryan said. "He had the 2 hole and the only thing I wish is that he could have stayed there. The rail was golden, but he got bumped out of there before he could get his rally going."

Fourth-place finisher Papa Clem is a definite Preakness starter.

"He was only beaten a nose and a head for second," trainer Gary Stute said, and he had every right to think that he might have been second had Pioneerof the Nile not angled out to bump Papa Clem in deep stretch. The incident, seen clearly from the brilliant use of the overhead NBC TV camera, was reviewed by the stewards, but they never posted the inquiry sign.

Another Preakness possibility is Join in the Dance, the Derby front-runner who finished seventh as part of a three-horse uncoupled entry trained by Todd Pletcher. Going into the Derby, Join in the Dance may have been viewed as a sacrificial lamb to boost the stretch-running chances of Pletcher's two other horses in the field - Dunkirk and Advice. But Advice (17th), never was involved in the race and Dunkirk literally never got out of his own way. First, he stumbled twice leaving the gate and then sustained some cuts on his legs before failing to launch a serious rally en route to a weak 11th-place finish. No Preakness for him.

The 1 1/2-mile Belmont stakes on June 6 is a potential target for Dunkirk, but Pletcher may give the relatively inexperienced, light bodied son of Unbridled's Song a sensible schedule to reach full strength for the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 29.

According to jockey Julien Leparoux and venerable trainer Tom McCarthy, General Quarters's first experience on a wet surface was a dismal disappointment. The Blue Grass Stakes winner, General Quarters finished 10th in the Derby after splitting the field for most of the race. The Preakness is a very remote possibility, as McCarthy seems to prefer the Northern Dancer at Churchill next month

"He's better than what he showed," McCarthy said. "He just wasn't striding out like he usually does. . . From now on, I will keep him off wet tracks."

Betting favorite Friesan Fire - presumed to love wet footing after his seven-length victory on a sloppy track in the Louisiana Derby on March 14 - found Churchill's wet footing much different than the Fair Grounds's. Friesan Fire finished 18th while enduring the worst trip of all.

After a troubled start and incurring several cuts and bruises, Friesan Fire showed some speed to get within striking distance through the first seven furlongs but faded steadily thereafter.

"Mentally, he's fine," said Cindy Jones, wife and assistant to trainer Larry Jones. "We'll get him healed, but we may need some time to figure out what's next."

Chocolate Candy, who rallied wide on the final turn but flattened out to finish fifth, will go to New York to prepare for the Belmont Stakes.

Summer Bird, sixth in the Derby, also will skip the Preakness.

"It was only his fourth race and he can only improve," said trainer Tim Ice. "The Belmont is a possibility. His sire [Birdstone] won it and he got lots of experience."

Regal Ransom, prompting the pace for most of the race, tired to finish eighth, and his Godolphin stablemate Desert Party, who was in the second flight for a while, tired badly to finish 14th. Both colts are headed to Belmont Park, perhaps to prepare for the Belmont.

In addition to Advice, the two other uncoupled WinStar Farm horses - West Side Bernie (ninth) and Hold Me Back (12th) - are not expected to start in the Preakness or the Belmont. Hold Me Back did make a strong early move along the inside on the backstretch to go from 14th to fourth, but lost his energy when asked for his best inside the final three-sixteenths. Atomic Rain, who finished 16th, also is out of the Preakness.

The few new potential Preakness prospects include Mr. Fantasy, a solid winner of the one-mile Withers at Aqueduct on April 25; Big Drama, who won the Delta Jackpot in December and more recently outfinished This Ones for Phil in the Swale at Gulfstream on March 28 only to be disqualified for interference; Take the Points, who was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby; and Miner's Escape, who won Pimlico's nine-furlong Federico Tesio Stakes May 2.

Among the missing will be I Want Revenge, the Wood Memorial winner who was withdrawn from the Derby on the morning of the race due to an ankle injury that will keep him out of the Triple Crown. Likewise, the recovering Quality Road, who won the Florida Derby so impressively over Dunkirk and missed the Derby due to quarter crack issues, is not going to be ready for the Preakness. He will need to heal relatively quickly to run in the Peter Pan as a possible prelude to the Belmont.

At the bottom line, the rest of the Triple Crown chase will be about one issue above all others: Did Calvin Borel unleash the hidden talent of Mine That Bird along Churchill Downs's rail path on Derby Day, or was the horse's electrifying last-to-first run from more than 21 lengths back, a one- time thing we will not see again?

Stay tuned.