Summer Bird takes the Belmont
ELMONT, N.Y. -- The wrong Bird won at Belmont Park. In a stirring finish, 11-1 longshot Summer Bird upset Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the 141st running of the Belmont Stakes. Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who has twice failed to complete a Triple Crown sweep with losses at Belmont, Summer Bird ranged up on the far outside and, less than 110 yards from the finish, swept past Mine That Bird, who was engaged in a furious stretch duel with Dunkirk.
Summer Bird, a son of 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone with only four career starts to his credit, had finished an unthreatening sixth in the Kentucky Derby in his last start. He broke in fifth-place today, and stayed in the middle of the pack until the final quarter mile, when Desormeaux, who won three races on the Belmont undercard, swung him to the outside and took dead aim on the leaders. He finished 2 3/4 lengths in front of the pace-setting Dunkirk, who held on courageously for second by a neck over Mine That Bird.
The upset denied Mine That Bird's jockey, Calvin Borel, a shot at his own unprecedented riding Triple Crown -- dubbed the "Calvin Crown" last week by the attending media. After piloting Mine That Bird to victory at Churchill Downs on May 2, Borel had ridden super-filly Rachel Alexandra to a win in the Preakness two weeks later. He then jumped back on Mine That Bird for the Belmont when the connections for Rachel Alexandra, whom the Cajun-born rider often refers to as the best horse he has ever ridden, decided not to run her in the Belmont. No jockey had ever won all three legs of the Triple Crown riding more than one horse.
"I thought I had it won when I got to the quarter-pole," Borel said. "He got outrun. No excuses. I put him in position to win, and we just got outrun. Don't take anything away from the little horse."
Borel may have sown the seeds for his defeat today by moving for the lead too soon. He and Mine That Bird, who left the gate as the 6-5 favorite, had cruised through the early stages of the race just a few lengths off the solid pace set by Dunkirk. But as Desormeaux had done in losing the Triple Crown atop Real Quiet in 1998, Borel appeared to underestimate the length of Belmont's stretch run, as well as the massive sweep of its final turn. He began asking Mine That Bird for run with more than a half of a mile left, when the field was still racing down the backstretch. And unlike his late-charging performances in Kentucky and Baltimore, this time the colt weakened inside the final furlong.
"Calvin said he was kind of fighting him down the backside," said Chip Woolley, Mine That Bird's trainer. "Calvin might have set him down a touch early, but that was a judgement call. I thought we were in good shape."
Borel boldly predicted victory in the days leading up to the race, but ultimately could not deliver.
"No regrets," he said. "I thought I was on the best horse going in. I know he's a good horse. He's been five weeks, back-to-back. It's been a good roll, and I wouldn't change it for anything."