The Brock Talk

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mine That Bird Jockey Can Take Page Out Of Rene Douglas Belmont

We are now just nine days away from the Belmont Stakes and we don't yet know if the Preakness winning filly Rachel Alexandra is going to run. After a nice work over a sloppy track on Monday at Churchill Downs, owner Jess Jackson said he will wait until later this week before making a decision.

If you think you're anxious for a decision, just think what jockey Calvin Borel and his agent Jerry Hissam have been going through this week. If Rachel goes in the Belmont, they'll be aboard. If not, they will likely return to the Mine That Bird Camp. That is if Bird's trainer Chip Woolley doesn't decide on a jockey for the Belmont before Jackson decides on what to do with Rachel Alexandra.

Once all these decisions are made, we racing fans can all relax and begin to enjoy the days leading up to the third leg of the Triple Crown.

But the anxiety will only begin for whomever the jockey will be for the late running Mine That Bird. Despite what most might think, the long 1-1/2 mile distance of the Belmont Stakes can be a henderance and not a help for a stretch-runner like Mine That Bird. True, a little extra distance in the 1-3/16 mile Preakness and Mine That Bird may - I repeat may - have caught and passed Rachel Alexandra. The Belmont gives Bird that extra distance. But it rarely provides the most important ingredient for the success of any closer in any race. Pace. And pace makes the race.

Jockeys will ride entire careers and may not ride races further than 1-1/16 miles. If so, it happens only a few times-a-year at best. About 99.99% of all thoroughbreds will never approach a race at that distance in their racing life. Americans like speed and speed doesn't usually fly for a mile and-a-half. Not unless the frontrunner gets an easy, early and unchallenged lead.

This is where the Belmont gets tricky for a jockey though. Many times in the Belmont, regardless of company, the jockeys on the early leaders will keep the pace at a pedestrian level - knowing full well they have a long road to travel before crossing the wire. They want to keep as much gas in the tank for when they hit the top of the stretch and the late runners come calling.

To illustrate this point, I thought what better race to feature than the 1996 Belmont Stakes won by the late running Editor's Note. Notice the fast early pace. They run the first quarter of a mile in 23+ seconds and the first six furlongs (3/4 of a mile) in 1:12 and change. Both rapid fractions for the Belmont. Also notice how far back Editor's Note is in the early stages. He doesn't really appear in the picture until the race is about a third of the way complete. This is a very similar running style to Mine That Bird.

Jockey Rene Douglas eases Editor's Note into contention approaching the far turn then begins to circle the field and put's his horse in a position to win at the top of the stretch. Notice that Skip Away appears to be the winner heading for home, but that's when Douglas flips the switch to the auxillary gas tank on Editor's Note.

Mine That Bird's kick is a little more patient, but dramatic and sudden when he fires. But whomever rides him in the Belmont would do well to study this Douglas masterpiece.


Donna McArthur said...

This is another day and I am hoping and praying that he is getting better. All my prayers are with RD and his family.

Waquiot said...

We all hope that Rene makes a full recovery I pray the racing gods are with him on this one. Now for your stupid comments comparing the 96 Belmont to this year makes me want to puke! Please, the "ONLY" thing in that race was Skipaway and you know it. I think this years Belmont will be run just like the 1980 Woodward only there will be more horses. And who is "Muscat Man"