NEW YORK — Calvin Borel grinned at the question: Would Mine That Bird have passed Rachel Alexandra if the Preakness Stakes were 1„ miles?
"I have no comment," he said.
Borel has been all tangled up in the drama involving the two horses. And now because of it he has a chance to make history: the first jockey to win the three legs of the Triple Crown on two horses.
Borel won the Kentucky Derby on 50-1 long shot Mine That Bird. When Rachel Alexandra entered the Preakness, Borel switched horses to the filly he had ridden to five straight victories. Rachel Alexandra then edged Mine That Bird to thwart the gelding's shot at a Triple Crown.
Now Rachel Alexandra is skipping the Belmont, and Borel is back aboard Mine That Bird.
Those twists and turns created the possibility of another kind of Triple Crown. Winning all three races in one year is what Borel has fantasized since he was a kid.
"I never dreamed I'd have to do it on a different horse," he said.
Borel was at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday and not backing down from his guarantee of victory a day earlier.
"I'm sticking with it," he said.
Just as he boasted about Rachel Alexandra before the Preakness, Borel quickly shifted his proclamations to Mine That Bird. He said his latest prediction was natural after seeing how the gelding responded during Monday's workout at Churchill Downs.
"When you run them two races and come back so fresh like he did -- I mean, he was bouncing," he said. "And that does not happen."
Borel, who won his first Kentucky Derby aboard Street Sense in 2007, will be making his first Belmont Stakes start. He plans to follow the same patient strategy that worked in the Derby, when Mine That Bird rallied from last to first.
"One reason we picked Calvin to ride the horse is he likes that style," trainer Chip Woolley said.
It's a style that may be a natural for the 1„-mile Belmont. The Derby is 1‚ miles, the Preakness 13/16.
"The mile and a half is a question for a lot of us," Dunkirk jockey John Velazquez said. "It seems suited for Mine That Bird better than everyone else."
No wonder Borel is so confident in Mine That Bird.
"He's a grinder," the jockey said. "The race will fit him perfect."