Mike Smith couldn't get Mine That Bird over to the rail, Mine That Bird couldn't catch Rachel Alexandra from the outside and that was the story of Saturday's $1.1 million Preakness Stakes.
Mine That Bird, the Kentucky Derby winner, trailed the field early in the Preakness, just as he had two weeks earlier at Churchill Downs. But this time the rail didn't open up as it did in the Derby, Mine That Bird was forced seven-wide to find running room and by the time Smith got him going, it was too late.
And while all that was going on, Rachel Alexandra was setting a pressured lead and going a little faster than jockey Calvin Borel and trainer Steve Asmussen would have liked. Starting from the outside post position, Borel had no choice but to get the Kentucky Oaks winner going quickly to establish position before the first turn.
At the end, as everyone at Pimlico expected, it came down to the question: Can the Derby winner catch the Oaks winner? The answer, this time, anyway: No.
But Mine That Bird and third-place finisher Musket Man were gaining on Rachel Alexandra in the final yards and the super filly's margin of victory was a mere 1 length -- a far cry from the 20 1/4 lengths by which she won the Oaks.
That scenario would seem to favor Mine That Bird, should the two meet in the final jewel of the Triple Crown -- the Belmont Stakes, June 6.
Or maybe not.
Borel, who switched from the Derby winner to ride her, said Rachel Alexandra wasn't handling the Pimlico track well. And he noted the pace scenario worked against her. He repeated what he said after the Oaks: "This is the best horse I ever rode."
"I was very concerned about how fast the second quarter was run," Asmussen said. The first quarter went in 23.13 seconds and the half mile in 46.71. "She was a little more forwardly placed than we hoped she'd be."
So will Rachel Alexandra give the boys another chance in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, a race that Mine That Bird's sire won?
That decision will be made, said owner Jess Jackson, "after we see her condition, after we see her next workout."
There's no indecision on the part of Chip Wooley, Mine That Bird's trainer.
"I'm thrilled to death with the race my little horse ran," Wooley said. "Everything was going according to Hoyle until the turn, when he was fanned a little wide. I thought we had a chance at the eighth pole. But you have to give that filly credit. She's a great one. The Belmont is next for us."
Sunday morning, preparing to ship Mine That Bird back to Churchill Downs, he added: "My horse will be much more suited to the Belmont -- big wide track, big wide sweeping turns. It should play a little better to my horse. It'll probably be a shorter field, which eliminates some of the traffic."
Borel, who now has won on both, said he is convinced Rachel Alexandra "is a better horse than Mine That Bird, bar none. Mile-and-a-sixteenth, mile-and-a-half, 2 miles, whatever. She is the best horse in the country."
In other weekend racing:
Vodka, back from the Middle East and back in filly and mare company, lost no time in returning to the winner's circle in Sunday's $1.8 million Victoria Mile at Tokyo. With Yutaka Take up, Vodka took charge with a quarter mile to go and drew off to win by 7 lengths. Bravo Daisy was second and Shonan La Novia was third. Vodka finished unplaced in two races in Dubai earlier this year and now is being pointed to the Yasuda Kinen, again against males, June 7. "I think everyone saw Vodka at her best today," Take said. "We had a good draw and she always breaks well so I was going to decide on the positioning after the first 100 meters. We managed to take really good position during the trip, and the rest took care of itself. I've been through the good and the bad with her, and it's an absolute privilege to be riding one of the best horses in the history of racing."
The $2 million Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji Racecourse went to 24-1 longshot Gloria de Campeao, who scored by a head over Presvis. Presvis went into the race as the favorite basked on victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Hong Kong. Gloria de Campeao, by contrast, was a well-beaten second in the Dubai World Cup in his last start. Bankable was third in Sunday's race. Winning rider Tiago Josue Pereira said, "I've always had faith in this horse and ever since I was invited to come here to ride him I've felt confident in his ability. This is my first trip to Asia and it's my biggest career win."
Never on Sunday belied his name, winning Sunday's Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp, rallying from well back to win by 1 length over Gris de Gris. Runaway was third and Goldikova, making her first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Mile last fall at Santa Anita, faded steadily through the stretch to get home seventh. Never On Sunday, a 4-year-old son of Sunday Break, picked up his seventh win from 10 starts and now is being pointed to the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Parading challenged for the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Dixie Stakes, got a short lead halfway to the wire and then held on gamely to beat Just as Well by1/2 length. Wesley ran from the back of the 11-horse field to finish third. Parading, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Pulpit, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.28 with Kent Desormeaux up for trainer Shug McGaughey. Assistant trainer Robbie Medina said the race "worked out perfect. There didn't seem like there was a lot of speed and he would be on the lead. But it worked out where a couple horses wanted to go and he could just sit off him. He can do that just as well. He's finally sound. He's had a lot of injuries and bad luck, but he's always been a horse we thought would be a star. We just had to wait until he was 6."
No Advantage rallied by pace-setting Real Merchant in the stretch run to win Saturday's $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths. Real Merchant and Ea dead-heated for second and third. No Advantage, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Posse, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.79.
Skylighter shot to the lead entering the first turn in Saturday's $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff and extended the advantage to a 4 1/4-lengths victory. Unforgotten was second and All Smiles finished third. Skylighter, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Sky Mesa, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.34 with Julien Leparoux up.
Ravalo was off a step slowly in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap, advanced to a stalking position and then won a stretch duel with Silver Edition to score by a head. Celtic Innis was third, 2 lengths farther back. Ravalo, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Mutakddim gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.95 with John Velazquez in the irons.
Everyday Heroes dominated in the stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3 3/4 lengths over Not For Silver. Checklist checked in third. Everyday Heroes, a Kentucky-bred colt by Awesome Again, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.51. Jose Caraballo had the mount.
Social Queen raced last of seven through most of Saturday's $100,000 Gallorette Handicap for fillies and mares, came to the outside for the stretch run and was just up in time to win by a head over All is Vanity. Tejida finished third and the favorite, Dynaforce, settled for fifth after pressing the early pace. Social Queen, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Dynaformer, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.84 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons.
Payton d'Oro led from gate to wire in Friday's $100,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, surviving a late bid by Bon Jovi Girl to score by 1 1/4 lengths. Casanova Move finished third. Payton d'Oro, like Rachel Alexandra a Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, ran the 1 1/18 miles on a fast track in 1:49.75 under Terry Thompson. "I was able to stay on the rail and sit until we hit the top of the stretch and then I hit the gas," Thompson said. "She gave me what she had and ran to the wire."
Heart Ashley was quickly out front in Friday's $100,000 Adena Stallions' Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and then was all out to hang on for a head victory over Cinderella's Wish. Trophy Collector finished third. Heart Ashley, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lion Heart, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.79 with Garrett Gomez riding.
Mr. Nightlinger dueled for the lead until the top of the stretch in Friday's $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, then kicked clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Blue Sailor. Rouse the Cat was a neck farther back in third. Mr. Nightlinger, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Indian Charlie, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.29 seconds. Jamie Theriot had the mount for trainer Brett Calhoun.
Seattle Smooth, the odds-on favorite, came out around a wall of horses at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Shuvee Handicap and just got by the leaders to win by 3/4 length. Color Me Up had the lead at mid-stretch and finished second and Sea Chanter was third. Seattle Smooth, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Quiet American, ran the 1 mile in 1:35.94 under Ramon Dominguez. "It was a workmanlike effort and she was in a dicey spot at the top of the stretch," said winning trainer Anthony Dutrow. "They were going quick enough up front, so that was good." He said his goal is to win a Grade I event with Seattle Smooth and the Ogden Phipps, a Grade I event at 1 1/16 miles at Belmont on June 13, is the target for accomplishing that goal.
I Lost My Choo raced near the back of the pack through the first half of Sunday's $100,000 Mount Vernon Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, then came around her rivals and accelerated through the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Nehantic Kat was second and You Go West Girl finished third. I Lost My Choo, a 4-year-old Western Expression filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.52 with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
Our Friend Harvey got a narrow lead on the backstretch in Sunday's $65,000 Lure Stakes, extended it to daylight at the top of the lane and then held on to win by 1/2 length over Ballast. Prince Rahy finished third. Our Friend Harvey, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Put It Back, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:23.17 for jockey Ramon Dominguez.
Capt. Candyman Can, a refugee from the Kentucky Derby trail, got past the early leader at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes and went on to win by 3/4 length over the favorite, Cash Refund. Conchacer finished third. Capt. Candyman Can, a Kentucky-bred Candy Ride gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on a "good" main track in 1:22.89 under Javier Castellano. Capt. Candyman Can won the Hutcheson Stakes early in the year at Gulfstream Park but dropped out of Derby contention after finishing fourth behind Quality Road in the Fountain of Youth. He then won the 7-furlong Bay Shore at Aqueduct. Trainer Ian Wilkes said he hopes to take the gelding to the Kings Bishop at Saratoga, adding, "I'm gonna evaluate and see where he is and have a look-see where he's at. He'll tell me what I need to do here. That's the important thing. I don't want to get ahead of him and make him do it because this horse puts his body on the line every time I run him. He's so honest for me. He's taken care of me, now I have to take care of him a little bit."
Red Arrow jumped quickly to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap, opened up a clear advantage and held well to win by 3/4 length over Paul's Hope. Dehere Again stalked the pace, then held on to finish third. Red Arrow, a 6-year-old, Australian-bred son of Red Ransom, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.92 for jockey Joe Talamo. Red Arrow, trained by John Sadler, has won three of five U.S. starts and four of 15 races overall. "My horse ended up on the lead on his own and he was just cruising," Talamo said. "I was watching the replay of this horse last time at Golden Gate Fields and it looked like he went head-and-head early and really wasn't comfortable. Today John said to ride him with confidence."
Kizzy's Chaos got the jump on a half dozen rivals in Sunday's $100,000 Gallant Man Handicap and, 13 furlongs later, cruised home first, 3 lengths to the good of Church Service. Medjool prompted the pace, then lost second by a head. Kizzy's Choice, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Evansville Slew, finished in 2:43.48 with Martin Garcia in the irons for trainer Vladimir Cerin. "This horse is a real professional," Garcia said. "I was the only speed and nobody really put any pressure on us. I slowed it up as good as I could and he really finished."
Awesome Rhythm rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Marine Stakes for 3-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths. Colonel Rutledge was second and His Greatness finished third. Awesome Rhythm, a Kentucky-bred colt to Toccet, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.25. James McAleny rode for trainer John Ross. Awesome Rhythm was unplaced in his first two starts as a 3-year-old, both in Florida, but Ross said the foundation was valuable. "He had a great winter and that helped me prepare a horse like this, turning into a 3-year-old especially," the conditioner said. "He's come to the forefront. Today was the proof he might be for real. Hopefully, I can keep him in great order and we can continue a bit of this."
Hooh Why opened up a nice lead at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $150,000 La Lorgnette Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then battled gamely to the wire, winning by 1/2 length over Tasty Temptation. Milwaukee Appeal finished third. Hooh Why, a Florida-bred daughter of Cloud Hopping, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.46. Emile Ramsammy rode for trainer Kenneth Hoffman. Owner Mark Hoffman said the filly, winner of the Ashland at Keeneland on April 4, has been waiting for the right circumstances to make her return. "I wanted to run in the 2000 Guineas at Arlington Park," he said. "There's been so much rain out there. I didn't want to run on a soft turf course." Then, he added, he scratched out of Friday's Black Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico because he thought the track might come up sloppy.
Maya's Storm pressed the pace early in Saturday's $65,000 John Wayne Stakes for Iowa-breds colts and geldings, gained a narrow advantage on the turn, edged clear and then held on to win by 1/2 length over Red Hot N Gold. Tiger Lake was a nose farther back in third. Maya's Storm, a 4-year-old Stormy Atlantic colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.77 under Israel Ocampo.
Irish Party got a clear lead at the top of the stretch in Friday's $65,000 Mamie Eisenhower Stakes for Iowa-bred fillies and mares, then held on gamely at the end to win by a neck over Friend O the Devil. It's My Day Toots finished third. Irish Party, a 5-year-old daughter of Twining, got the 6 furlongs on a muddy, sealed track in 1:10.68, also with Ocampo riding.
On the Menu rallied to win Saturday's $65,000 Just Smashing Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a neck over Mary's Follies, with Bold Union just another neck back in third. On the Menu, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Canadian Frontier, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.47. Eddie Castro rode.