It has been well documented that it's unwise to change horses midstream, but Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel apparently didn't get the memo.
Borel rode Mine That Bird to one of the most surprising victories in the history of horse racing, but he will jump over to super filly Rachel Alexandra for Saturday's Preakness Stakes as soon as she officially joins the field.
What's that all about?
Wouldn't it be a little like Cal Ripken Jr. deciding right before Sept. 6, 1995, that he would rather set the consecutive-games record in a New York Yankees uniform? Or Mark Teixeira growing up in the Baltimore area and then ... oh, never mind.
Is there no loyalty left in this world?
Don't get all up in your stirrups. This isn't about Borel breaking the Cowboy Code. He has been the regular jockey on Rachel Alexandra and was all but committed to the filly in the event she posted for the Preakness. Obviously, he had no reason to think that Mine That Bird would suddenly mine some deep well of determination and pull a Seabiscuit at Churchill Downs. Nobody really thought he would have any decision to make if the owners of Rachel Alexandra decided to come to Baltimore.
If it goes down this way - and odds of it not going down this way are about 50-1 - he'll be riding the big favorite and passing up a chance to win what might be the most unlikely Triple Crown in history. Mike Smith will take Mine That Bird on this second leg and Borel will be second-guessing himself into eternity if the "Bird" flies home again.
He's probably not worried, not after riding Rachel Alexandra to that ridiculous 20 1/4 -length victory in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby. Borel has a much better chance of completing a personal Triple Crown on the filly that won the Oaks by the largest margin in the 100 years they've kept track of that sort of thing. Rachel is undefeated in her five races with Borel aboard.
On either horse, it would be hard to root against him. Borel is so refreshingly down-to-earth that he captured the hearts of racing fans with his first Derby victory aboard Street Sense in 2007. He was even more animated after he coaxed Mine That Bird from well behind the rest of the Derby field to score a resounding victory, tearfully acknowledging his dead parents and waving a rose at the sky for his mother, Emma, who passed away between his two Derby victories.
Even if Borel is acting entirely in his own selfish interests, it's going to be hard to find anybody to criticize him for jumping back onto what could be one of the greatest fillies ever. Even Mine That Bird's trainer, Chip Woolley Jr., said he "can't blame" Borel for going back to Rachel Alexandra, and Chip doesn't look like the kind of guy you would want to cross - even on crutches.
When Borel caught the ride on Mine That Bird, he became part of one of the greatest Triple Crown stories. Woolley is a former rodeo rider who drove the horse all the way from New Mexico to Louisville, Ky., for the Derby. Borel is the son of a Louisiana sugar cane farmer who has been racing horses since he was 8.
The strange pairing of jockey and trainer had an endearing down-home flavor to it, but Borel - for all the country bumpkin charm - is savvy enough to know that it doesn't get any better for Mine That Bird than what happened at Churchill Downs. He's one of the central figures in two great horse racing sagas that will converge at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, and he did what anybody would do in the same situation. He looked at the Cinderella long shot and the "once-in-a-lifetime" horse and chose wisely.
Keep in mind that Mine That Bird didn't exactly defeat a legendary Kentucky Derby field. The likely favorite in the race - I Want Revenge - had to be scratched on Derby day because of an ankle problem. And highly regarded Quality Road withdrew earlier with a quarter crack. Maybe Mine That Bird would have smoked them both, but we'll never know.
What we do know is that his jockey in that race likes another horse better, enough so to pass up an against-all-odds chance to write the ultimate Hollywood ending to this Triple Crown season.
So much for old sayings.
- Listen to Peter Schmuck weeknights at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM) and read his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at www.baltimore sun.com/schmuckblog.
Who's in the Preakness
The Preakness draw takes place at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Starter Last race
Mine That Bird Won Ky. Derby
Pioneerof the Nile 2nd, Derby
Musket Man 3rd, Derby
Papa Clem 4th, Derby
General Quarters 10th, Derby
Friesan Fire 18th, Derby
Flying Private 19th, Derby
Big Drama 2nd, Swale
Luv Gov Won Derby undercard
Rachel Alexandra Won Ky. Oaks
Take the Points 4th, Santa Anita Derby
Terrain 4th, Blue Grass
Tone It Down 3rd, Federico Tesio