Over the weekend it looked like some shenanigans were going to occur that would put a damper on what was shaping up as a very exciting Preakness 2009. The improbable story of Mine That Bird and the arrival of potential super filly Rachel Alexandra were sure to have the Preakness competing for the front pages with the NBA and NHL. This almost looked to be lost when the owners of Mine That Bird began conspiring with other owners to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the field.
The way the Preakness works is that it allows the 14 entries with the highest graded stakes earnings, who are previously nominated to the triple crown series, into the field. Often at the Preakness this is not an issue, because less than 14 horses enter the race. This year because many owners saw Mine That Bird’s victory as flukish, the amount of entrants was hovering around the 14 mark. The nomination process works this way. At the end of their two year old year, a horses owner must decide whether to nominate to the triple crown. This cost 600 dollars and is done about 5 months before the Derby. Usually around 500 pay this fee for the privilege to have first dibs on the races. Fillies owners usually do not nominate; because so few actually run in the triple crown races, it is seen as just wasted money.
If you are not nominated you can still supplement yourself to the field if there are openings. This costs 100,000 dollars, so you better be pretty sure you’ll come in first or second. Rachel Alexandra’s new owners have this confidence and are willing to ante up. By being in the race they have “stolen” Mine That Bird’s jockey Calvin Borel. This upset Mark Allen, Bird’s owner, enough that he began recruiting his fellow owners to add some mediocre previously nominated horses to the field to deny Alexandra a spot. It looked on Sunday that this would happen and put a serious black eye on the sport. It is an example of when just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Allen was well within his rights to add a lesser horse he owned to keep from facing Rachel Alexandra and to get his jockey back; but that would destroy his credibility and deny the sport a potentially great moment.
Fortunately for all of us. Mark Allen announced that he had talked it over with his Dad on Sunday night and had decided to withdraw his second entry. He said his Dad had told him to do the right thing and let her in, and let the chips fall where they may. I think I speak for racing fans everywhere. Thank you Old Man Allen. Sometimes we should all listen to our daddies.