BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Super Saver should have an easier time in Saturday’s $1 million Preakness Stakes than he had during his electrifying, rail-hugging triumph in the Kentucky Derby, jockey Calvin Borel said on Tuesday.
Although he acknowledged the bay colt was “peaking at the right time,” Borel stopped short of predicting a Triple Crown triumph for the Kentucky-bred son of Maria’s Mon.
“The Preakness should be a little easier on him than the Derby,” Borel told Reuters in a telephone interview. “It’s a shorter race with sharp turns. I think he’ll love them.
“And if it rains, that’s a big plus. He loves the mud. I don’t know why but he loves it. I have all the confidence in the world in this horse. The Derby was the hard one to win.”
Super Saver splashed his way to a two-and-a-half length victory in the 20-horse Derby at soggy Churchill Downs on May 1, Borel skimming the rail much of the way for his third triumph in America’s most prestigious race.
Borel, who won the Preakness a year ago aboard the filly Rachel Alexandra, said he would try to hold Super Saver back in the final furlong if he knew victory was certain.
Smarty Jones won the 2004 Preakness by 11-1/2 lengths but ran out of gas at the Belmont Stakes and missed out on becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
Borel vowed not to make the same mistake as Smarty Jones’s jockey Stewart Elliott.
“If we’re winning, I’m going to try to save my horse as much as I can,” said Borel, a Louisiana native. “You’ve got to be back up in three weeks for the Belmont Stakes.
At a mile-and-three-sixteenths, the Preakness is the shortest of the Triple Crown races.
“This will be the test,” said Borel. “It’s only been two weeks since he won the Derby. I worked him yesterday and he did everything on key, super good. He’s a happy camper.”
Whether he wins or not on Saturday, Borel feels fortunate to be in this position.
The soft-spoken 43-year-old has become America’s most recognizable rider because of his three Derby triumphs in the last four years.
Borel seems to be at his best on the first Saturday in May, his daring ground-saving trips along the Churchill Downs rail both exhilarating and effective. His daring rides and humble demeanor also make him wildly popular with race fans.
“I’ve won nearly 5,000 races and then when I won the Derby on Street Sense (in 2007) it turned my life completely around. It doesn’t matter what you win, people talk about the Derby.
“It’s like the Super Bowl. Every jockey wants to ride it much less win it. When you can win the Derby it gives you confidence in everything in your life. It’s unbelievable.”
Borel said it was too difficult to predict Triple Crown success for Super Saver.
“I knew if he could win the Derby, he’d be really tough in the next two legs,” said Borel. “But to predict a Triple Crown? You just can’t do that. Man, winning it is tough to do.”
Editing by Frank Pingue