- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2009

— It was only fitting that as Rachel Alexandra ran forcefully toward the finish line, Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird was charging fast.

He never caught her, but the two dueling at the wire could set up a possible rematch in the Belmont Stakes on June 6 - something both camps said they would consider.

Rachel Alexandra, the super filly who lived up to expectations by beating the colts just 15 days after romping in the Kentucky Oaks, will be checked out in the coming days in preparation for her next race.

“The Belmont’s always a consideration for a champion,” co-owner Jess Jackson said. “Would we love to run? Yes. Could she win? We think so. We’ve already shown she can run with colts. It’s a question now of her best interest.”

Many of the same answers came from Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley and co-owner Mark Allen. Both were delighted with their colt’s performance.

“If he’s OK in the next couple of days, he’ll be headed to the Belmont,” Woolley said.

Calvin Borel, who rode Rachel Alexandra and could become the first jockey to capture all three legs of the Triple Crown on two different horses in the same year, said he didn’t see any reason not to try the Belmont but deferred to Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen.

A filly, Rags to Riches, won the Belmont two years ago. And there’s reason to believe Mine That Bird would be fit for the 1 1/2-mile distance as well. His sire, Birdstone, outlasted Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont to spoil that Triple Crown bid.

“He’ll go every bit of it… and more,” Mine That Bird jockey Mike Smith said. “This guy will run all day long.”

‘Nile,’ ‘Fire’ struggle

Pioneerof the Nile and Friesan Fire went off as the second and fourth choices, but they failed to make an impact.

Pioneerof the Nile was fourth early on but faded to 11th. Jockey Garrett Gomez encountered traffic problems and had to swing his colt wide, where he tired and was eventually eased.

“He was never really comfortable,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He was having trouble with the turns, and he didn’t run his race. Usually he grabs the jockey and takes him. He didn’t do that today. He just didn’t give it to us.”

Said Gomez: “He didn’t come close to running the way he did [in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished runner-up].”

Despite a bobble coming out of the gate, Friesan Fire was in the mix until the stretch, falling from third to 10th position. He finished 18th as the post-time favorite in the Derby.

“This was better than the last race,” trainer Larry Jones said.

Lukas pleased

Both of trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ horses - Flying Private and Luv Gov - were 50-1 on the morning line and came to the Preakness with a combined 2-for-21 lifetime record. Flying Private finished fourth, and Luv Gov was eighth.

Flying Private will now head to the Belmont, which was Lukas’ aim at the start of the year.

“Flying Private ran a [heck of a] race,” Lukas said. “We went from 19th in the Derby to fourth in the Preakness. He liked the track a little bit better, and he came running.”

Crowd down

Pimlico’s decision to ban fans from bringing in alcohol had the expected impact on attendance. Last year’s crowd was 112,222; Saturday’s was 77,850.

The on-track handle did go up, from about $73.5 million to $86,684,470 - the fifth-highest Preakness Day total.

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