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May 29, 2009

'Bird' yes, 'Rachel' maybe, 'Musket' no

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The top three finishers from the Preakness Stakes are almost certain not to face each other in the upcoming Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 6.

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, second in the Preakness, is a definite for the 1 1/2 mile Test of Champions. Preakness champ Rachel Alexandra is at best 50-50 to start in the third jewel of racing's Triple Crown, and Musket Man, third in both the Derby and Preakness, is being given a rest at Monmouth Park.

"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," said Mine That Bird's trainer, Chip Woolley. "We're excited about going."

Mine That Bird is back at Churchill Downs being prepared for the longest race in the Triple Crown series. Mike Smith, who rode the gelding at Pimlico, will be unavailble for the Belmont Stakes.

Smith has already said he will remain at Hollywood Park that day to ride a horse owned by Jerry Moss and trained by John Shirreffs. Calvin Borel may be back in the saddle for Woolley if Rachel Alexandra is kept in the barn.

"I'd love to race in New York," said Rachel Alexandra's majority owner Jess Jackson. "The Belmont is always a consideration for a champion. It will depend on her. The horse always tells you whether they're ready. Steve can give you more details about that. I've got to talk to Calvin and Steve, of course. That's a decision my partner, Harold McCormick, should make with me as well."

The filly is trained by Steve Asmussen who won the 2007 Preakness Stakes with Curlin and lost the Belmont Stakes that year to the filly Rags to Riches.

Rachel Alexandra is also back at Churchill Downs to prepare for the remainder of her 2009 season.

Based at Monmouth Park on the New Jersey shore, trainer Derek Ryan has declared that Musket Man will be given a rest. The colt is being pointed toward Monmouth's $1 million Haskell Invitational in early August.

"He came out of the race (Preakness) good, no problem," said Ryan. "No Belmont, definitely. He's going home and we're going to freshen him up and get him ready for the Haskell."

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