The final jewel of the Triple Crown will go on minus one of its most precious gems.
Rachel Alexandra, who became the first filly in 85 years to capture the Preakness Stakes, will not run in the Belmont Stakes on June 6, according to a statement by her owners.
"After careful consideration, we have decided not to run Rachel Alexandra in the Belmont Stakes next weekend," co-owner Jess Jackson said Friday. "While she is in great shape, having strong works, and recovering well from her amazing performances, we feel Rachel deserves a well-earned vacation."
The defection of Rachel Alexandra from the 11/2-mile Belmont clears the way for jockey Calvin Borel — who has piloted her to six straight wins — to regain the mount on Mine That Bird, whom he guided to victory in the Kentucky Derby.
Borel gave up the ride on Mine That Bird to stay on Rachel Alexandra for the Preakness, saying repeatedly the filly was the best horse he had ever ridden.
"Now that this decision is made, I am excited to come to New York and ride Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes," Borel said. "I would like to thank (trainer) Chip Woolley, and (owners) Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach for being so gracious and allowing us to wait for this decision."
Mike Smith rode Mine That Bird to a runner-up effort in the Preakness, but will not ride in the Belmont due to a prior commitment in California the same day.
Though the connections of Mine That Bird originally planned on naming a rider this past Monday, they opted to hold out longer after Jackson said that morning he was still undecided on the filly's status.
"I'm happy to have him back," Chip Woolley said of Borel. "We were willing to wait because we felt like we owed it to (Borel) and we have this thing called loyalty. He won me a Derby and we wanted to give him the opportunity."
In her first workout since her historic 1-length Preakness victory, Rachel Alexandra breezed 4 furlongs in :50.20 at Churchill Downs on Monday.
Though the filly appeared to come out of the work in good order, Jackson didn't want the strain of running her back three weeks after the hardest race of her life to jeopardize the rest of her season.
"Since March 14, Rachel has won four graded races with just two weeks rest between her last two victories," Jackson said. "We will always put her long-term well-being first. And, of course, we want to run her when she is fresh."
Rachel Alexandra has won eight of 11 career starts, including all five outings this season, with earnings of $1,618,354.
The statement did not say where Rachel Alexandra would make her next start but Jackson said Monday "It's either (the Belmont) or the Mother Goose (at Belmont Park on June 27)."
With her tactical early speed, Rachel Alexandra's running style seemed particularly suited for Belmont's sweeping oval — a fact that was not lost on her would-be foes.
Her absence from the field seems especially favorable for expected Belmont contenders Charitable Man and Miner's Escape, both of whom do their best running on or close to the front.
"I'm sad for the New York racing fans that they won't get to watch her run because she's a super filly but I also compliment Jess Jackson and (trainer) Steve Asmussen for doing what they think is right by the filly," Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Charitable Man, said Friday. "I know they had a tough decision, but as a competitor, boy am I glad she's staying in Kentucky. I think it could set up very well for us."