Jenny Kellner is an award-winning journalist and educator who has written about horse racing for more than 20 years. She has been a media specialist with NYRA for the past four years.
I am convinced that Mine That Bird has bad breath.
The poor little gelding can't seem to get a second date. The Belmont Stakes (The Belmont Stakes!) is just over two weeks away and he still doesn't have a rider.
First, Calvin Borel becomes the first jockey in history to ditch the Kentucky Derby winner to ride another horse in the Preakness. And then you have his replacement, Mike Smith, who says he has to ride “Madeo” in the “Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap” at “Hollywood Park.” Come on! As Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito once put it to another jockey, "We're talking about the Belmont Stakes!"
Smith had no problem taking off Madeo in the Arcadia to ride Stardom Bound in the Ashland on April 4. And, come to think of it, wasn't he supposed to ride Chocolate Candy in the Belmont anyway? But I digress.
My point is, the only solution for trainer Chip Woolley and Mine That Bird’s owners is to find a rider who has no commitments to another three-year-old. A rider with a proven record aboard a come-from-behind horse. A rider who is strong and athletic. A rider who will not be intimidated by the sheer size of Belmont Park.
A rider like …. Shaquille O'Neal.
Think about it. Phoenix is out of the playoffs. Shaq’s been to Belmont Park. And who can forget his memorable last-to-first performance aboard Chunk of Love in the Vitamin Water Super Bowl commercial?
I called the Suns to see what they thought.
ME: I'm calling to find out if Shaq might be interested in riding Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes.
FIRST SUNS PERSON: Excuse me?
ME: Do you know if he has any other commitments that day? Because it's really important that he doesn't.
FIRST SUNS PERSON: Let me give you to someone else.
(transfer to new Suns person)
ME: Hi, I wanted to find out if Shaq was free on Saturday, June 6, for Mine That Bird in the Belmont Stakes.
SECOND SUNS PERSON: What city is that?
ME: New York.
SECOND SUNS PERSON: He's not available.
Anyone have a breath mint?