BALTIMORE --- A few minutes after jockey Mike Smith dismounted Mine That Bird, trainer Chip Woolley balanced himself on his crutches and gave the Hall of Fame rider a big hug.
"Thanks a lot, you did a good job," Woolley said. "He just couldn't get there."
Long shot Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird fell a length short of catching sensational filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, ending the chance of a Triple Crown attempt in the Belmont Stakes on June 6.
The Derby winner was jilted by jockey Calvin Borel , who chose to ride the filly over the Derby winner, claiming he would be riding the best horse in the field.
Woolley accepted the decision and went with Smith, giving Mine That Bird the same rider who scored a Derby victory with 50-1 shot Giacomo in 2005.
Sent off as the 6-1 third choice in the field of 13, Mine That Bird did not get the last-to-first, rail-hugging ride Borel gave him in the Derby. But Smith had the 3-year-old gelding poised to make a move on the turn before being forced wide by the rest of the pack.
"Probably inside the eighth pole I thought we got a shot at her from there, but she just doesn't falter enough," Woolley said. "I'm real proud of him."
Co-owner Mark Allen was all smiles when he greeted Smith, an indication these cowboys from New Mexico were having a thrill a minute on their unlikely ride through the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Second place felt like a win, Allen said, because it proved the Derby "was no fluke."
"He was coming but that filly, she run a big race. She's about a length better than Mine That Bird," he said.
For now, a rematch is looking good in the Belmont, with Woolley planning to send Mine That Bird in the 11/2-mile "Test of the Champion" in three weeks and Rachel Alexandra's co-owner Jess Jackson saying the Belmont is in the plans.
COMMITTED: On Maryland's most important racing day of the year, Gov. Martin O'Malley declared his commitment to keep the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.
Pimlico and the Preakness will be put up for auction in August, along with nearby Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center, because of federal bankruptcy filings by Canada's Magna Entertainment Corp.
"I'm going to do everything in our power as a state to make sure the Preakness continues to exist, that it stays in Maryland," O'Malley told reporters after a tour of the stakes barns.
"We have retained through our attorney general's office some really top-notch counsel to defend Maryland's interests and our interest in the Preakness, and I look forward to seeing it run for another 134 years, or at least securing it for another 134 years."
The 134th running of the Preakness was marred to a degree by Pimlico's uncertain future.