Girl Power: A Filly Wins The Preakness

Rachel Alexandra sprinted to a big win Saturday at the Preakness, becoming the first filly in 85 years to win the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown. She held off a late charge by the determined Kentucky Derby champ, Mine That Bird. And her jockey, Calvin Borel, becomes the first rider to win the Derby on one horse and the Preakness on another.

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Rebecca Roberts.

And the horses are almost in the starting gates for the Preakness, the second jewel in the Triple Crown has more subplots than racers. There is, of course, the battle of the sexes. The filly, Rachel Alexandra, has tried to beat the boys and become the first female Preakness winner in 85 years. Then there's the little horse that could, underdog, under-horse, Mine That Bird who is trying to repeat his shocking come from behind Kentucky Derby win. Plus, there's a little less cheap beer in the infield this year.

NPR's Allison Keyes has spent the day at the Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore and she's with us now.

So Allison, are you wearing your Black-eye Susan corsage?

ALLISON KEYES: Actually, I am sadly not wearing my Black-eye Susan corsage despite the number of people that have tried to sell me those $8 cocktails.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: So let's start with Rachel Alexandra. She's the big favorite. It's been pretty high drama all week.

KEYES: Actually, it has been and I have to say, the crowd here is really excited about her. I mean there was actually an aborted attempt by some of the owners of the other colts that are in the race to try to block her from getting here by flooding the field with marginal colts. But she is in, she's looking good, and it's going to be an interesting race.

ROBERTS: Now, Mine That Bird's jockey in the derby, Calvin Borel, had also ridden Rachel Alexandra in the filly race in Kentucky. He's chosen to ride the filly today in the Preakness, so Mine That Bird has a new jockey and it's dry out there instead of muddy like it was in Kentucky. What are people talking about there?

KEYES: Actually, people were pretty interested by Calvin Borel's choice to do that. He says that Rachel Alexandra is a once in a lifetime horse. But no jockey has ever walked away from a derby winner before so this should be interesting. And the conditions of the track are also a bit of a story because they were thinking that if it was going to be muddy and murky as it was at the derby then Mine That Bird would have a better chance. But here the track condition is fast, it's dry, the sun has just come out, so it looks like he's not going to have that advantage.

ROBERTS: And what's the crowd like?

KEYES: The crowd is actually fabulous. It was a little slow this morning and the interesting thing to me is having watched the Kentucky Derby so many years, you know the people show up there in the very fancy hats. There were some of that here, but this is much more of a blue collar Baltimore crowd and, in fact, some of the people in the fancier hats were getting cat calls from people as they wandered through the grandstand.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: It was kind of funny.

ROBERTS: Well if there was, there's also always been this BYOB tradition in the infield including people getting pelted with beer cans in the infield. But I understand that tradition is over.

KEYES: That tradition is over and it is a huge disappointment if you listen to some of the younger people. And track officials have actually said they expect to lose a bit of money but they think it's safer and they think that once people get use to it not raining beer in the infield that the crowds will come back.

ROBERTS: Speaking of losing money, I will not ask who you have bet on today Allison, but you've been talking to other folks there. Are there any surprises?

KEYES: Actually, of course, most of the people, when I say most I mean about 97 percent tell me they are betting on Rachel Alexandra. People like Cathy James(ph) are excited.

Ms. CATHY JAMES: We're going with the lady.

KEYES: Yes?

Ms. JAMES: We are going with the girl, baby.

KEYES: Tell me what you like about her.

Ms. JAMES: Because she's a girl. She's a woman.

Unidentified Woman: Lady.

Ms. JAMES: What else can we say? She's going to kick those boys' butts.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KEYES: They're also a few people that are picking on horses names. I ran into one mother and daughter who said they were betting on Big Drama because frankly, there's a lot of drama in their family and he seems good to them.

ROBERTS: All right. NPR's Allison Keyes reporting on the Preakness from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Post time there is in about half an hour.

Have fun Allison.

KEYES: I shall.

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