Pioneer of Nile seeks to avenge loss

Published 3:09 am Friday, May 15, 2009

BALTIMORE (AP) — Bob Baffert oozed confidence in Pioneerof the Nile leading to the Kentucky Derby.

The colt was in front coming down the stretch, and for a few moments the Hall of Fame trainer thought he had his fourth Derby victory.

‘‘It just took the air out of us,’’ Baffert recalled Thursday.

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As was the case with most of the 150,000 people at Churchill Downs that day. Calvin Borel and 50-1 shot Mine That Bird blew by Pioneerof the Nile to win by 6 3/4 lengths in the second-biggest upset in Derby history.

Now Baffert and his colt are back for a rematch in Saturday’s Preakness.

Not only will they have to contend with the Derby winner, but Borel has switched horses and will ride stellar filly Rachel Alexandra, the 8-5 morning line favorite who brings a five-race winning streak into the 1 3-16-mile race at Pimlico.

‘‘I would’ve taken a shot at the Derby with her. She’s just a tremendous athlete,’’ Baffert said. ‘‘She’s a good filly and these classics are huge. There’s not a lot of money to run for fillies. She fits with these boys, so I don’t blame them for taking a shot.’’

Baffert did the same thing with Excellent Meeting in 1999, but she was pulled up as a precaution and didn’t finish the race.