All of a sudden, heading into the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, the humans are stealing the show. It's enough to make a good thoroughbred rear up and whinny.
The story of the day Friday was that Jess Jackson, new owner of super filly Rachel Alexandra, got a commitment from jockey Calvin Borel to ride the horse in the May 16 Preakness.
That single action opened the story spigot, including tales of bouncing jockeys.
Borel rode Rachel Alexandra to a 20 1/4 -length victory in last Friday's Kentucky Oaks, which is the female counterpart to the next day's Kentucky Derby. Then, in that Kentucky Derby, Borel stole the show again. Riding 50-1 shot Mine That Bird, who most observers felt would have been 100-1 had he not been on him, Borel weaved through traffic to the finish like Mario Andretti at Indy and left millions stunned. And with two questions:
Who was that and where did he come from?
There were other utterances, especially from the trainers of the 18 other horses, but none are printable.
For a day or so, the story was whether this Kentucky Derby winner from out of nowhere -- O.K., New Mexico, same thing -- would be the second, third, or even fourth betting choice in the Preakness.
It seemed certain that the only way Borel would get through on the rail this time against the likes of Garrett Gomez and Rafael Bejarano was with a snow plow.
But all that started to take a back seat when Jackson, the wealthy founder of Kendall-Jackson Winery and the owner of Curlin, fell in love with Rachel Alexandra and pulled out his checkbook.
Suddenly, a filly that hadn't even been nominated for the Triple Crown races by her previous owners, who could have done so for $600 before Feb. 8 or $6,000 before March 28, became a factor in the Preakness.
Friday, Jackson seemed likely to enter her, as long as his trainer, Steve Asmussen, liked what he saw in workouts this weekend. Since she wasn't nominated, it will take $100,000 for Jackson to supplement her into the Preakness pot, where he can then pay another $10,000 to enter her and yet another $10,000 to get her to the gate.
That's lots of Merlot, but worth it to Jackson.
Even with cash at the ready, however, he could be shut out by the rules if 14 other nominated entrants fill the starting gate first. That is an unlikely scenario, because there have been only two full fields in the Preakness since 1979. There have also been only four winning fillies, the last Nellie Morse in 1924.
Assuming Rachel Alexandra gets in, that means Borel will be the first jockey to get off a winning Derby horse and get on another to compete against that Derby champ.
So who gets the ride on the Derby champion, Mine That Bird?
"If the filly gets in, I'll ride him," Hall-of-Famer Mike Smith said Friday, en route to a normal work night at Hollywood Park.
Smith rode Jenny Craig's Chocolate Candy in the Derby and said that Chocolate Candy is likely to be back for the Belmont.
More jockey-musical-chairs ahead?
Smith didn't reveal this, but it turns out that, before Borel was put on Mine That Bird for the Derby, the leading candidate to get the ride was Chantal Sutherland, currently one of the top riders at Woodbine in Toronto.
Sutherland is Smith's girlfriend. She had lived with him since last fall and returned to Woodbine a few weeks ago, after riding most of the Santa Anita meeting, because she gets better rides in Canada. Reportedly, she thought she was close to landing the ride on Mine That Bird, and only learned that Borel won out while reading the Daily Racing Form.
She is one of the stars of the "Jockeys" series on Animal Planet.
They were in Toronto to film her reaction on Derby Day as she watched Smith ride Chocolate Candy.
Instead, they got her reaction when the horse she thought was hers won the Kentucky Derby.
Must-see-TV, one suspects.
Alex Solis was also on a list of possible riders for Mine That Bird.
His agent, Brian Beach, said he received a text message of inquiry, messaged back asking whether travel expenses would be covered by Mine That Bird's owners -- the normal deal -- and was told "probably not."
"We wouldn't have gone, anyway," Beach said. "Alex rode 11 of the 12 races at Hollywood Park that day, all for our regular clients.
"They went for the guy who was local."
That put Calvin Borel in the spot he's in now.
The catbird's saddle.