July 11, 2009

Rachel goes for #2 against boys in Sunday's Haskell

Another dominant, record-breaking performance by Rachel Alexandra in last month's Grade I Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park went largely unnoticed. That was a very significant race at Belmont, eclipsing the great racemare of the 1970's -heroine Ruffian - margin of victory (19 lengths vs. 13 1/2) while breaking a 15 year standing stakes record with a time of 1:46.33 for 1 1/8 mile distance.

Now stabled at the historic upstate New York track Saratoga, Asmussen and Jackson have decided to make another splash by running Rachel against top colts (Belmont winner Summer Bird and Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem) for the second time in the Grade I $1.25 million Haskell Invitational. My guess is that she'll be on the bridle from the bell in hopes of wiring the abbreviated nine furlong distance of the Haskell. After seeing Rachel run four times and studying her form, I believe her best distance is at 1 1/8 miles, where she has won by a combined 39 lengths in her last two starts at this distance versus fillies. Frankly, she has the speed to win at 7 furlongs if they ever choose to go that route.

My hope is that they aren't too tempted by the money races at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles this fall and instead point to the older female "distaff" division. There are a slew of races in this category at Saratoga and Belmont through October, which makes it likely that we have seen the last of her outside of New York after her New Jersey start on Sunday. Based on Jackson's comments regarding California's synthetic race tracks, there's nary a hope she'll contest the Breeders' Cup, which is back at Santa Anita this fall. That means she must keep winning to have hopes of out-polling Zenyatta for overall Horse of the Year, since Zenyatta will be running in - and likely winning - a Breeders' Cup race (Ladies Classic or Classic) on her home course. Zenyatta so far is running in the same races in California she won last year en route to her perfect campaign, with the Aug. 9th Clement Hirsch Stakes her next start.

As it stands now, the Haskell wil not be nationally televised (even though the West Virginia Derby on Saturday IS being covered by Fox SportsNet -- another sign that racing is in trouble if you can't see it's main star!) so check out the race replay online or visit the "dreaded" local OTB to root on Rachel and hope for another historic victory!

Happy Racing,