August 7, 2009

Rachel Alexandra or "Wo"Man o' War...

Ha ha ha... but seriously though, Rachel is rapidly approaching the status of the greatest filly/mare of all time after her utter domination of males in the Grade I Haskell Invitational. She could cement her spot at the top IF she holds her form throughout the fall and into her four year-old campaign -- something promised by Mr. Jackson. Those heroines already in this category include Ruffian, Personal Ensign, Azeri, Serena's Song (who also captured the Haskell and Mother Goose in 1995), Zenyatta and "classic" winning fillies Genuine Risk, Winning Colors and Rags to Riches. I would consider any female who defeats the undoubted male champion of his era (Curlin) to rank amongst the greats. More debating this topic in future blogs.

Consider these points:

Rachel has set three stakes records in her assault (Golden Rod, Martha Washington, Mother Goose) while stopping the clock one tick shy in the Grade I Haskell Invitational most recently (in the slop, no less!).

Rachel has re-written the record books on two additional occasions for widest margin of victory (Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose - surpassing Ruffian's record) and was the only horse to win The Preakness from the far outside post (similar to Big Brown's conquest from the 20 post in the 2008 Kentucky Derby).

In addition to the records Rache DID set, she has come within fractions of establishing new time records in the Haskell and Kentucky Oaks. I find it interesting that racing blogs and pundits have consistently blamed Borel for not riding Rachel out rigorously in previous races, yet in the Haskell he was criticized for letting her feel the whip a few times at the top of the stretch. The fact is that one horse can not set stakes or track records alone. Rather, they need the proper pace scenario throughout the race. I mean, do you really believe Monarchos was the second best Kentucky Derby winner of ALL TIME?? (His final time would suggest so, but clearly his closing kick was set up by the suicidal fractions of the front-runners.)

Rachel's 7 for 7 2009 campaign (all but one start at Oaklawn being Grade I or II status) is shaping up like Cigar's 10 for 10 run in 1995 and Zenyatta's seven race perfection streak last year. Although, many handicappers believe Zenyatta has been carefully handled for non-threatening races. Her lone start outside of the California synthetic tracks was a powerful closing victory in Oaklawn's Apple Blossom Handicap in 2008, which makes Oaklawn the most logical track these two champions (presumed for Rachel) could meet.

You may have read lately about the various tracks trying to lure these two superstars for a head to head meeting in either a match race (Sam Houston Park in Houston, TX) or full field race (Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park). The problem is that Zenyatta will be retired prior to the early spring breeding season and her connections are sticking with the Breeders' Cup prep schedule (can't blame them for that). Meanwhile, Rachel's camp wants to keep her on traditional dirt surfaces. That leaves a window of mid-December to early February for a potential head to head. In my mind, there would need to be multiple horses entered to ensure a moderate pace scenario or the speedier Rachel would have a huge advantage. Perhaps Oaklawn Park, Fair Grounds or Gulfstream Park can convince both parties to give the sport a dream matchup while enticing them with the big bucks.

In the meantime, another marquee matchup could be Rachel going up against fellow stakes record setting Quality Road in the Traves Stakes (aka, Midsummer's Derby). Stay tuned for Mr. Jackson and Steve Asmussen's decision in the weeks to come.

Happy Racing!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this article!

I doubt that Rachel will be in the Travers, though, since Jackson's Kensei will likely be there. I'm looking forward to her potential start in the Woodward.