Breathtaking. Sensational. Poetry in motion.
New superlatives are becoming tough to find when describing superstar filly Rachel Alexandra. Her six-length romp in the Haskell against an overmatched group of 3-year-old colts that included the Belmont Stakes winner, Arkansas Derby winner and a talented graded stakes winning sprinter was nothing short of phenomenal.
Everything about it was awesome - the splits she ran, the ease in which she did it, and the final time of 1:47.21, which just missed Spend a Buck's track record. And it came on a sloppy track while being forced wide. Three-year-old fillies are just not supposed to be able to do these things.
What does it all mean? Well for one, she most likely locked up Horse of the Year honors, despite a full five months remaining in the season and not going to the Breeders' Cup, according to her owner Jess Jackson. It also means Rachel is well on her way to establishing herself as the greatest American 3-year-old filly in modern history. And if she wins the Travers and/or defeats older horses - and there is no reason to think she can't do both -- we might have to start talking about one of the greatest 3-year-old seasons by any horse, male or female, in a long time.
We have plenty of time to debate Rachel's place in history. That can come later. For now, we should all just enjoy what we are seeing, and look forward to what else she has in store for us. Folks, she is getting better. And the best part is, barring injury, we get to see her for at least 17 more months.
Nearly lost in Rachel's Haskell romp was the tremendous weekend it capped for trainer Steve Asmussen, who swept the major 3-year-old stakes by sending out Soul Warrior to a 23-1 upset in the West Virginia Derby and Kensei to an impressive score in the Jim Dandy. The latter, who happens to also be co-owned by Jess Jackson, is a star in the making.
Kensei has now notched consecutive grade II scores around two turns, and both of them have been eye-catching. The son of Mr. Greeley beat a solid field that included Warrior's Reward, Charitable Man and Convocation, with ease. He has all the looks of a horse who is rapidly improving, and at this point, with all the injuries to the nation's top 3-year-olds, Asmussen and Jackson might just have the second best sophomore in the country. Time will tell. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. I'm looking forward to seeing more from this colt, although, he will probably never meet Rachel.
Finally, there is Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who seems to be a star losing his light. Mine That Bird has now lost three straight races since winning the roses, and quite honestly, I'm getting a little tired of people making excuses for him.
First, it was, "He would have beat Rachel in the Preakness if the race was just a few yards longer." In the Belmont, people blamed Calvin Borel for a premature move. Now, Mike Smith and trainer Chip Woolley are saying Smith's ride and the 11-pound weight disparity cost him the West Virginia Derby.
The fact is, Mine That Bird is a good horse, not a great horse. He won the Derby and that should be respected, but he had every chance to win all three of those following races and came up short. This past weekend, he had the entire stretch to outduel a 23-1 allowance winner, and catch a game Big Drama, who set ambitious fractions. He could not.
Mine That Bird is a horse who needs a beneficial pace scenario, and most importantly, a perfectly-time move to win graded stakes races. He is one-dimensional. Let's face facts. He is good, hard-trying horse. Is he capable of winning another big race this season? Absolutely. But enough with the excuses.