Rachel Alexandra is blazing a path that no other 3-year-old filly has in modern history. She has already beaten her male peers in the Preakness and Haskell, and will now try to defeat older males in the Woodward. She is an amazing racehorse and a blessing for Thoroughbred racing during a tough time.
So why is there part of me that feels disappointed she will go to the Woodward and not the Travers?
When Steve Asmussen made the announcement on Monday, I was not the least bit surprised. I've said for weeks that this would be her next spot. When it (finally) came though, I felt let down.
The reemergence of Quality Road has given the Mid-Summer Derby a shot in the arm. I don't think there is a person who likes this sport that did not want to see Rachel vs. Quality Road, likely the two best 3-year-olds in the country right now. Throw in a rematch against Derby winner Mine That Bird (hopefully) and Belmont winner Summer Bird, and improving colts Warrior's Reward and Hold Me Back, and it would have been a dream race--maybe the race of the year. (I would have mentioned Charitable Man here, but Kiaran McLaughlin had already made it clear that he would not send him to the Travers if Rachel was going.)
Jackson is not wrong for sending Rachel to the Woodward. It's a great race in its own right and if she were to win, she would add to her continuing legacy of greatness by becoming the first filly to do so. As an owner, it also would not have been in Jackson's best interest to run Rachel and Kensei in the same race. Just doesn't make sense.
From these two perspectives, you cannot blame Jackson.
However, the fact is, the Woodward is an easier spot--even against older horses--and it won't carry as much public appeal as the Travers would. Had Quality Road, Summer Bird and (hopefully) Mine That Bird not been in the race, I might feel differently. But it seems they will be there, and it's disappointing the three Classic winners and Quality Road won't have their showdown in the Mid-Summer Derby.
I saw the probable field for the Woodward. It's OK. Bullsbay and Macho Again. Asiatic Boy is probable. They are nice horses. But does that get your juices flowing like the Travers would? C'mon, be honest.
My feeling is that Jackson did not want to run Rachel at 1 1/4 miles. I think he would rather keep her in her comfort zone at 1 1/8 and do so against a pretty average field. I also think Jackson also had dollar signs in his head with Kensei possibly winning the Travers, a race that would make his stallion career. Just my opinion.
Again, Jackson doesn't look bad for sending Rachel to the Woodward. He is still taking an unconventional path. The race will be fun.
Just do me a favor and save all the "great sportsman" stuff. The Travers was the spot we all wanted. There would have been other opportunities for Rachel to face older horses. In the end, Jackson chose Kensei's potential stud value over a race the whole sport wanted to see.