Woodward Analysis: Will Rachel Make History?

No need for any long intro on this post--it's all Rachel, all the time.

We're just a day away from the Woodward, where Rachel Alexandra takes on older males for the first time and tries to become the first filly to win the prestigious event. If she does, she will not only lock up Horse of the Year, but cement herself as the best 3-year-old filly in the modern era, in my opinion. Simply put, it's a race for the ages.

Before analyzing the race, I just want to make mention of something regarding the Woodward TV coverage. Some of the articles I've read and people I've talked to have expressed disbelief that the race is not being shown on national TV. I'm astounded by these people's lack of understanding about the reality of the situation.

First of all, do any of these people know what Saturday is in the world of sports? It is opening weekend of college football! That's right, football, the MOST popular sport in America. Football is a gold mine for ESPN. From a business standpoint, why would ESPN show anything but football all day and night, on all their channels? It's a no-brainer.

Horse racing does not make ESPN any money. The reality is, not many outside of us hardcore racing fans care about what Rachel is doing on Saturday. To the casual sports fan, Rachel beating older males means absolutely nothing. While it may be a big deal for us, it is a blip on the screen for the majority of sports fans in this country.

We can debate back and forth about what or who is to blame for horse racing's decline in popularity, but the bottom line is, it doesn't make much sense for any national station to cover the event on such a big sports weekend, that also includes the U.S. Open, baseball pennant races, and probably some meaningless, but popular, Nascar event. If you want to watch the Woodward and don't have HRTV or TVG, go to your local OTB or racetrack. They will all have it.

Now on to the race.

I am actually slightly impressed that they got seven horses to face Rachel, and truth be told, it's not a bad field considering how average the group of older horses is this year. This will not be a walkover for her. She will have to be at her best.

That being said, she towers over this field from a numbers standpoint--both in the comparative times that she runs and the speed figures that she has earned. Simply put, if she runs back to her previous form, she is much the best, and will win rather easily. She is 1-2 for a reason.

From a pace standpoint, I believe Calvin Borel will send Rachel to the front early in the race, much like he did in the Preakness. There isn't much speed in this race and I don't think he wants to take the chance that she gets boxed in on the backstretch. Da' Tara might be able to run with Rachel for a half-mile, but by six furlongs I expect her to be clear on the lead.

Bullsbay certainly comes in off a big Whitney performance and is capable of putting in another top effort. Macho Again is also in nice form and could make up some ground late. I don't like Asiatic Boy here.

The horse I'm going to use with Rachel is likely to be the longest shot on the board--Past the Point. The 5-year-old hasn't even won a stakes race yet, but he has some things going for him. First, he loves Saratoga. He is 2-2-0 from 4 starts over the strip. One of those wins came on Aug. 6 in an optional claimer when he won by 1 1/2 lengths. It was the same prep race he used for last year's Woodward. Anyone remember last year's Woodward? Past the Point ran a huge race at 40-1. He set the pace and dug in gamely down the stretch only to lose to Curlin by 1 1/4 lengths. It was a huge effort, and the thing I liked most about it was his fractional times. He ran a 1:35 mile, which no other horse in this race--except Rachel--has shown the ability to do. Past the Point fired a bullet work on Monday, gets Prado back, and is making his second start off a layoff. I think he's primed for a big effort, at a big price.

The Pick: I'll play a large exacta Rachel over Past the Point and a smaller exacta boxing those two. I'll also play Past the Point across the board.

Other quick picks for the weekend include Forego: Driven by Success to win, and an exacta box Driven by Success, Kodiak Kowboy, and Multidude; Sapling: Western Smoke; Pacific Classic: Einstein; Del Mar Derby: Rendezvous; Hopeful: Enumerate.

Good luck to all this weekend. You thoughts?

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