Preakness recap: Remarkable Rachel

Following Rachel Alexandra’s magnificent victory in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), comparisons to the great Ruffian are bound to surface. No filly likely will ever attain as lofty a status as racing’s ill-fated “Black Beauty.” But Rachel, like Ruffian, has raised the equine genus up a notch and left minds wondering to what level of greatness she can climb.

Read the full column here.

262 Comments

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SSC

Steve - one of your better stories- well done. With 3 weeks to the Belmont I assume you will be watching The Met Mile this Monday. Do you plan on doing a piece on this race? Can you find out who are the probable entries?

19 May 2009 9:08 AM
Karen in Indiana

They both rant awesome races and you are right - this spring has had so many interesting stories about the horses, races and people. It's great!

So for Mine That Bird's jockey choice, who would you prefer - Chantal Sutherland (she did very well with him before), Joe Talamo (he was impressive with IWR's last race), or someone else?

19 May 2009 9:48 AM
TJLuvsTizs

With Rachel not handling the track very well at Pimlico, I am wondering how the track surface at Belmont compares to the Churchill Downs track and Pimlico.  I think Belmont is generally known for a deep track, but how does that compare to CD and Pimlico?  

I hope to see Rachel in the Belmont setting modest fractions of 24 and 48 and having enought to blow away the field on the long stretch home.

19 May 2009 9:59 AM
Lupe

AWESOME COVERAGE, JUST AWESOME, YOU CAPTURED THE "PEARL" OF THE MOMENT IN HISTORY!!! THANK YOU!

19 May 2009 10:01 AM
juan kelly

Awesome writing to describe an awesome event, keep it coming Steve!!!!

19 May 2009 10:23 AM
Bob

Very nice recap!!  Thanks so much.

19 May 2009 10:25 AM
Nancy

Steve,

Thank you for the beautifully written article regarding Rachel Alexandra, all of her wonderful game Equine competitors and the humans attached to them.  Many thanks to Calvin for taking care of her.

It would be interesting to know if she has a large heart similar to Secretariat's, Sham's and War Admiral's.  The pedigree chart posted on the Blood-Horse does not go back far enough into her ancestry to illuminate her inheritance more transparently.

It would be nice if the Blood-Horse printed your article in the next issue.

Thanks again for the beautiful article.

Best,

Nancy

19 May 2009 10:44 AM
DANYLSON

GREAT STORY. RACHEL IS A RARITY. SHE BRINGS EXCITEMENT BACK TO RACING. THE BELMONT WILL BE VERY INTERESTING IF THESE TWO GOOD HORSES HOOK UP AGAIN.

19 May 2009 10:45 AM
s lee

Nicely done.  And this IS what racing needs - 2 very different horses with very different human interest stories and very different running styles.  May they stay healthy and run long!

You're right that comparisons to Ruffian are inevitable, but it's interesting what other names are coming up - and which ones aren't.  What about Lady's Secret?  Shuvee?  Dahlia?  Susan's Girl? Terlingua? Bayakoa?  Go for Wand?  I've heard RA compared with Genuine Risk and Winning Colors.  My experience goes back to Ta Wee, and I'd have to say that at this point if Ta Wee and Rachel hooked horns at the quarter pole, I think Ta Wee would come home first, but she was older when I saw her, and who knows what Rachel will be like this fall or next year.

But what about some of the older greats (before my time!) - Gallorette, Twilight Tear, Busher - I can read about their stats, but what about the horses?  My father saw Gallorette beat Stymie in the Brooklyn Handicap and said it was one of the great "show me what you got" races he ever saw.

19 May 2009 10:50 AM
Bill

Excellent article.  I had blogged earlier about Big Drama's bad day.  It makes me wonder how far he could have stayed with Rachel and the ultimate effect that would have had on the outcome if BD had a nicer day!  Rachel is certainly one for the ages and MTB is nothing but one tough little son of a gun.  What a great Preakness!  Cannot wait to see what happens in the Belmont. That horse that won the Peter Pan will be some kind of salty .  I hope MTB shows up again to make the Belmont one to remember.  If Rachel also comes to Belmont they're going to have add a few more trains to the LIRR schedule.....even without a triple crown on the line.  I am definitely pumped.  Rachel is the best thing to happen to racing in a long, long time.  Let's just hope everybody stays healthy and the racing gods smile upon them.

19 May 2009 10:53 AM
Wanda

Your story should be required reading for a few people over on Triple Crown Talk. Man I hate that word "fluke". How does a horse that makes a million bucks in 2 weeks a fluke? You wrote the facts and I for one appreciate your no nonsense style. You bring the human element into it as well and we can all see how much RA means to Borel and all the connections. How tough a choice did he have to take off the Derby winner? How gracious are MTB's connections in defeat? They have never said a negative thing to the press about Borel taking off. They may be "good ole boys" but man their mothers raised them right.

19 May 2009 10:55 AM
Trikey

Steve,

You are a keen wordsmith.  Your writing is consistently good, but this story reflects the emotions of those of us who love horse racing.  I appreciate your effort.  This is a story well told, and that is a rare achievement.  

19 May 2009 10:58 AM
mah

Your column moved me to tears. You so eloquently put into words a compelling and captivating story that could rival any Hollywood screenplay. The heroes are two beautiful stouthearted equines, along with a fascinating cast of their human counterparts. We, the fans, have been swept up in a world where the elements of the usual front page news have been left at the starting gate. Mine That Bird has given us a thrilling rags to riches story and Rachel Alexandra has proven that women who are great of heart, strength and determination can indeed lead nations. Calvin Borel has won our hearts for good, and has bravely shown us that it is OK for "real" men to cry. What a time to be alive! Thank you, Steve, for sharing your heart with us.

19 May 2009 11:03 AM
Heidi Carpenter

Steve,

Wonderful article. You've really captured the emotion surrounding Rachel Alexandra and her amazing accomplishments. I've been a racing fan since age 10 (the '91 Derby was my first) and I have been awaiting this moment for as long as I can remember.

We were treated to Cigar in the mid-90's, then a few champions came and went--Skip Away, Azeri, Curlin. But none have shone as brilliantly as the two female champions of '08 and '09--Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

I am grateful for this time in racing, and we need it now more than ever.

And last, thank you for respecting the great Ruffian as a legend in a class of her own. She has attained mythical standards, and that is where she should stay.

Heidi Carpenter

19 May 2009 11:06 AM
Bill

Incidentally, we all should have the kind of weekend Medaglia D'oro had.

19 May 2009 11:11 AM
ctgreyhound

You summed it up eloquently as usual. I always look forward to your insightful commentary. You never disappoint.

19 May 2009 11:23 AM
Medea

Whatever drama continues to play out I hope Mine that Bird soars  even higher than he already has. And why can't Chantelle Sutherland have the ride in the Belmont?  She has to be the most deserving rider and has already proven the merit of that relationship more than once. Rachel Alexandra is a great filly but her human management is certainly open to more than one opinion.  For me, Mine That Bird!!  Fly High!!

19 May 2009 11:28 AM
Karen2

Steve I have missed you and couldn't wait for your take on the Preakness. As usual...you did not dissapoint!!!!!!!!!! Regardless of what all of us think of the people we only see on t.v.... in my heart I do believe they love these horses deeply. Even the security guard cried when she found out who she was going on the road with. This seems to be some more telling "tales from the triple crown".....

19 May 2009 11:39 AM
Forego

Steve, great article!  I've been eagerly awaiting your article, as for me, you're the final word on the sport. Period.  The other blogs are all for show, and BS.  I didn't think MTB was a fluke, and thought that people who thought so were just showing their ignorance of the sport.  I'm glad you confirmed MTB isn't a fluke.  How do you think Rachael will do against Zenyatta?

19 May 2009 12:20 PM
Gary

Steve,

Great stuff as usual.  You get it, and describe it, like no one else.

I think Rachel Alexandra is a very, very nice filly.  But I am getting a whiff of "irrational exuberance" in the air.  Looking at her times in previous races, going into The Preakness, I did not think she towered over these colts.  I love Birdstone, and have two mares already in foal to him, one counting days and another going later, but Stone Legacy?  She ran 2nd to Rachel in The Oaks off a 5th in The Boubonette and a MSW win.  She came back to run 5th in The Blackeyed Susan...

And that's an amazing Grade 1 win?  Seriously.  Rachel reminds me of Lady Tak...very, very fast, with one or two gears tops.  Calvin had to get after Rachel, and there was no response.

Rachel Alexandra got a nice post position for her running style in The Preakness, and five pounds!  I am NOT saying she didn't run a great race...I am saying at equal weights, she probably loses to both Mine That Bird (leaving the possibility of The Triple Crown open), and Musket Man, and is battling with Flying Private for 3rd.  Five pounds over 9.5 furlongs is traditionally considered to be about 5 lengths.  She was all out at the end.  She didn't win by 5, or drawing away, or with anything in reserve.  She was being caught for the first time in her life as I read her PP's.

Mine That Bird was enough story for us.  And from the people I speak to, many who generally never care about horse racing, they we all about Mine That Bird.

So congratulations to the winner, but hold off on the coronation.  At equal weights she may not even be the fastest, or 2nd fastest, or even 3rd fastest, 3 YO at 9+ furlongs.

Before this filly is ordained as "great"...or any of these colts for that matter, I will have to see more.  

19 May 2009 12:26 PM
CAM

Rachel Alexandra is something else.  I was skeptical about the 20 length Oaks victory, coming as it did over very mediocre rivals, but RA has shown she is a genuine champion and a potential great horse.  After the firestorm over Eight Belles' death last year, I'm hoping RA will finally lay to rest the ridiculous myth that fillies are endangered if they race against colts.  

Having acknowledged Rachel's talent, I certainly will look forward to a Belmont rubber match and I hope Mine That Bird will turn the tables on her.  ;-)

19 May 2009 12:26 PM
BlueHen

Both Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird proved themselves on Saturday.  Congratulations all around!

19 May 2009 12:33 PM
Ranagulzion

Steve, your columns make such great reading.  Absolutely captivating.  You're giving "Rachel" a run for her money here Bro.

19 May 2009 12:42 PM
Lady Ruffian

Beautifully written article. So glad a notible writter gave the little gelding his due! :) R.A. is wonderful - breathtaking to see run... do you think she could be this generations Ruffian? And Zenyatta could be the female Forego of today?

19 May 2009 12:43 PM
Karen in Indiana

Wanda, you got that right! Who would you like to see be his jockey?

19 May 2009 12:57 PM
Ron Thompson (Barn 11)

Steve,

Another brilliant piece of writting.  You manage to capture the essence of the race and put into words what lies deep within us fans.  As for the Met Mile comment from SSC, is anyone else running in the Met Mile other than Mr. Fantasy.  lol  But an amazing year so far in racing.  All this and Eddie in the Hall.

19 May 2009 1:13 PM
SmartyGiven

First off Steve your article was great.  You really made it hit home, the fact of what we all witnessed was very special........

Elaine- are you serious?  come back to earth!!  You really want a triple crown winner?  The group of horses that are part of one of the most prestigious groups in all of sports were the BEST 3 YEAR OLDS of their respective years, be it colt or filly.  I absolutely love MTB and thrilled he will continue to race as a gelding, but he is obviously NOT the best 3 year old hands down like the horses of the past that are TC winners.  Do you really want to put a horse like MTB in the same category as Secretariat, or Affirmed, or The Slew.  These horses earned their TC by beating whoever was thrown at them, and MTB did not do that.  

And secondly, just because you want a TC winner so badly, ease off on the comments on RA owners.  Do you really think Jackson is greedy, come on, MULTI-BILLIONAIRE, now go back and read that again.  Like him or not, you have got to respect the man for his love of horse racing.  He never shyed away from anybody or anything with Curlin.  He even ran him in his last race on the poly which 99.9% of owners would of never done considering the horse they had and the record they were going for and all that was at stake.  

Sorry for the long drawn out reaction, but it really irritates me when people have no clue like this.  Be thankful you got to witness history and quite possibly one of the Top 5 fillys of all time.  Jackson will not shy away from any race anywhere.  He believes the best should race the best.  I will say it right now, that the fact she is in his barn, you WILL see her race against Zenyatta if he has anything way of making it happen.  Wouldn't that be something, and I can't wait for when it does.

19 May 2009 1:21 PM
Karen in Texas

Steve---Thanks for your account of the Preakness participants and their connections written in your great literary style! Rachel and Mine That Bird have emerged as deserving leaders both on the track and in the hearts of the fans this eventful spring.

Wanda---I agree with all your comments of 5/19 10:55 A.M. The rancorous posts on another blog are unkind and untrue. This is an unusual and special Triple Crown that should be celebrated for all of its diverse players and personalities!

19 May 2009 1:23 PM
Medea

Thank you Elaine for your straightforward "tell it like it is" comment! I agree completely.  Rachel was being aimed at the Filly Triple Crown.  Lets hope that possibility is not still lurking in the minds of the new owners.  After all, what glory - Not even Ruffian won the Preakness AND the Filly Triple Crown.  Might it not be asking a lot of even this game and lovely filly?  Would the obvious risks outweigh the possibile glory? I too hope their New Toy isn't destroyed...racing needs stars but it does not need another Tragic Filly Champion.

19 May 2009 1:24 PM
Monica V

Steve,

Great writing as usual and thanks for always exposing your heart.  That's what I love about your writing, you aren't afraid to be sentimental or show your very human side.  Thanks for that!

As Wanda said, it has been a wonderful spring with great people surrounding these marvelous creatures.  The connectins of MTB have been wonderful and so have RA's.  Calvin Borel will be my favorite jockey from now on because he truly loves that filly and doesn't care who knows it.  I love that he gets emotional.  He kept petting Rachel after the Preakness and even kissed her face after he dismounted.  Wow!  I love that these horses are loved by the people around them.

MTB is a marvelous, gutsy horse and deserves so much respect.  Many people think he would have run the Preakness had RA not been in it.  He might have but maybe he wouln't have.  Doesn't matter anyway.  There is more excitement in the air from this last race than there was when BB was poised for the TC.  This is wonderful!

The one thing I really wonder about is the hatred that so many people seem to feel for Jess Jackson.  I don't understand it.  He gave a us a race for the ages and I for one, am grateful for it.

Why is he the enemy?  Do you have any thoughts on this, Steve?

19 May 2009 1:29 PM
Sheila

All I can say about Rachel is Yowzer!! I told my mom, after the Preakness, she was Ruffian reborn! Maybe not, but she sure is a great one! And MTB, whom I like to call Birdie, is absolutely amazing. Why to go, little guy! I haven't been this wound for a race, I hate to admit, since the 80 Belmont, waiting for Genuine Risk to clobber Codex! Hot dog, this is great!!!

19 May 2009 1:29 PM
JRP

Great recap, Steve. Thanks.

19 May 2009 1:38 PM
Justine

I wouldn't mind holding off on the superlatives until Rachel is at least 4 years old and running like a freak. But I can't blame her for tiring at the end of the race, after setting those fractions. However I think it's rude to badmouth her new connections; horse racing is, after all, part business. Jackson has done so much for this sport already, and pitting Rachel against the boys has drawn so much attention, the kind of attention that we need if the sport is to stay live. One of my friends was shrieking with me when she won, and she never cared for the sport.

So lay off on the name-calling unless he's running her into the ground. If she's not ready, they're not running her.  

19 May 2009 1:38 PM
Karen in Texas

Gary---I know what you are saying about Mine That Bird. Since last week I have heard comments and been asked repeatedly about "the horse that won the Derby; the horse that wasn't expected to win." These same people may or may not know anything about Rachel. While she is deserving of her accolades, to me it seems the general public knows more about little Mine That Bird.

19 May 2009 1:39 PM
Ragsy

Steve, many thanks for an interesting and informative insight into racing.  Wonderful article for beginners.

Love that Rachel Alexander!!!!super job!!

19 May 2009 1:46 PM
Kat

Mine That Bird was on the cover of Sports Illustrated (with a big (50:1) which is displayed at all those grocery store check out stands across the USA.  I think there is a lesson here. . . .

19 May 2009 1:52 PM
Lucy

  The Preakness was a great race and your article was also great.  I love both Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird, so I was pleased with the finish and am looking forward to the Belmont.

 I was very sorry to learn that poor Mine That Bird had lost yet another jockey.  That little horse is just so special and I can tell you right now, he has many fans out here in the ordinary horse community.  Watching him unload from his trailer he seemed just like so many good bay geldings we know and saddle up every day. Doesn't matter if they are racing, chasing cattle or competing in the show ring, these are the horses who always try and are often unappreciated because they aren't flashy. Rachel is marvelous and I am glad Jackson gave her the chance to shine in the Preakness but my heart belongs to Mine That Bird!

19 May 2009 2:04 PM
Steve Haskin

Thak you everyone for your kind words. I really appreciate it. I will try to address as many comments and questions as I can a little later today.

19 May 2009 2:13 PM
Shada

I love this sport, especially the human/horse interest side of it and these two (Rachel and Mine That Bird) along with Calvin's emotionalism, Chip being from way out west of the racing establishment and Jess Jackson's commitment to keeping horses that capture the public's attention racing, helped me to share my love with people who don't usually get into horse racing.  My 15 year old son who wants to spend his life in the racing business (we live in an urban area but he seems to have been born with this desire) has been able to talk horse racing with friends who usually only know baseball and football.  Steve - you totally captured this.  

19 May 2009 2:19 PM
EasyGoerFan

The more I read about Calvin Borel, the more I like him.  I was a fan back in the early 90's because my Texas cable package had an obscure sports channel that showed the replays of Louisiana races. Calvin won just about everything and was so nice and polite. (still is!)  He was on the "Today" show this morning and got cut off in mid-sentence, which was a shame because he was talking about Mine That Bird and it was quite interesting.  Calvin is my favorite part of this Triple Crown.  I love both horses, of course, but Calvin is an original if there ever was one.  

19 May 2009 3:08 PM
LDP

Gary,

    Would you just shut it. I don't know what you problem is but for some reason your dead set against this filly being great. Yes she got a five pound allowence, which according to some is equal to five lengths, which to me is rediuclous, i'd say more around a pound equals half a length. Anyway, i'll do this your way. RA basicly had five lengths on the field, including MTB. That immeadiatley dissapeared when being floated what looked to me like four wide on the first turn, and i've heard every path out equals one length, so she now only has one advantage. Next she runs most the race 12 lengths in front of MTB, this now puts things in his favor by 11 lengths. MTB in the turn goes seven wide, and had to wait for a fraction of a second which would take off about eight lengths from that 11. MTB still had a three length advantage over RA and still could not move past her. Let you know i'm not even counting how much of a disadvantage she'd be at knowing she did not like the track. Overall this filly was at a disadvantage and still won. Get over your ego and admit that this filly is great.

19 May 2009 3:12 PM
SSC

Called NYRA here is who they think will be in The Met Mile:

Accredit

Bribon

Driven by Success

Discreet Treasure

Mr. Fantasy

Mr. Sidney

My Pal Charlie

Ready's Echo

This One's for Phil

Runforthedoe

Has to be a great betting race. Welcome all help in handicapping this one.

19 May 2009 3:49 PM
Karen2

You know what would be really cool??? If EVERYONE who loves this industry and this sport would just sit back and bask in this glory. Don't call MTB a fluke.. Don't say RA wouldn't win without the weight allowance.. Lets just enjoy what these very special horses have brought to us. Not just MTB or RA. All of them. This has been a fun three year old campaign. We have had our share of dissapointments (The mousse, Old Fashioned, Quality Road, IWR...) as of more recently, FF, PON, Dunkirk... but they all had great moments... All of them. They are all worthy. They all mature and develop differently. Some have peaked already, some are just showing their colors. Some will show us their best as 4 year olds (I hope). Lets just love this for what it is......and love them for what they are.......

19 May 2009 3:49 PM
Diane J

Steve,

Great article! I love hearing about the horses, but I'm glad you also let everyone know that leaving Mine That Bird was not an easy decision for Calvin.  During the past two weeks I've thought people were being unfair by criticizing him and actually seeming to hate him for switching horses. I think he had more of a relationship with Rachel than MTB and had to go with the horse he'd been with the longest.  I have heard nothing but good things come out of his mouth about MTB.

19 May 2009 3:51 PM
slewofdamascus

She won't run in the Belmont, imo, because I don't think she's a mile and a half horse, number one, but more than that, she's proven herself, the Belmont does nothing for her, so why put her out on the track less than 100%?

In every way that the Preakness made sense, as a proving ground, as the perfect spot, the Belmont does not make sense. I'll be floored if she runs in the Belmont. The haskell/travers double is sitting out there as a sure fire means to greatness.

Has anyone accomplished that double, Steve?

She's exactly who we thought she was, to quote a great Minnesotan general (smile):

One great 3yo filly with her very best races in front of her, God(s) willing. Let's do remember that she's only 3 years old - her accomplishments already put her on the cusp of greatness - but to have one this young, who can undoubtedly beat older males and females right now, is something Sui Generis, my friends. Please appreciate her. Belmont is no-go.

I just hope I can see her run once in person before she's through, something I didn't get to do with what I consider to be the last great 3yo, Kitten's Joy.

19 May 2009 4:10 PM
Affirmed4ever

Superb story, as always!  I lucked out Saturday and actually caught the race.  We were coming back from a wedding and had a long layover at the Miami airport.  We ran around frantically looking for a tv - it was close to 6PM.  ALL TVS WERE SET ON CNN and no one would change the channel!  We finally found a small hole in the wall bar and a very nice lady changed the tv there and we stood and watched the race.  They were getting ready to close but she let us stay.  I don't think she'd ever watched a horse race before, so we tried to explain about Rachel and she was rooting for her too down the stretch!  

19 May 2009 4:59 PM
Ruth

You did a wonderful job of reporting Rachel's success in the Preakness. I have never seen a race as this and am anxiously awaiting if she'll be entered into the Belmont.

She ran a terrific race - I was on my feet saying: "she's going to win, she's going to win!". I was the only horse player in my home yelling for her.

Afterwards, tears were also streaming down my cheeks, just like Calvin!

Thank you for your column and being able to compliment you on your work.

Good luck at the Belmont!

19 May 2009 5:06 PM
Monica V

Karen 2,

Great post!  You are absolutely right.  Let's just appreciate these horses and enjoy them.

Slewofdamascus,

I think you're right.  I don't think there is any sense to running RA in the Belmont.  That takes a lot out of a horse and she's already proven she can beat the boys.  Give her a rest and get her ready for the next dance.

19 May 2009 5:12 PM
russell maiers

Hi Steve. RA desearves all the great things going to her. My only thought on MTB is if Mike S watched replays of the Derby and then when he asked for run in the Preakness, and finds out pretty quick he is going twice as fast as the rest (except Musket Man),so no fluke, why would he just not circle the field? And Steve if he did, would not he have won for fun? Again not to take anything away from Rachel, she won! She is a great horse. Maybe I am nuts but it just seemed like a dumb ride on MTB.

19 May 2009 5:19 PM
Wanda

Karen in Indiana: Smith is committed elsewhere and if the filly is a no for the Belmont put Borel back on if he's open.You better believe they'd consider it after all it's business. They have shown all class IMO and Borel would jump back on I'm sure if asked.

19 May 2009 5:52 PM
Gary

LDP,

"Great" is an adjective that should be reserved for...well...truly great horses.  Real Quiet was a Grade 1 winner at 2, 3 and 4, and of course was just a nose shy of winning the Triple Crown.  He is now a champion sire too...but you will be scoffed at if you call him "Great".  Why?  "Great" is a level above.  He didn't even make it to the best 100 race horses of The 20th Century according to The B-H.  If Real Quiet, with his wins, in that company, isn't great, than RA is no where near great yet.  

Here's the formula I found describing weights and lengths from a seemingly legitimate site describing handicap racing (I don't have the site name but I can obviously go back and find it):

For flat racing,

1 length = 3 pounds sprinting

1 length = 2 pounds at a mile

1 length = 1 pound in staying

           races.

According to this formula, 5 pounds equals 5 lengths at 9.5 furlongs.

I didn't "make it up".

Now, for those who say weight doesn't matter, you are flying in the very face of the sport.  Handicaps are designed (weights are assigned) such that all the runners should theoretically be crossing the wire at the same time.  The better runners are "handicapped" by having to carry more weight.  Weight matters!

In my opinion, a small 15.1hh gelding carrying 5 more pounds than a 16.2hh filly over 9.5 furlongs is more than two lengths!

For those who say weight doesn't matter, easy for you to say...Rachel won while getting that weight allowance!  If it truly doesn't matter, write in and ask her connections to run at equal weights if she goes against colts and geldings again.

We're not talking about winning and losing here.  People have launched off into "greatness" and "champion" conversations.  My point is simply this: at level weights, MTB beats RA in The Preakness with the trips they actually ran.  And remember, he was a "fluke", to dare I say most people (at least most turf writers and commentators) after The Derby.  How can you call a 2 Year Old Champion that wins the KY Derby a "one hit wonder" and a "fluke"?  I guess you just have to dismiss Canadian racing and Canadian graded stakes races!

I posted on another blog that I didn't understand the logic in some of these posts.  MTB wins, thus showing this crop of 3 YO colts is mediocre at best.  But in the next sentence, if RA beats these colts (remember, the mediocre ones) she's the reincarnation of Ruffian for goodness sake.  That's trying to have it both ways, your own way, and getting it wrong...both ways!

I've accepted that RA won.  It's an empirical fact.  But I am just as sure that MTB wins at equal weights.  Why does it matter?  It only matters when people start throwing the terms "great" and "HOY" and "3 YO Champion" around.

Enjoy the result.  Hope all the horses are just as sound for their efforts.  But racing didn't "need" RA in The Preakness.  Especially if she isn't tough enough to run back in The Belmont.  If she runs back in The Belmont and wins going away, or by 4 or 5, than she goes up a quantum leap in my estimation.  If she runs and loses to MTB, he's obviously the best 3 YO at that time past a mile.  If they both run and lose to another horse, are they both mediocre then?

A question for those with objective minds.  Was it common in the past for new shooters to attempt to knock off triple crown hopefuls, or has that practice become more common in recent times?  If it's more common now (remember the negative comments about Red Bullet going against Fu Peg?) then maybe that helps explain the 31 year drought.

19 May 2009 5:55 PM
Forego

It's irratating when people start calling a horse great after so few races.  It's true, Rachael ran a great Preakness, and she is very good right now.  The passing of time is what decides if a horse is great.  Everyone called Rags to Riches great when she beat a worn out Curlin.  Now, can we look back and still call her great? Did she sustain her consistency over time?  The thing that made Ruffian great was that she sustained her dominance for two years.  Except for the match race and 1 1/2 race, her average speed rating was 97.  She had leads of 8-13 lengths and still manged to come home in 24s, or 12s, or 36s. She was in front at EVERY call.  The point is, let's see how Rachael does the rest of the year, before passing greatness on her.  And where does Charitable Man figure in this.  I think he's run the fastest 1 1/8 race this year for a 3 yr. old.  Was that a fluke?

19 May 2009 6:03 PM
Greg J.

Steve,

    Wonderful Article, Perfectly Stated, Two Great Stories, Two Great Horses, "The Amazing, Powerful, Graceful, Rachel Alexandra" & "The Little Gelding That Shocked the World, Mine That Bird".  Kudos to you...

As you Quoted Mr. Baffert..

  “With her in there the whole world will be watching, Racing is alive; it has a heartbeat. Maybe this is what the sport needs.”

19 May 2009 6:17 PM
Greg J.

Also,

    Chantel Sutherland would be the logical choice for Mine That Bird, Full Circle, for both, Mine That Bird and Chantel, They Deserve to wrap up the Triple Crown Races together, In the Winer's Circle, That too would add another element to this Remarkable Story...

19 May 2009 6:21 PM
GunBow

Thanks Steve. Excellent article, and some excellent comments, save Gary's. Comparing Rachel Alexandra to Lady Tak is just foolish. Lady Tak was maybe the 4th best 3 year old filly of 2003, and in no way compared to the top 3 year old males of that year, Empire Maker, Funny Cide, Ten Most Wanted, and Peace Rules. Lady Tak would have had NO SHOT had she run in either the 2003 Preakness or this year's Preakness.

I too think Rachel needs to accomplish more to be compared to the truly greats like Ruffian, Busher, Susan's Girl, Genuine Risk, Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign, Go For Wand, Bayakoa, Serena's Song, and Azeri. I also agree that she does not tower over this year's 3 year old males like Mine That Bird and Musket Man, and believe that if Quality Road and I Want Revenge were to return 100% they would possibly be a length or two faster than her. And yes, the title of best three year old(male or female) of 2009 has not been decided. While Rachel Alexandra deserves the #1 ranking as of May 19th, much racing remains.

However, the mere fact that we having a discussion about how closely Rachel compares with the best male 3 year old males separates her from even very good fillies of the past, like Lady Tak. In recent history, only Ruffian, Davona Dale, Genuine Risk, Winning Colors, Go For Wand, Serena's Song, and Rags to Riches were compared, as 3 year olds, to the top males of their generation. There is a reason only 4 fillies have won a Triple Crown over the last 84 years. Had Rachel Alexandra done nothing else than win the Kentucky Oaks by over 20 lengths in a time 1/5th off the stakes record and win the Preakness 2 weeks later, she would deserve a place among the very elite.

As for the 5lbs weight concession, I guess we should qualify the Triple Crown race victories of Genuine Risk, Winning Colors, and Rags to Riches as well. Heck, we should go and collect the trophies from their connections and give it to the connections of Rumbo, Forty Niner, and Curlin. Afterall, each of these 3 fillies received a 5lbs weight concession too. Clearly then, they could not have been the best horses in those races. Winning Colors and Rags to Riches only won their Triple Crown races by a head, and even Genuine Risk was only able to win the 80' Derby by the same margin Rachel won the Preakness, 1 length. While we are at it, let's go back and erase Regret from the record books because she won the 1915 Kentucky Derby caryying only 112 lbs! And even had Ruffian not broken down in her Great Match Race against Foolish Pleasure and defeated him, it would not have meant anything anyways, given that she was only carrying 121 lbs while Foolish Pleasure had to pack 126 lbs.  Wait..., what's that, fillies have been given a weight concession for over 100 years? Because Gary makes it seem like Rachel Alexandra was the first to receive it.

When I look at the top fillies and mares of this decade, I still have Azeri #1. For #2, I have trouble separating Rags to Riches and Zenyatta, followed by Sightseek, Ashado and Riboletta. If Rachel Alexandra were to never run another race, I would have her ranked right up there with Rags to Riches and Zenyatta. Rags only ran 7 races in her career, and her top accomplishments were winning the Kentucky Oaks by nearly 5 and then beating the boys in the Belmont. Just as I was at the Oaks this year for Rachel's tour-de-force, I was at the Downs for Rags' 2007 Kentucky Oaks. She was not as scintillating or overwhelming as Rachel, but Rags put in a powerful stretch run in winning her Oaks, defeating the best Oaks field in recent history. Although it probably doesn't mean too much, as a point of comparison, Rags' Beyer figures for her Oaks and Belmont were 104 and 107, while Rachel's Beyers for her Oaks and Preakness were 108 for both.  As for Zenyatta, both she and Rachel hopefully have more victories ahead. Interestingly, Rachel has actually made more career starts than Zenyatta, 10 to 9, although Zenyatta has the edge in victories(undefeated w/9, Rachel 7), grade1 victories(Zenyatta 4, Rachel 2), and graded stakes victories(7 to 5). Both have a top Beyer of 108, although Rachel has none done it twice, and in her 20 length Oaks win and Preakness triumph, I believe Rachel has the more impressive and historic 2 wins.   Whichever of the two does better from here-on will most likely be able to surpass Rags to Riches(in my opinion) and maybe even challenge Azeri for the mythical title as Best Female of the Decade.

Finally, I want to address one other point. Some, like Gary, seem convinced that Rachel does not possess an extra gear, and that when she was winning her earlier races she was probably running as fast as she could. This is possible. I was one of the first people after the Oaks to suggest the possibility that Rachel would not have won the Oaks by a larger margin had Calvin ridden her more vigorously. Some horses, usually those that are very good, give their best whether they are ridden hard by their jockeys or not. Bernardini was such a horse. In the Jim Dandy, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup Bernardini laid right of an inferior speed horse, swept effortlessly into the lead around the turn, and then cruised to the wire with Javier Castellano sitting motionless. However, when Bernardini met much better speed horses in the 2006 Breeders Cup Classic, as well as legit closers like Invasor, and Csstellano had to go to the whip, there wasn't an extra gear. With this said, I am not sure we can draw any definite conclusions from the Preakness. We have to keep in my mind that Rachel had to contest a demanding early pace, including a very fast half of 46 and 3, and that her final 3/16ths time of 19 and 1 is quite respectable. Also, while I do not always take trainers and jockeys at face value, it is possible that Borel is telling the truth and that Rachel did not handle Pimlico as well as she had handled other tracks. Additionally, it should be remembered that in some of Rachel's previous races like the Fair Grounds Oaks, it wasn't that she was not being ridden, it was that she was being eased for a sixteenth of a mile. In such a race, there is no doubt Rachel could have won by a much wider margin.

19 May 2009 6:32 PM
LDP

Greg J,

   Did you read a word i said? Let me answer that, no. I never said wieght doesn't matter, but i've read in books it does not matter quite as much as you are making it out to. Also the point of my post was not that weight didn't matter, it was that basicly everything that happened to RA in the race combined canceled out her weight advantage and gave a three length advantage to MTB. As i said earlier, she got floated wide into the first turn, what looked to me about four wide, and a trainer told me once that every path your pushed outside is one more length, meaning that she lost four of the five she had originally had. Then she ran at least 12 lengths in front of MTB which means his half mile went in a nice slow 49 flat compared to her 46 3/5. Now if the fractions were slow, i'd say MTB was compromised, but he wasn't, it was a fast pace. This now gives MTB an 11 length advantage. Then in the stretch MTB went seven wide giving him only a 4 lenght advantage. He also had to alter course slightly which is why i put another length to his favor, but even with tha he still had 3 lengths on RA. Logic is he should have caught her and didn't. She should have folded but she didn't. Do you get it MTB should've won the odds were ever so slightly in his favor, but he didn't. RA is the better horse and is a great horse. Now how about you actually take the time and read what i say this time.

19 May 2009 7:33 PM
GunBow

Gary, you dont seem to get that Rachel Alexandra doesnt have to be MUCH better than the 3 year old colts to still be a great 3 year old filly. That fact she is anywhere close to the top males of her generation puts her in a rarified air alongside a very select group of 3 year old fillies.  Look back at this decade, and compare even the Eclipse champion 3 year old fillies to the top five 3 year old males of the same year. Save Rags to Riches, the 3 year old fillies are not even close.

How did the 2000 champion 3 year old filly, Surfside, compare with the top 3 year old males like Tiznow, Fusaichi Pegasus, Captain Steve, Albert the Great, Dixie Union, Red Bullet? How about 2001, Exogonous or Flute vs. Point Given, Monarchos, Congaree, Macho Uno, or even Ap Valentine? Or 2002 3 year old filly champ Farda Amiga vs. males like War Emblem, Came Home, Medalgia d' Oro, and Harlan's Holiday. 2003, filly Bird Town(champion over Lady Tak among others) vs. Funny Cide, Empire Maker, Ten Most Wanted, Peace Rules. Go down the list of this decade's champion 3 year old fillies, and every one expect 1 is no where close to even the 4th or 5th best 3 year old male.

There is a reason why only 4 fillies have won a Triple Crown race in 84 years. The top 3 year old fillies just simply are not as fast as their elite male counterparts. Even fillies like Rags to Riches, Winning Colors, and Genuine Risk did not TOWER over their male rivals. In 88', Risen Star got revenge against Winning Colors in the Preakness and Belmont, defeating her rather easily in both, especially the latter. This, after Winning Colors had only defeated Forty Niner by a head in the Derby, with the tough-luck Risen Star 3 back in 3rd. After Genuine Risk won the 80' Derby by "only" a length, she was beaten 4.75 lengths in the Preakness, and 2 lengths in the Belmont. Neither Genuine Risk nor Winning Colors were much better than their male rivals, yet I think most here have little trouble calling both Genuine Risk and Winning Colors "great".

The same is true for Rags to Riches. While she did defeat both Curlin and Hard Spun in the Belmont, those two males had run 3 races in 5 weeks while Rags was only running her 2nd race over the same time span(hadnt run since Kent Oaks). And by the end of the year, there is little doubt that Curlin had improved to be multiple lengths better than her. Still, most are willing to classify Rags as "great", and there is little question she will one day be in the Hall of Fame.

What 3 year old filly in history has been better than her male counterparts? Silverbulletday was certainly a brilliant 3 year old filly in 1999, and her record does compare with male champ Charismatic. However, when Silverbulletday met males in the Belmont, she was beaten over 10 lengths by winner Lemon Drop Kid and about 9 lengths by 3rd place finisher Charismatic. In any event, Charismatic was voted Horse of the Year over Silverbulletday.  Banshee Breeze was an explosive filly in 98', beat she hardly stacked up with Real Quiet or Victory Gallop. Serena's Song comes close in 95', having defeated males in the grade 1 Haskell as well as the grade 2 Jim Beam(Lane's End). However, in her one Triple Crown start, she finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby with 3 year old male champ Thunder Gulch 1st. Heavenly Prize and Lakeway were top 3 year old fillies of 1994, but they were clearly inferior to the likes of Holy Bull, Tabasco Cat, or Concern. Hollywood Wildcat in 93' might have been even closer to the males given that crop of males was so weak, with Prarie Bayou champ. However, Hollywood Wildcat was only 5 for 9 on the year, with her 2nd biggest win coming in the Hollywood Oaks. In 1991 Dance Smartly defeated American males in the Molson Million up in Canada as well as the Canadian Triple Crown over Canadian bred 3 year old males, but her figures put her 4-5 lengths inferior to male champ Hansel. In a great deacde of 3 year old fillies, Go For Wand was the best. She probably could have beaten male champ Unbrdiled at 9 furlongs and shorter. However, at 9.5(Preakness distance) and 10 furlongs it would likely have been close, given Unbridled won the Derby and BC Classic that year.

1985: Mom's Command (champ + Oaks winner) vs. Spend a Buck(male champ and Derby winner), Chief's Crown, Proud Trouth, Creme Fraiche.

1979: Davona Dale, she was very good but the male champ was Spectacular Bid.

1974: Chris Evert- but she was beaten 4 by male champ Little Current in the Travers.

1973: Desert Vixen had one of the best seasons ever by a 3year old filly, but as good as Secretariat? Think not.

1972: Susan's Girl had a great career, but as a 3 year old she wasnt better than Key to the Mint or Riva Ridge.

1969: Both Gallant Bloom and Shuvee were great, but the males had Arts and Letters and Majestic Prince.

1968: Here we might have it. Dark Mirage was top class, although she never defeated males. However, the 3 year old males that year were not strong, and she certainly compared with Stage Door Johnny and Forward Pass.

1962: Cicada had a monster 3 year old filly year, but she still lost both her races vs. males, 2nd by a nose to Ridan in the Florida Derby and then 7th to Jaipur in the Travers.

Even Ruffian in 1975 was not clearly better than her male counterparts. In fact, we don't know if she was better than them at all. Of course, the Great Match Race vs. Foolish Pleasure was supposed to decide that. Remember, however, Foolish Pleasure was not champion 3 year old male that year. The title went to Wajima. Could Ruffian have beaten Wajima(and Forego) in the Marlboro Cup later that year?

The two definitive cases of a 3 year old filly being better than the male 3 year olds is Twilight Tear in 1944 and Busher in 1945. Both fillies won the Horse of the Year title that season, the only 3 year old fillies to have accomplished the feat.    

19 May 2009 7:46 PM
tvnewsbage

"It would be interesting to know if she has a large heart similar to Secretariat's, Sham's and War Admiral's.  The pedigree chart posted on the Blood-Horse does not go back far enough into her ancestry to illuminate her inheritance more transparently."

Check out this site http://www.pedigreequery.com/, they go back 8 gens... don't think RA compares to Secretariat though. We need to remember he set records in all three TC races (Preakness disputed)  and ran away from the pack in all of them (unlike RA, who had  MTB closing at the end)

If you want to see a truly GREAT filly with connections to Secretariat, check out Zarkava at the 'ARC   www.youtube.com/watch .

Even Curlin couldn't win this race.

19 May 2009 8:49 PM
tvnewsbage

"The two definitive cases of a 3 year old filly being better than the male 3 year olds is Twilight Tear in 1944 and Busher in 1945. Both fillies won the Horse of the Year title that season, the only 3 year old fillies to have accomplished the feat.   "

Actually, filly Zarkava , the winner of last years 'ARC, is not only the European Horse of the Year, but currently ranked number 3 IN THE WORLD, by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.

19 May 2009 8:55 PM
Freetex

Steve, your writing is off the charts. You pinpoint each detail and your heart definitely flows into your words.

I have also been waiting for your article.

My question is the same as a few others.  Who do you believe would be the best jockey for Mine The Bird?

I am currently reading your book, "Tales From The Triple Crown". Of course, it is wonderful.  I chuckle to myself when I think of Blinkers, the dog.

19 May 2009 8:59 PM
Stanley Marcinkowski, Plowville,Pa

Gun Bow, didnt Eddie Neloy teach you? You dont memtion the 3 yr old filly that had one of best campaigns        EVER        Lakeway!

19 May 2009 9:11 PM
Medea

Great writing Steve, if I didn't say it before. And a BIG Thank you to Gary and Forgoe.  In your combined posts you have said it all.  And once again, how about Chantelle Sutherland.  For me, second hand loyalty just sounds a lot like opportunism. Let Chantell Ride That Bird!!

19 May 2009 9:46 PM
John T.

I would be very surprised if connections of Rachel Alexandra run her back in the Belmont and with Mike Smith not available perhaps Calvin Borel will get the mount back on Mine That Bird but what a great story it would be if Chantel Sutherland were to get the call after all she did win stakes races on him when he was a 2 year old

19 May 2009 9:48 PM
Convene

Thanks for the beautiful tribute to this incredible filly. I think she is truly a freak of nature - this from a fan who has loved Ruffian through all these years. A part of me wants to cry, "Yes! Go to the Belmont and clean their clocks again!" But there's that other part - the part that watched in horror what a filly's indefatigable spirit took from the world that day as she gave her life in determination that Foolish Pleasure would not pass her ... That part is so afraid for Rachel, who has the same will to win and the same great heart that won't surrender. She has proven all the good things she is. I would hate to see something so precious - so RARE - lost forever to a tragedy. Some things really are once only. Ruffian was one of them. I think Rachel is another - and I think we've lost too many, "once only" treasures. Maybe it's time just to say, "Thank you Father for putting us here when something wonderful happened," and be content.

19 May 2009 9:53 PM
tcc

Steve, great story!  

Potential Belmont Stakes Runners

Charitable Man

Chocolate Candy  

Dunkirk  

Flying Private

Luv Gov  

Mine That Bird  

Miner's Escape  

Mr. Hot Stuff  

Rachel Alexandra  

Summer Bird  

19 May 2009 9:55 PM
Gary

Gunbow,

Are you purposefully trying to rake muck?  Are you a troll?  I didn't compare RA's overall quality to Lady Tak's quality.  Just the biomechanics of how they run.  Get the difference?

Regarding the extra gear, Calvin and Rachel already answered that question in The Preakness...she was giving all she could - at that time - on that track.  Hitting her gave him nothing by his own admission right after the race.

Regarding Rachel being "a great 3 year old filly", people can't simultaneously call MTB a "fluke" and RA "great".  Or RA "great" and this crop of males "mediocre".  It makes no sense.  On the other hand, she can be "a great 3 YO filly" and still not be the best 3 year old running...and so far, she IS a very, very nice filly, but she isn't the best 3 YO running, at least at equal weights.  And yeah, people have made that distinction with the colts, so there's nothing silly or mean spirited about bringing it up!

Why aren't people satisfied with her being a very, very nice filly?    

Let's run a few more races.  Let's see her bang at these colts a few more times before we crown her "the best 3 Year Old".  Let's see her take on elders and beat them like Key to the Mint did for his 3 YO Championship.  Let's hope she stays sound, and MTB and MM stay sound, and all the other colts that ran in one or two of these Triple Crown races stay sound, and the quality colts that fell by the wayside get back to the track.  And let's hope they all get to run their best.  THEN we'll see who's who and what's what.

One last thing.  I've brought 20 new owners into this game.  I take care of all our horses, even the ones that will NEVER make us another penny.  So the people who accused me of being for horse slaughter, please come pay some of my feed and vet bills, will you, or just keep your mouth shut.  

And regarding what's "good for racing".  Do you think that the one or two or three Jess Jackson's of the world are "good for racing"?  What about the rest of us who bust our ass and give a much higher percent or our "net worth" to this game?  What about Mine That Bird and his yearling purchase price of $9,500?  He makes people believe that the dream is possible!  There is a lot more potential there than in the dwindling number of billionaires!

I know the rest of the story with MTB...post against me if you want... I won't be here to read it.  

Few people are ecstatic that a billionaire was able to buy a spoiler and, with a weight allowance, snuff out another potential Triple Crown.  That's business as usual.  The real story has an ornithological bent.  The real story is still flying high.  The real story is one that you might have heard...everybody knows that The Bird is the word!  

19 May 2009 9:56 PM
Racingfan

Gary:  historically it is VERY common for "new shooters" to appear in the Preakness.  I researched this and found that ALL the triple crown winners had to beat the so called "fresh" horses that skipped the first race.  Here are the stats:  Sir Barton faced 8 new challengers from 11 total, Gallant Fox faced 12(of 14)in the Derby which was run after the Preakness that year, Omaha faced 3 (of 9), War Admiral had 5 new challengers from 7 opponents, Whirlaway had 4(of 7), Count Fleet had 2(of 4), Assault had 4(of 9), Citation had all 3 other entrants as new challengers (no Derby starters came back), Secretariat faced 3 (out of 5), Seattle Slew had 6 (of 8) and Affirmed had 4 new challengers from 6 opponents. So they ALL had to accomplish that feat and actually the last 4 winners had an increase in new challengers.  I also find it quite common for Derby losers to skip the Preakness then run back in the Belmont - something you will notice is happening again this year.  Rachel didn't deny MTB the triple crown - he simply didn't win which then does not give him the right to be a triple crown winner as they must prevail over all challegers.  It's a tough task which is why there have been so few winners.  

19 May 2009 10:11 PM
Medea

Gary...You said, "...few people are ecstatic that a billionaire was able to buy a spoiler and, with a weight allowance, snuff out another potential Triple Crown.  That's business as usual.  The real story has an ornithological bent.  The real story is still flying high.  The real story is one that you might have heard...everybody knows that The Bird is the word!..."  It's good to know that in the midst of the hyperbole and the rush to worship, a few clear sighted souls maintain...Gary there is no doubt that you rule! Continue to Fly High..,

19 May 2009 10:31 PM
Ray

Aside the comments and/or discussions: the funniest line of all Preakness week: "Where's Lenny...? It's not the same without Lenny...!" and his impersonation of Lenny afterwards. (Bob Baffert to Steve, TBH video)

19 May 2009 10:36 PM
Karen in Indiana

Gary, you said it!

It was a great race with three (including Musket Man, an under appreciated horse) very good horses who may, given time, prove that they are great.

Saying that, this year I liked The Pamplemousse - he's out for a while. Then it was General Quarters. I still like him, but he's been struggling lately. I am in awe of Mine That Bird and he now has a loyal fan. So why not in awe of Rachel? When I see RA, I see a horse that looks regal, walks regal, probably eats regal. She's expected to win. When I see MTB, he's probably 2 hands shorter? He's plain brown, looks like a horse your neighbor down the street would have, acts like a horse. He looks around, takes it all in & goes about his business. But watching him race is like watching a Ford Escort turn into a Ferrari right before your eyes. And then back he goes to just being a horse. How can anyone not love that?

All that being said - if Mr. Hot Stuff is in the Belmont, I'll be rooting for him too just because he has personality and, one day, he's going to take off like a rocket. But I'd rather MTB win this race.

19 May 2009 10:37 PM
Medea

For Racing Fan and all of the rest so eager to dismiss Mine that Birds Triple Crown potential with a "...he just didn't win it...ie, while others did...": the weight difference with its 2 length equivalent remains significant.  For the Filly to win on a level playing field is one thing; to give her full credit barely running past a colt nearly 2 hands  smaller, carrying more weight, is another issue altogether.  Rachel is a great filly but the race was in no way an equal contest. Pound for pound, running together Mine that Bird Wins...Rachel had no shot at the Triple Crown. To give her a weight advantage and call it a sportsmanlike affair is a joke. It's history now and it is what it is, but lets not delude ourselves that it is something else. Thanks again Gary for your persistance, clear vision and articulate way of stating what you believe. Flying high to the Belmont..Does anyone else wonder if they are going to  to aim Rachel at the Filly Triple Tiara?

20 May 2009 12:09 AM
philco

MTB's got the biggest heart in horse racing today.  This dude's done nothing wrong since breaking his maiden at Woodbine.  Two bad rides in New Mexico and this dude might be working on a 7 race win streak...IF he had beaten RA.    She ran a great race in Baltimore.   Was i rooting for her.....no.....Borel had gotten a little cocky for my liking in the Derby-Preakness interim...Asmussen had been handed another developed prodigy (Curlin ring a bell) and she was getting 5 massive pounds.    She did cut out some solid fractions while being pressed most of the way.....but MTB beats her with a better trip.   D. Wayne Lucas was conspicuously quiet after the Preakness since he called MTB 'a one race wonder'.  

It would be nice to see Chantal Sutherland get a chance to ride MTB in the Belmont....but a more inspired choice would be Edgar Prado who pushed all the right button's on MTB's papa Birdstone in upsetting the great Smarty Jones.    

20 May 2009 12:26 AM
Bobbie

Thank you Mr.Jackson for giving racing fans thrills with Rachel Alexandra. We believe she is in good hands and hope she will endure at this level into her 4 year old racing season before retiring. Look at pictures of Regret and see the resemblance. Uncanny!These are memories to keep us dreaming for a long time. Also we are enjoying a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Sauvignon hoping to keep Mr. Jackson's coffers full for further racing industry coups by a classy owner and his team of quality trainers, grooms,and jockeys.

Thanks and hugs,

Bobbie

20 May 2009 1:31 AM
AC

Gary,

I agree with you completely.  RA ran a great race, but is NOT Horse of the Year or "Great" if she only runs the easiest leg of the Triple Crown and owners continue to only spot her in races perfect for her.  MTB's trainer knew Pimlico was not best suited for his horse, but still competed for the Triple Crown and gave fans an exciting race and thrilling finish.  If RA is sound and healthy and does not compete in Belmont because its a little too long for her, fans will be looking at a pretty uneventful 3rd leg of the Triple Crown because the "Great" horse did not run.  Is not running in the Triple Crown races the future of horseracing?  

20 May 2009 3:03 AM
da3hoss

I don't understand the animosity to JJ for buying RA and then saying she "spoiled" a TC...great horses do not avoid competition against their peers...

If I had the money, I would have bought her and run her in the Preakness, at the level she belonged, it would have been a whole lot less sportsmanlike to run her in the filly races...

...and as much as I love MTB, he was NOT quite good enough to catch her that day in that race...plain and simple...that's why we should just be happy to see them both run again, perhaps against each other...!

Rachel A.

20 May 2009 6:23 AM
da3hoss

I don't get this whole "5 lb" thing being such a deal breaker...let's "pretend" the horses weigh app. 1/2 ton each, and 2 people, a man and a woman, weigh 200 lbs, or about 1/5 of a horse...you mean to tell me if the 200 lb guy has to carry 1 extra lb for a mile and 3/16, that THAT'S going to be the difference in who wins?

My husband weighs about 30 lbs more than me...no matter what horse you put him on, he's going to beat me every time because he's insane on the back of a horse and sticks like a cockleburr...I'm no slouch, but he's a total centaur...I put a lot more stock in the ride a horse gets affecting a race than 5 lbs on a thousand pound animal...

20 May 2009 6:39 AM
da3hoss

Gun bow, Regret owned the colts of her 3 year-old year...

When I look at the top fillies and mares of this decade the best I see is Xtra Heat: 35 starts, 26 wins, only out of money twice, all stakes wins (11 graded) except her maiden, breaking Susan's Girl's record...

Her 3-year old year she ran 13 times, won 9 times (all stakes) still holds the record in Belmont's Gr 1 Prioress, still holds the fastest 3 Beyers ever set by a 3 year-old filly and for overall filly sprinters.

She ran on 8 different tracks, including Dubai. She ran against the likes of Flute, Exogenous, Unbridled elaine..

She ran against the boys 5 times, winning the Phoenix BC G3, finishing second by 1/2 length in 2001 BC Sprint, 3rd. in Dubai Golden Shaheen, another 3rd in Gr 1 DeFrances Memorial (I think that's the name of the race), and 6th in 2002 BC Sprint...a record any colt would be proud to have amongst his peers.

Oh Yeah, one bit of trivia: her purchase price was $5,000.

20 May 2009 7:12 AM
Secret Stuff

First, is there anyone else out there who has noted RA's physical resemblance to Regret?  Any way, the comparisons with horses no longer racing or dead and gone is just a little ridiculous.  As is looking at track conditions, weight carried, racing records and/or pedigree of the other horses in the field.  With Secretariat's Belmont, we saw something we hadn't seen before, and haven't seen since.  His record set in the Derby stills stands, 36 years later.   Ruffian was ahead of Foolish Pleasure when she broke her leg, and kept running.  Rags to Riches was the first filly to win the Belmont in 102 years. And the determination on Eight Belles face as she came in behind Big Brown is what draws us to these great animals.  I could go on and on, but my point is that we should be thrilled that we got to witness this history, instead of picking at the performances.  The accomplishments of these horses makes them stand apart, and I, for one, am glad I got to see them.  Whatever stats are out there, their performances are testimony to their great hearts, and that should always, always be respected.

20 May 2009 8:20 AM
Speedball

Gary- While I feel that Rachel is a brillant filly, I certainly can understand your frustration with this entire situation of the five pound weight advantage to a horse 2 hands taller than MTB.  I think that it is reasonable to say that racing fans are hungry to see another Triple Crown winner which seems to be the impossible dream these days.  I think that as well as holding Rachel in awe, many serious racing fans found it very irritating to see JJ holding up that huge trophy for a win he had hardly anything to do with except providing a huge wallet for the payoff while eliminating another possible Triple Crown bid.

20 May 2009 8:30 AM
Travis L

Gary

Give it up on the 5 lbs, actually RA weighs 150 more lbs then does MTB so she was actually carring 145 more lbs then he. So if you use your formula MTB should have won by 725 lenths.

20 May 2009 9:23 AM
Greg J.

LDP,

   I believe you are attacking the wrong person?, I never said ANYTHING to you regarding the weight issue?, So maybe YOU should read a little closer?, Anyways, Honest mistake on your part, No problem...

    I THINK maybe you want to address GARY???

20 May 2009 9:35 AM
Sad for the bird

Some day Calvin is going to wake up and realize that he walked away from Triple Crown immortality. Not that what he did won't also be one for the history books; but it will be a footnote instead.  Because he knew his horse, he was able to win the Preakness on RA.  Most other jocks would likely have not won that race.  A great accomplishment and race for RA and MTB, but what a shame.

20 May 2009 9:54 AM
hardspunned

Steve,

When Borel has retired I think his decision to leave Mine that Bird might haunt him for the rest of his life.  Had Borel rode the Bird in the Preakness he would not have had the same troubled trip.  I am sure he would have caught the filly, and Borel of all people would realize this.

If the filly runs in the Belmont I'll still be betting on Mind that Bird due to track and distance.  If the Bird does win the Belmont how would Borel react?

Riding a great filly in all of her stakes victories is good.  But does that compare to riding a great filly in all of her stakes victories but one AND having a triple crown in your pocket?  I think not.

20 May 2009 9:55 AM
Travis L

hardspunned

Some of you can't let this go, do you think Borel is second guessing himself???, he just won the Oaks, Derby and now the Preakness. Something no Jockey has ever down or ever win again, and he still might get the Jockey triple crown to boot. He also won the Preakness on the best filly in the last 25 years, give it a rest, I'm sure Borel is quite content right now.

20 May 2009 10:30 AM
Bill

Secret Stuff, you're on the money.  I wasn't around to see Regret.  I'm old, but not that old.  If Regret had the same or similar conformation as Rachel she was one well built broad!  Good comments about just enjoying this for what it is: a superb show by a wonderful filly and gelding.  

20 May 2009 10:54 AM
Racingfan

Only in this day and age would people minimize a filly's win due to the STANDARD weight allowance that has been part of racing for what 100 or so years! Never once have I heard or read anybody mention the weight allowance when a filly has won in the past! Should we then say all horses that win with the 5 lb apprentice allowance aren't deserving either...?  To me it is very bad sportsmanship to do this.  As I said before, I really like Mine That Bird, however he did not win the Preakness so he does not deserve a triple crown.  Also, there are several triple crown winners who ran against horses who had a weight allowance but they still won!

20 May 2009 11:04 AM
mz

Hey Guys: did anyone else notice that Jon Stewart actually used RA in his show last night (The Daily Show)?  When was the last time we ever heard so many references to horse racing in the non-horse racing media?  Yay!

20 May 2009 11:13 AM
Jennifer

now that was a good story - it made me smile!  Thanks, Steve.    

20 May 2009 11:15 AM
Monica V

The fact of the matter is there is a 5 pound weight allowance for fillies in the triple crown.  Those are the rules.  It happens whenever a filly is entered in the TC races.  If this is such a horrible thing, then you must challenge the rules and try to get it changed.

Should have, would have, could have do not count after a race has been run.  RA won, MTB was a fast closing second.  Maybe we should run the race over with RA carrying 126.  That 5 pound weight advantage did not give her 5 lengths, she had to come from the 13 hole and was very wide into the first turn.  You cannot re-run the race and give all these reasons why it was a sham.  Why does everyone assume that he would have won without her in the race?  He could have had problems unforseen.  You cannot sit and analyse something to death that didn't happen.  He is not a Triple Crown winner but it does not diminish him in the least.  That little horse has a fan base that is unbelievable and he's good for racing right now.  He doesn't need a triple crown to be great.  No horse does but there are only 11 of them and we haven't seen a horse like that in many years, not even MTB.  I hope one day we will see another but I have my doubts.

20 May 2009 11:24 AM
mike rullo

steve,

rags to riches effort in the belmont was more impressive to me than rachel's effort.If she goes to the belmont she's off the board.

she would be a perfect fit for the haskell!

20 May 2009 11:27 AM
Monica V

The Belmont has not been run yet.  Why does everyone assume that MTB would have won the triple crown?  Let's see how he does in the Belmont.  He's going to be facing fresh horses again.  Everyone is so sure about this.  Everyone was so sure last year as well.  What kind of a triple crown winner would we have if he wasn't supposed to face all opposition, even if the opposition having a 5 pound weight advantage?  I don't recall anyone bringing that 5 pounds up when Winning Colors won the Derby and that was only by a head.  

Let's all see what happens in the Belmont.  MTB is not a sure thing in that race until he crosses the finish line first.  I'm not saying he won't only that anything can happen and that's the toughest race of all.

20 May 2009 11:32 AM
Poormansracehorse

Is it too late to change MTB's name to Rodney Dangerfield?

20 May 2009 11:37 AM
Gary

Racing Fan:  Thanks for the facts on the Triple Crown Races.

20 May 2009 11:47 AM
Zookeeper

Calvin made the right choice for his career: Asmussen = dozens of good horses; Wooley = ONE good horse.

However, I doubt that (in spite of his love for Rachel) winning the Preakness matched the pure elation he felt after winning the Derby on the little gelding with the big heart and the courage to match his own.

He made a business decision. He opted for a "sure thing" instead of a "what if". Maybe that explains the contrast in his reaction after both races. Business is dull. Winning on a 50-1 shot is absolutely OUT OF THIS WORLD and he showed it after the Derby.

20 May 2009 11:50 AM
Cathy

I cheered for Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and was thrilled to see her win. I also would have been happy for Mine That Bird if he had won because he came from relative obscurity to beat the rest of the Derby hopefuls.

However, I've now read several columns by sportswriters and horse racing experts absolutely swooning over Rachel Alexandra with words like Steve Haskin's: "her coat glistened under the amber lights and her sheer magnificence filled the eye.." Ditto for numerous comparisons of Rachel to Ruffian.

I feel I need to ask why the undefeated mare Zenyatta, who stands more than 17 hands tall and hasn't lost a race herself, is virtually ignored by all these writers, although it would appear she mights be a closer comparison (especially in size) to the fabled Ruffian?

I love Rachel too, but I watched Zenyatta thunder past her rivals like a freight train in the Breeder's Cup Ladies Classic last year. She was loping along in last place when she took off and flew past them.

Why is she considered less impressive than Rachel? Is it because she's 5 years old and no longer a fresh, new face in racing?

20 May 2009 11:59 AM
LDP

Mike Rullo,

    RA was just as impressive as RTR. The reason why is because this filly like everyone else came back off two weeks, RTR barely beat a tired Curlin who had busted his but to get what he did in the Derby and Preakness. Also RTR stalked a very slow pace that day, while RA was being pressed thorght hot fractions every step of the way. RTR stumble actually probably did more help than damage, seeing as how she just found an easy position. RA broke from the 13 akwardly and had to be rushed to the front and then was carried wide. RTR though wide had clear sailing and race a small field of six others when compared to RA racing 12 others. RA was every bit as impressive as RTR if not more.

20 May 2009 12:14 PM
LDP

Greg J,

    You are correct, i'm sorry. Sometimes i get so mad at these ppl and i don't pay full attention, that post was for gary i believe.

20 May 2009 12:18 PM
Bill

I think Monica V hit it on the head: MTB is far from a lock in the Belmont. There is a horse by the name of Charitable Man waiting for all comers at Belmont.  Take a look at the race this horse ran in the Peter Pan.  Then look at his pedigree.  Then look at his record at NYRA tracks.  MTB and anyone else coming to Belmont better be ready to meet this dude.

20 May 2009 12:20 PM
longwaytomay

When are you people gonna give it a rest? Calvin had a COMMITMENT to ride Rachel. He kept his word because it obviously is more important to him than a triple crown possibility. The connections of MTB are waiting untill next week on finding a jock. Know why? Because if Rachel doesn't run they will gladly take Calvin back.

20 May 2009 12:20 PM
The Deacon

To Gun Bow: In 1968 you mentioned Dark Mirage, but you forgot the best mare racing that year. Her name was "Gamely". She only finished 2nd to the legendary Dr. Fager in the California Stakes at Hollywood Park (I know, I was there) and beat the rest of the boys in that race. She regulary raced against the boys and beat them. Check it out............Hey, I like Rachel as much as the next person but it seems everyone is forgetting about Zenyatta. She is the reigning queen and is still undefeated. Lets see if Rachel can beat the best horse in America and in my mind that would be Zenyatta. I still think this group of 3 year old colts are average at best. Only Quality Road, IWR, and perhaps The Pamplemousse are above average. To compare Rachel to the immortal Ruffian is an insult. I also believe that Rags To Riches Belmont win was much more impressive then Rachel's Preakness. Unless I missed something, every horse in the Preakness was staggering home except for the top 3 finishers. Same was true in the Kentucky Derby, only Mine That Bird was running at the end. Horse racing needs a shot in the arm and Rachel has given it to them. Maybe she can ressurect this obviously dying sport. I sure hope so...........

20 May 2009 12:28 PM
Marc W

OK Steve you got a lot of praise for your article and I am on record many moons ago for saying I enjoy your articles more than any other turf writer.

--My praise would be -You just get it. Whether it is horse racing or fatherhood/being a parent-- some get it others don't and it is a job to be done rather than a labor of love. You always try to learn more and appreciate the journey.Enough for that K-A-stuff-but my praise is genuine.

The filly ran a super race, 5lbs meant nothing to the outcome (in my opinion--unless it is 135+ 0r a horse with a 3 star and carrying 100 vs 126 going a mile and a half I really don't think weight plays a big part in racing in my 50 years of experience in the game), maybe MTB trouble did, but the filly didn't have it easy and earned it.

Also in my opinion this a pretty good crop of 3 yr olds-very solid so to beat the colts makes a good reference. Among the all time great fillies? I'll wait---She still must get by that monster in Sheriffs barn before we get that far let alone the rest--the ones who got knocked out before this years classics. I would have loved seeing her-Big Z- in the BC Classic last year---times are not everything--she might have won.

As last years Arc winner and the mighty Diva showed fillies can beat the colts. I still rate Dahlia and All Along as two of the greatest horses I have ever seen in person run. When they were on their game they both were the best horses in the world at their time---period!

To others

Don't argue--sit back and enjoy---MTB and his supporting cast providing a change of pace and characters in the spotlight instead of Sheiks and multi-millionaires. Talking millionaires--lets separate them a bit-Jess Jackson because he gives the racing community what it needs superstars which people can come to be attached to--remember Curlin ran at 4---trust me with insurance and security running a superstar isn't profitable when he could also make 10 million at stud a year. Even if she continues to be a superstar him owning her means she might run for a while, and against colts. Isn't this what the sport needs? Haven't we seen so many good horses pulled away from racing too soon. (Funny the undefeated filly Arc winner last year being retired I don't mind---she had nothing more to prove--what could she do for an encore? Other than beat up US racing horses and that would only be for us on this side of the Atlantic-and she sent some of the vanquished in her path to beat those here in last years Breeder's Cup to do that.)

Lastly --Calvin Borel--those too old enough to remember--Eddie Arcaro and Bill--The Shoe--Shoemaker weren't just people that racing people knew--in their day more people in the country knew who they were than didn't--when in the last 20 years can you say that about any jockey? My wife doesn't know who Jerry Bailey or Jose Santos is, but has heard of "The Shoe". Isn't it nice that a journeyman rider with real emotions and love of the game is getting great press coverage--telling people this is a great sport?? I think it has really been good for racing on a whole this years racing---Last year a disliked trainer--rightly or wrongly--a pulled up Triple Crown favorite in one of the most watched races, a break down of a gallant filly in front of millions. Love this year-- horse racing fans and don't analyze it to death with greatness or not--just enjoy. Things will sort themselves out for history books if the horses remain sound.

20 May 2009 12:55 PM
LDP

The Deacon,

    Zen has not race this year at all. If her return in the Milday is a winning one i will say she is queen but RA has done more this year and is a very big threat at taking that crown away. Also Zen is only unbeaten this year so far  because she has not raced. Let her come back to reclaim her title before you annoint her queen of all fillies this year.

20 May 2009 1:15 PM
LDP

Cathy,

    Zen is not in the spotlight this year because she has not raced yet. RA has been doing nothing but winning this year, so she deserves the spotlight.

20 May 2009 1:17 PM
steve s

The preakness only showed that RACHEL and MINE THAT BIRD like an off-track. in tte preakness most of the horses were covered in mud. IT looked like everything that went too the lead on preakness DAY won.they both dont have a chance of winning the BELMONT un less the track is wet again                                                    

20 May 2009 1:31 PM
Monica V

Mark W,

Fantastic post!  So profound.  Yes, let's just enjoy this year and not argue about a 5 pound weight difference.  Why can't people give RA her due.  I'm not saying she's the greatest ever but she is a star and has brought racing to the forefront as has MTB!

Two gifts from God!  Two incredible animals and we get to watch them and be thrilled.  Be happy about a good year and let's see what happens in the Belmont.  There may be another star emerging.

Why sit and complain and moan?  Racing is in the spotlight now and it's good for the sport.  Stop looking at the negative and seeing treachery when there isn't any.  Just enjoy these magnificent creatures.

20 May 2009 1:53 PM
Freetex

Marc W. Great observations and thoughts about the outcome of The Preakness.

Yes, time to enjoy racing greatness and be hopeful the horses are sound and will return to reward the public with the thrill of it all.

20 May 2009 1:56 PM
steve s

CANDY RIDE whipped MEDAGLIA D ORO {sire of rachel} in PACIFIC CLASSIC 2003 time 1:59 .RACHEL WIN WAS TRACK Aided.SHE NEVER BEAT THE BOYS AGAIN IN A BIG RACE

20 May 2009 1:57 PM
sweet terchi

"Would I ever see this again?..." I most certainly thought not. 36 yrs ago when I first caught sight of Ruffian, I fell in love with her. Her sheer beauty was a sight to behold. She was a rough tomboy, nothing dainty about her at all, plus she was bigger in body, spirit and heart than the boys. She was magnificent. I concede all points of all the other outstanding fillies and mares through the years, but Ruffian was special. When I seen Rachel Alexandra, I was blown away. I can almost believe that Ruffian has reincarnated. ( ok, stop with all the put downs) but it's true. The way I allude to Ruffian, is what can be said for Rachel. I wish godspeed to all horses for a safe journey around the racing oval.

20 May 2009 1:57 PM
TerriV

Beautiful article once again, Steve.  Your words always bring out the depth of emotion that watching the horses brings to my soul.  I couldn't keep from crying.  Your quote from Bob Baffert at the end of the article really says it all.  I felt it at Pimlico this weekend and it was grand.  

I am in awe of Rachel but I have to admit that Bird has stolen my heart.  Everytime I watch those races again my heart just melts.  It's a real shame he can't find a jockey that sticks.  So, who do you think would be the best for him in the Belmont who would commit to ride him the rest of the year as well?

20 May 2009 2:47 PM
Monica V

Unbelievably unhappy, angry people on this blog.  You should be celebrating that every horse came out without serious injury and we have two marvelous horses to watch and the Belmont ahead. You are talking about a horse being cheated out of a TC because of a 5 pound weight allowance.  Are they going to even run the Belmont because MTB is going to win it for sure?

20 May 2009 2:48 PM
Katherine

I absolutely love MTB. I am so impressed with this little guy. He's only 15.1 hh and has just turned 3 biologically.  

I was so disappointed when his sire, Birdstone, beat Smarty Jones. After seeing MTB in the KD, I compared Birdstone, Smarty Jones and some other nice young sires on the BH Stallion Register. I was amazed at how well Birdstone is doing at stud.  Gary you are to be congratulalted on recognizing his sire potential so quickly.

It would have been fabulous if little MTB had won the Preakness and then...the Belmont.

20 May 2009 3:02 PM
GunBow

STANLEY MARCINKOWSKI:

I did mention Lakeway. In my 2nd post, for 1994 I listed Heavenly Prize and Lakeway.

TVNEWSBADGE:

I should have clarified that I was looking at North American 3 year old fillies on the dirt. Thus, Zarkava was not included. However, you are correct that Zarkava was an amazing 3 year old filly. Like Allez France and Dahlia, Zarkava was a 3 year old filly that not only beat 3 year old males, she beat older males(and females) as well.

DA3HOSS:

Maybe I should have clarified that I was looking at North American 3 year old fillies running on dirt BEYOND 7 furlongs.  Although Xtra Heat was the 3 year old filly champion of 2001, she did not race beyond 7 furlongs that year, nor did she run against Exogonous or Flute. I have the past performances of all 3 fillies, and Exogonous and Flute did not face  Xtra Heat.

As it concerns Regret, I was being sarcastic. For those that seem to want to take away Rachel Alexandra's Preakness trophy because she had the 5lbs weight concession, do they also want to take away Regret's Derby trophy because she carried 112 lbs? My opinion, is that of course we should not take away Regret's Derby victory or diminish her accomplishment, and the same is true for Rachel. That was the point I was trying to make.

THE DEACON:

I was looking only at 3 year old fillies. Gamely was a 4 year old when she beat older males in the Inglewood and ran 2nd in the Californian to Dr Fager, and was 5 when she ran 2nd in the Santa Anita Handicap. She was a great filly, but she did not defeat males when she was 3, thus I did not bring her up.

I was someone who mentioned Zenyatta. I wrote that I had her ranked alongside Rags to Riches and Rachel Alexandra as the #2 female of this decade behind Azeri. What Rachel and Zenyatta do from this point on will determine which one will go down in history as the better runner. Given how amazing I thought Rachel was in the Preakness, this shows how much I respect Zenyatta.

SECRET STUFF:

I agree 100%  On Jason's blog I have celebrated the performances of both Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird(and Musket Man) in the Preakness. It was an absolutely great race! I have been surprised at how many people have either critiqued or diminished Rachel's victory, or criticized her, Calvin Borel, Steve Asmussen, and Jess Jackson. When I reviewed other star 3 year old fillies from the past, the point I was trying to make is that if we look closely enough, we can critique any horse; no horse has ever been 100% perfect. I was showing that if we critique other fillies as closely as some are critiquing Rachel Alexandra, we will also find flaws. Just like I believe we should cherish great fillies from the past like Ruffian, Go For Wand, Serena's Song, etc., I believe we should do the same for Rachel's Preakness win. This doesn't mean that we should call her the greatest of all time, or Ruffian's equal.  However, winning any Triple Crown race like the Preakness is an amazing accomplishment for a 3 year old filly.

GARY:

It wasnt clear whether you were comparing the biomechanics of Rachel and Lady Tak or their overall ability. I apologize for assuming the latter.  And no, I'm not being a Troll. I'm just trying to back up my opinion that Rachel winning the Preakness was a great accomplishment. If you read my entire posts, which I assume you did, you will see that we really do not differ that much. I too believe it is premature to compare Rachel to the legends of the game like Ruffian, Busher, Shuvee, Susan's Girl, Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign, Go For Wand, Serena's Song, or Azeri.

I also agree that the competition for top overall 3 year old(male + female) is far from being over. I believe, as well, that Rachel does not TOWER over the 3 year old males, particularly Mine That Bird. I certainly have not been one of those people calling Mine That Bird a fluke. If you were to go back and read my posts from right after the Derby until today, you would see that I having been calling for Bird' to get respect, and have had nothing but positives to say about him. I have not witten anything negative about Bird, well at least since the Derby. Mine That Bird's Derby-Preakness performances are up there with the back-to-back performances of Eclipse winners like Charismatic and Real Quiet.  Mine That Bird may not be the greatest #1 3 year old male, but his last 2 races rank up there with some good ones, and that fact Rachel defeated him makes her Preakness victory that much more impressive. I am not one of these people calling Bird a "fluke" and then praising Rachel for beating him. In fact, there really is only 1 person doing that.  And it is very clear that he is the most popular horse in the country, and has many more fans than Rachel.  

Lastly, I did not state that I know Rachel has that "extra" gear. In fact, I wrote that ever since the Oaks I have thought that it is possible she ran as fast as she could even when Calvin didnt ride her aggressively. However, I also do not know for certain that she doesn't have that extra gear. Just like you believe we should wait until Rachel runs a few more times before crowning her, I believe that we cannot conclude definitively that the Preakness was her absolute best.

What it appears we disagree about is:

1) I feel that winning the Preakness was a GREAT accomplishment. You seem to believe it was a very, very good accomplishment. So, a slight difference there.

2) I believe the 5 lbs weight concession should not be a huge consideration, not because weight doesnt matter, but because such a concession has been given to female racehorses for at least a century. You appear to believe that because Rachel recieved a 5 lbs weight concession her Preakness victory should be qualified.  I am interested to know if you think we should also qualify the Triple Crown race wins of Rags to Riches, Winning Colors, Genuine Risk, and Regret as well?

3) I believe as of right now, Rachel is the #1 3 year old, male or female. You seem to believe that because Rachel received the 5 lbs concession that she is no better than #3 behind Mine That Bird and Musket Man. Would you rank Rachel #1 if she won the Belmont, but finished less than 5 lengths ahead of Mine That Bird (if you believe 5lbs = 5 lengths)?

4) I believe that Rachel already deserves to be mentioned with the likes of Rags to Riches(future Hall of Famer), Zenyatta(likely future Hall of Famer), Silverbulletday(Hall of Famer), Inside Information(Hall of Famer), and Winning Colors(Hall of Famer). I do not rank her up with the top 15 females of all time, but she is getting very close. Even if she were to not run again, I would rank her season this year right up with the better 3 year old filly campaigns in history, and have her tied with Rags to Riches as the best 3 year old filly of this decade. It appears from your posts that while you recognize that Rachel is a very good filly, she is maybe only a slightly above-average 3 year old filly champion.

5) I am willing to call Rachel "great". This requires clarification. I say that any horse that is good enough to get into the Hall of Fame should probably be considered "great".  Some may have a more demanding criteria for greatness. Again, I do not believe Rachel has accomplished enough to be compared with the very greatest fillies and mares. However, I do feel that she might have already done enough to get into the Hall of Fame. If Rags to Riches were to get into the Hall of Fame, which I think she eventually will, then I believe Rachel should get in as well. With that, I think calling her "great" is quite acceptable.    

20 May 2009 4:04 PM
cooper

Gary,

You make perfect sense to me. I just hope MTB's connections don't ask him to do too much. He's a tough horse, but he's small. I worry about him. I'd take him over RA any day though!

Cooper

20 May 2009 4:12 PM
Backstretch

Calvin Borel won the Kentucky Derby aboard Mine That Bird.  He won the Preakness Stakes on Rachel Alexandra.  Although there is much to be determined for the Belmont Stakes, has a jockey ever won all three Triple Crown races in the same year aboard more than one horse?  (Has a jockey ever won a "Triple Crown" when no horse was successful in winning the Triple Crown?)

20 May 2009 4:33 PM
GunBow

Perhaps a reason why some on this blog appear to have such differences over Rachel's place in history is that we are using different definitions of greatness.

I am sure some reserve the word "great" for only an elite few, the Ruffians and Go For Wands of the world. Others might apply the word "great" to above-average champions, horses that come along maybe every five years. Still others might use the word for any champion, thus last year Big Brown and Proud Spell were "great". Then we have those who proclaim the most recent flavor of the month as great. I'm sure there are also some who have been using the word "great" in a more general sense, without making an explicit connection with history.  An example would be saying "Wow, that Lakers-Nuggets game last night was great!" without trying to place it in historical context. Such a scenario can clearly produce many misunderstandings. However, each person has the right to use the word in whatever way they choose, although it would be helpful if we all knew the standards each use.

Personally, I typically reserve the word "great" for horses good enough to make it into the Hall of Fame. Over the last 3 years, the fillies and mares elected to the Hall of Fame have been Mom's Command, Inside Information, and Silverbulletday. I'm sure not all would classify these 3 horses as truly "great", but they were elected into the Hall ahead of Sky Beauty and Open Mind, two female horses that each won more than 7 grade 1 races.

I may be alone in my opinion, but I think Rachel Alexandra is already on the cusp of having done enough to one day get into the Hall of Fame. Perhaps, even if Rachel were to not win another race, she would already have done enough to make the Hall.  She is only the 4th filly in modern history to win a Triple Crown race and tied Genuine Risk for the largest margin of victory from among these 4 races.  She also won the most important race for 3 year old fillies, the Kentucky Oaks, by a record 20+ lengths, in a time 1/5th off the stakes record, and with the highest Oaks Beyer since at least 1991 (108).  She has also won 3 gr.2 races in dominating fashion, setting a stakes record in the Golden Rod, winning the Fair Grounds Oaks with a 103 Beyer although eased up the final sixteenth, and the Fantsy Stakes by almost 9 while not being asked. Additionally, Rachel won the ungraded Martha Washington by 8 while, again, under wraps. That is 6 huge performances which, alone, would give Hall voters alot to chew on.

Genuine Risk was an absolutely deserving Hall of Fame inductee. Yet, she only won one other grade 1 race in addition to her Kentucky Derby, the Ruffian Handicap by a nose. Of course, Genuine Risk ran in all 3 Triple Crown races, and ran amazingly to finish 2nd in both the Preakness and Belmont.  Genuine Risk also won the gr.2 Demoiselle and gr.3 Tempted, for a total of 4 graded stakes wins.  She also suffered 2 other tough beats in gr.1 races, losing the gr.1 Maskette by a nose to the other top 3 year old filly of that year, 7-time gr.1 winner Bold and Determined, and running a good 3rd to the boys in the Wood. Overall, Genuine Risk ran 5 huge races(Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Maskette, Ruffian) and 3 solid races(Tempted, Demoiselle, Wood).

Winning Colors was also deserving of her Hall of Fame selection. However, she won only 2 other graded stakes aside from the 88' Derby. However, both of those 2 other graded stakes wins were gr.1s, a 7.5 length win over the boys in the Santa Anita Derby and a 8 length win vs. 7-time gr.1 winner Goodbye Halo in the Santa Anita Oaks. Winning Colors also ran 2 bang-up races when narrowly beaten by the great Personal Ensign in the 88' Maskette and Breeders Cup Distaff, ran 3rd in Preakness when in a speed duel with Forty Niner, and lost the gr.1 Las Virgines by a neck to Goodbye Halo. She also won the ungraded La Centinela by 6.5 lengths and the Turfway Breeders Cup. So, that is 7 huge races(La Centinela, SA Oaks, SA Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Maskette, Breeders Cup Distaff) and 2 other solid performances(Las Virgines, Turfway Br. Cup).

Only time will tell how great Rachel actually is(if she is great at all), and whether she makes it to the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, she will be able to stay healthy and get the opportunity on the track.

20 May 2009 5:45 PM
slewofdamascus

Gun Bow, excellent comments, if I do say.

I have only been in the game since '87, however, RA is the best 3yo filly I've seen, without a doubt, but beyond that, she's a better horse right now than Azeri ever was, with all due respect to Azeri, who I followed closely. More than that, I did an extensive analysis of her prior to her Apple Blossom comeback race under D Wayne (who championed Winning Colors, in a manner of speaking, she was over-raced terribly, imo).

Azeri could not have defeated males like Peace Rules (who ran on that same Apple Blossom card, and the fractions are telling - Azeri could not have kept pace with Peace Rules that day). What Rachael did in the Preakness was astonishing when you consider the pace, as the pace is what will typically do in a quality filly or mare, even a great one like Azeri, but not Rachael. And her come-home time - pure quality. that's the proof, if one doesn't trust one's eyes. She is a better horse right now than Azeri at her peak, no question. Azeri would have wilted under those Preakness fractions.

I'm not knocking Azeri, I'm trying to put Rachael in context. She's once in a generation stuff.

Ads a practical matter, if there is a better 3yo in 2009 - male or female - I'm waiting to see it.

20 May 2009 6:20 PM
GunBow

Mr. Haskin:

I am wondering if you are as surprised as I am about how many more fans Mine That Bird appears to have compared to Rachel Alexandra?

I naively expected, immediately after the Preakness, that the blogs would be full of people celebrating a filly winning the Preakness. And while there certainly have been many who have written glowing remarks about Rachel, I have been caught off-guard by the number of Mine That Bird fans who are disappointed or even angry at Rachel Alexandra, Calvin Borel, Steve Asmussen, and Jess Jackson. I've read quite a few posters complaining about the 5 lbs weight concession Rachel received, the fact that, unlike Mine That Bird, she did not run in the Derby, and the fact Bird had to go 6-7 wide(while failing to mention Rachel's demanding 46 and 3 first half). One poster even stated that a horse shouldn't be allowed to run in the Preakness or Belmont if they did not start in the Derby. I have heard Calvin described as a "turn coat" or traitor for not riding Bird back in the Belmont. I have also heard Jees Jackson derided for being unsportsman for having "bought a Preakness" and "denying" Mine That Bird a Triple Crown.

I understand that many have really grown to love Mine That Bird over the last 17 days. I was there at Churchill when he won the Derby and was taken away with his ability and personality. Here's a horse that looks somewhat plain, is on the smallish side, yet has a stretch kick so strong, appears completely unflappable, and runs in-and-out of holes with a courage rarely seen. I also understand that many wanted to see him, or some other horse, win the Triple Crown. Certainly horse fans like myself who were not around for Affirmed in 1978 have waited long enough for a Triple Crown winner of our own. I'm sure for many of these people, the fact Jess Jackson bought Rachel only 10 days before the Preakness comes across as "mercenary tactics".

Still, Steve did you anticipate so many being upset that Rachel beat Mine That Bird? I am not placing any judgement on people for having these opinions, I am just surprised and wonder if you and others are surprised as well.

For, there is absolutely no doubt that there are more Mine That Bird fans than Rachel Alexandra fans. Some, like myself, are fans of both. Yet for those that clearly prefer one to the other, it seems there are quite a few more Bird fans among the general public and even within the racing community.

20 May 2009 6:22 PM
Ruffian101

Awesome article!!!

20 May 2009 6:32 PM
Racingfan

GunBow:  I think you are right in regard to the definitions of greatness that are being used. Very good assessment!  My personal definition kind of has 2 parts -the "all time greats" reserved for the likes of Native Dancer, Man o'War, etc. And basically a lower level of just "great". I like to consider the whole career before attaching the "great" label though so all the 3 year olds still have work to do for me.  I do however really like your thoughts on greatness and the association with the Hall of Fame!

20 May 2009 6:37 PM
Monica V

Poormansracehorse,

I don't think that MTB needs that name change.  He is the biggest thing in Horseracing right now and looks to me to be quite popular.  What's not to like about him?  He's wonderful!  What an amazing horse!

20 May 2009 6:44 PM
Monica V

Gun Bow,

You have an impressive knowledge of the history of the sport.  How long have you been following it?

20 May 2009 6:48 PM
Steve Haskin

Gun Bow, I'm not surprised that people have fallen for Mine That Bird because I'm one of them. People in general tend like lovable losers, especially when they're little and plain. I use loser only to refer to the Preakness. He certainly is not a "loser" as we know it. He proved more in the Preakness than he did in the Derby in my opinion. My other reasons for becoming enamored with Mine That Bird will be discussed in my next column. I really like everything about this horse. He is one of the strongest, most fun to watch gallopers I've seen in a long while, and he has an awesome disposition. Nothing bothers him. He takes everything like a classy old pro.

20 May 2009 7:03 PM
GunBow

I do not think I have been a Troll. I have simply tried to make the case why I believe Rachel Alexandra's Preakness win was a great accomplishment. I have never been disrespectful to Mine That Bird. In fact, I became a fan of Mine That Bird immediately after the Derby, and wrote on this and Jason's blog how it was premature for anyone to assume he was merely a one-race fluke.  I think he's such a neat little gelding, short but stout, calm yet courageous, and his background story as well as his connections have been great for the sport. Without Mine That Bird, we would have had a really mediocre Derby, and a Preakness only half as exciting.  As I stated immediately after the Preakness on Jason's blog, what made the Preakness so great is not only that Rachel, a filly, won the race, but that Mine That Bird validated himself by running 2nd.

I have full respect for Mine That Bird. He deserves being ranked the #1 3 year old male, and compares well with other top 3 year olds of the past at a comparable point in the season.  

I would not be raving about the significance of Rachel's Preakness win if she had only beaten a field of chumps.  What makes Rachel's victory so impressive is that she defeated a quality male 3 year old in Mine That Bird(and Musket Man as well).  Now, Mine That Bird does not represent an elite 3 year old male along the lines of a Sunday Silence or Easy Goer, but he is in the ballpark with horses like Charismatic(a Horse of the Year), Real Quiet, and Funny Cide.  And 3 year old fillies, even champion 3 year old fillies, just simply do not beat quality males, like a Mine That Bird or Real Quiet, on a regualr basis.  

Even if we look beyond the 4 Triple Crown race victories by fillies over the last 30 years, the number of times a 3 year old filly defeated males in a graded stakes is very small.  There's Winning Colors in the gr.1 Santa Anita Derby, Serena's Song in the gr.1 Haskell and gr.2 Jim Beam(Lane's End), Surfside in the gr.2 Clark, and Dance Smartly in the gr.1 Molson Million(her wins in the Canadian Triple Crown are not considered to be equivalent to US graded races given that they are restricted to Canadian breds. In contrast, the Molson Million was open to US horses). Again, this is looking only at wins by 3 year old fillies against males over the last 30 years, and does not include Lady's Secret and Personal Ensign's Whitney victories among others. I'm sure I missed a few other graded stakes victories by a 3 year old filly vs. males, but hopefully the overall point is clear. What Rachel did in the Preakness, defeating a quality male like Mine That Bird, is a huge accomplishment. And that's the main point I've been trying to make.

20 May 2009 7:11 PM
tcc

Seve,

Another Potential Belmont Stakes Runner Has Been Added:

Brave Victory

20 May 2009 7:14 PM
GunBow

Steve, thank you very much for the reply. I am not necessarilly surprised by how many fans Mine That Bird has. I am just surprised by how many people clearly sided with him over Rachel Alexandra, and how critical some of the Bird fans have been towrds her. I absolutely agree that Mine That Bird deserves all the fans he has, but I also have a big place in my heart for Rachel.

20 May 2009 7:20 PM
GunBow

Monica V:

Thanks. I've been a fan since 1989. I was a teenager and was lucky enough to get Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for my 1st Triple Crown series.  Those 2 and Bayakoa are still among my favorites.

From the beginning, however, I loved to study the history of the sport. I would use my American Racing Manuals until they were falling apart, trying to piece together the past performances of hundreds of horses. With the publication of books like "Champions" and "Bloodhorse's Top 100", my work has been made easier and there are fewer gaps in my notes. I chose the name Gun Bow because, kind of like Mr Haskin wrote, he is a horse that doesnt seem to receive much recognition these days. He represents the historical "underdog", forgotten by many but deserving of his place in history. Gun Bow did, thankfully, make the Hall of Fame in 99'.

20 May 2009 7:30 PM
Steve Haskin

Gun Bow, Unfortunately, Rachel may be suffering in popularity because of her new connections. The feel-good story has shifted to Mine That Bird, as Chip Woolley has become very media friendly. Most fans dont embrace Jackson and Assmussen, as they would have Hal Wiggins. This takes nothing away from the filly herself, but that's human nature. Often the horse becomes a reflection of the connections. Some feel Jackson is a terrific sportsman to do what he's done the past two years; others don't feel that way. To many, Rachel has become the big bully tomboy and Mine That Bird has become the little horse that could. I hope readers of this blog will be able to appreciate both horses and are not going to turn this into another mean-spirited Big Brown vs. Curlin sideshow as they did last year. It's already starting. Once it gets out of hand I'm sure our moderators will start hitting the delete button. So, try to enjoy the ride. Differences of opinion are welcome, but once it starts to get personal.....

20 May 2009 7:38 PM
GunBow

Slewofdamascus:

I do rank Azeri ahead of Rachel on accomplishment, but did not say that I thought, in one given race, that Azeri would necessarilly beat Rachel.  I agree with you in many ways. Over two races, I have trouble thinking of many female racehorses that could have beaten Rachel in the Oaks and Preakness, particularly another 3 year old filly. Rachel was also awesome in her 4 races before the Oaks, so she does have an already solid resume.  However, I respect Azeri tremendously for winning the 2002 Horse of the Year, 3 Eclipse awards as older filly+mare,11 grade 1 races, and the first 14 of her 15 starts. However, Azeri did not have a 2-race span like Rachel has had in the Oaks and Preakness. I will say that given how awesome Rachel has been, she will not need to run 2 more years to surpass Azeri in my mind.  Rachel's already close.

It all goes back to trying to find that balance between Brilliance/Talent  and Accomplishment.  Who is better, Ghostzapper or Curlin?  Well, in one race, or a series of 3 races, I would probably take Ghostzapper. However, there is no question Curlin accomplished alot more in his career than Ghostzapper did. Over a 12 race series I would take Curlin if for no other reason than the fact Ghostzapper would not have been able to stay healthy that long.

Also, props on the name Slewofdamascus. I lived in SoCal during the mid 90s and was at Hollywood Park the day Slew of Damascus won the 94' Gold Cup. That was one tough Washington bred! He was a hard-knocking handicap horse in northern and southern Cali for a 3 year stretch. Does he have some special significance to you?

20 May 2009 7:46 PM
GunBow

Thanks mr Haskin. Agree with you 100%.  I think you are dead-on about why Bird is so much more popular. I agree that had Rachel not been sold and was still trained by Hal Wiggins, she wouldn't have as many detractors.  

To be honest, I was disappointed when she was sold, although I was more disappointed in Dolph Morrison for selling her than Jess Jackson for buying her. After all, who wouldn't want Rachel Alexandra? However, I was disappointed that Jackson took her from Hal Wiggins. I can also see how some thought Jackson was a wee bit smug after the Preakness. As for Asmussen, I can't say I'm a huge fan given all the medication suspensions, but I liked what he(and Scott Blasi) did with Curlin and how he's handled the "Rachel situation" so far. And I have no problem with Calvin Borel sticking with Rachel over Bird.

20 May 2009 7:54 PM
Pollas

I'm one of those who loves both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra.  I was a little sad when Rachel was sold, but she's the same filly no matter who owns and trains her.  I think both horses are special animals and look forward to more fine performances from them both.

20 May 2009 8:30 PM
Ragsy

My opinion:

In the Kentucky Derby I pulled for MTB then!!!!!!!!!!!!

Calvin Borel knew and really loves Rachel Alexandra and was thrilled to ride her in the Preakness.  Being his choice to ride should not be a question.

I pulled for Mine That Bird but, when I heard Rachel was running I switched to wanting her to win the Preakness... sorry " Mine That Bird "

but if Rachel does not run in the Belmont I will pull for (you )Mine That Bird!!!!I really dont want her to run in the Belmont, get rest and run in the Breeders Cup!!!

Champion Rachel Alexandra!!!

20 May 2009 8:47 PM
Gary

Let me thank all those who read others' posts, and post thoughtful comments in return.

I have no issues with any of you.

I have written several times about Rachel getting a 5 pound weight allowance.  I felt compelled to.  Why?  Well, first off, weight matters, and some folks were crowning her queen already, and that's just not right.  If she runs in, and wins The Belmont, then she jumps up a huge level.  That's the test of Champions!  If she wins the filly Triple Crown in New York, that says something.  If she takes on Zenyatta and wins, that says something more.

Second, I am a horse owner.  I see good horses, and great efforts, dismissed as if they are nothing...all the time.  Is THAT good for the game?  

Please look at Musket Man.  He was dismissed...and dismissed...and finally put in some people's top ten.  What has he done?  He's come a troubled 3rd in The KY Derby, and then 3rd in The Preakness by a length and three quarters to a filly getting 5 pounds.  He's run and either won, or finished in the money, in all of his races...and on 6 dirt tracks.  That's saying something!

Rachel Alexandra has won repeatedly this year, and by the rules of the game.  I don't agree with those rules...I think those that run in Triple Crown races should run at equal weights...but she ran and won.  That is worth something.

And there is Mine That Bird.  He was the Juvenile Champion in Canada, and he won the KY Derby and came a fast closing second in The Preakness.  That is worth something.

What I don't like...what I don't think is good for the game...is irrational HYPE without substantial proof.

You won't see me disrespecting Rachel's efforts at the expense of these colts, and you won't see me calling any of the colts the reincarnation of Secretariat...yet.  

All of them have more to prove.  That doesn't mean I "hate" anything, for goodness sake.  Quite the contrary.

Let's see what the next few months bring, and let's hope that all stay sound and that objectivity reigns supreme.  I know it won't, but I hope for it nonetheless.  

20 May 2009 8:51 PM
Ranagulzion

MARC W:  I appreciate your post very much.  Only, I must disagree about Dahlia being the best of her time.  She was certainly one of the best (repeatedly beating the best colts in Europe)but never could beat Allez France (the queen of fillies) in multiple clashes and ran third, a respectable distance behind Grundy and Bustino in one of the European races of the century, 1975 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (a race she won in 1973 7 1974).  

All Along, yes indeed, no dispute there but you failed to mention Pebbles, the flying English filly that beat the best colts in Europe and the United States in her time.

20 May 2009 9:18 PM
mike rullo

ldp,

rachel beat a real bad group of 3yr colts,if she runs in a race with a quality speed horse like quality road she will get beat.rags to riches beat a 2 time hoy curlin after a bad stumble,she went to her knees, which does not help.hard spun 2nd in the classic and tiago 3rd in the 2008 classic also where in that race.rachel's preakness had a bunch of lousy 3yr olds.

20 May 2009 9:37 PM
Robert W.

When I got to Gary's comments (5/19/09 at 9:56) I quit reading. I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to point out that Mine That Bird was carrying 126 lbs and Rachel was carrying only 121 lbs. In true Handicap races the better horses are assigned higher weights and the lesser ones lower weights with the goal being that all of the horses are weighted so that theoretically they all will reach the finish line at the same moment, the higher weights acting as a "drag" on the better horses. So plainly, Mine That Bird was "handicapped" in The Preakness. As Gary said, carrying 5 extra pounds for 1 3/16 miles would be expected to cost Mine That Bird several lengths; yet Rachel won by just one length. Surely she is a very great filly but it would be hard to call her the best horse in America until she wins without an advantage being given her.(And beats "Z").

20 May 2009 9:40 PM
Medea

Thanks Steve for your words of moderation and sanity and ...even truth. I think I've said from the start that Rachel is a wonderful filly, and neither Rachel nor MIne That Bird can or should be burdened with responsibility for the behavior of their humans, good or bad. Whatever Rachel's  connections may or may not have done or may do in the future, The feel good story was destroyed when Hall Wiggens was dropped and Rachel managed as a commoditiy, an expensive, talented  "thing"  without feelings, attachments or loyalties of her own.  We all know horseracing is a business, and sometimes hard decisions have to be made, and we can accept the concept of "Professional", but in a business fueled by hope, romance, dreams and a little bitty maybe, it doesn't seem to make a lot of business sense to discard sentiment altogether and wrap that fragile package only in dollars  and whatever the search for glory  by the powerful is worth these days. There are accurate terms ti describe this situation and sportsmanship isn't one of them.

By the way, does anyone else question the lighter weight assigned to fillies when they race with the colts?  In assigning a lighter weight, it seems to me we are in fact saying that the fillies are less capable.  If we want them to run together, and want to interpret the results as a true and fair measure ability in an equal contest, then why don't we assign the same weights?  To me, assigning a filly a lighter weight simply because she is a filly compromises any win she achieves and makes even less sense than assigning weight based on a ratio determined by size or actual age, or height or length of stride.  We don't do that.  We say regardless of size or age or stride, the horses run and the winner wins.  Why should sex be the deal breaker between fillies and colts?  If the filly carries less weight and is treated differently because of her sex, then, we have two different contests, and you might as well say, two winners: One filly and one colt.  Unless the filly is somehow "less than" the colt, and in need of special favors?  Rachel deserves better than that, I think, and so does Mine that Bird, as well as all colts and fillies who run against each other...Opinions?

20 May 2009 10:15 PM
Zookeeper

In my humble opinion, the fans of Mine That Bird (and I'm one of them) get really upset at the disrespect shown to him by SOME admirers of Rachel Alexandra. These "experts" don't seem to be able to praise her without showering insults on the Kentucky Derby winner and his fans. These people tend to be quite obnoxious and incapable of a rational discussion.

I don't let them color my appreciation of Rachel Alexandra's accomplishment in the Preakness. As I have said on another blog, I respect, admire and applaud her. BUT, my heart belongs to Mine That Bird, plain brown wrapper and all.

As beauty, greatness is in the eye of the beholder...we can continue to hurl insults at each other or, as you suggest, we can find ourselves very lucky to be able to witness the gallant efforts of all the horses who run their hearts out for our enjoyment. You are right GunBow, horses lose races but they are not "losers".

20 May 2009 10:39 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve Haskin-beautifully written article. You captured it all perfectly. Monica V and Mark W you said it so well also. Do we have any idea how lucky we are to have these 2 amazing horses this year and that no one got hurt??? These two are gifts and we should be really grateful for both of them. I love them both for different reasons. Rachel because she is simply gorgeous, incredibly fast, a fighter and she's a GIRL! MTB because he is plain little guy with the heart and guts of a Jimmy Braddock (Cinderella Man). His, is very much a Cinderella story. I don't think we have seen the bottom of these two by a longshot. Wherever and whenever they run, they will be something to see. The good news is, there may be others who are impressive too i.e. Charitable Man. This is a great season. Calvin Borel is a great guy and jockey. He should have no regrets and we need to understand who he rides is his business-literally.

20 May 2009 11:05 PM
The Deacon

To Gun Bow:  To finish my point I never said Rachel was not a brilliant filly, indeed she is, I only mentioned that Gamely was also brilliant in her own right. I just think she is often overlooked. Regardless of age, both are champions in my book. For someome to say that Rachel is in the top 3 or 4 all time is just ludicrous in my mind. My God, look at all of the past champions we have had. Lets see her beat the reigning female champion, Zenyatta. Why should we knock Zenyatta because because she has not raced. She had a very hard campaign last year and this rest has done her good, I am sure. All of the real good older female races are still yet to come. This should make for a great rest of the year of racing. I think that if Quality Road is sound and runs in the Belmont he will win it, just my opinion. To finish this, I have loved this sport since the 1950's and Ruffian is still the best I ever saw. Rate the rest in any order you wish behind her.

Great article Steve, and excellent writing by everyone who chimed in........

20 May 2009 11:19 PM
Celia in Kentucky

Love that horse and hearing about her, but it was your writing that got me through that long, long story. Super job, thanks.

21 May 2009 12:09 AM
Pollas

I'd be very surprised if we saw Quality Road race any time in the near future.  It sounds like he has bad feet like Big Brown and some other horses have had.

21 May 2009 12:16 AM
GunBow

Madea (and others):

It is not just fillies that receive weight concessions. 3 year old males receive a  5 lbs weight concession when they face older males. Thus, in the Breeders Cup Classic, 3 year old males carry 121 while older males carry 126. Every 3 year old winner of the Breeders Cup Classic had a weight advantage vs. older horses(males) in the race.  In the great 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup when 3 year old Skip Away beat Cigar by a head, Skip Away carried 121 while Cigar packed 126. So, in scale weight stakes and allowance races, older males carry more than 3 year old males, and 3 year old males carry more than 3 year old fillies.

By later in the year, I think the weight difference between 3 year old males and 3 year old fillies shrinks from 5 to 3.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the scale weight system used for the Breeder's Cup Classic is:

Older Males- 126 lbs.

Older Females- 123

3 Year Old Males- 121

3 Year Old Females- 118

So, if we were to get a "dream" Breeders Cup Classic, Einstein would carry 126, Zenyatta 123, Mine That Bird 121, and Rachel Alexandra 118.

For the Breeders Cup Distaff (Ladies Classic)it is:

Older Females- 123

3 Year Old Females- 119

If Rachel Alexandra were to meet Zenyatta in the Breeders Cup Distaff, Zenyatta would carry 123 and Rachel 119. So, those that like Mine That Bird and Zenyatta more than Rachel, get used to Rachel receiving a weight concession.  Whether the scale weight system is fair or not, it has been around a long time and is unlikely to change.

Of course, this is a completely different subject than "handicap" races. In handicap races horses are weighted according to their apparent ability. However, before weighting any horse for a handicap, concessions are made if the horse is a 3 year old facing elders or a filly meeting colts.  

An illustrative race is the 1986 grade 1 Iselin Handicap.  The top choices in the race were the older male horses Precisionist and Roo Art, and the 4 year old filly Lady's Secret.  The Monmouth Racing Secretary believed Precisionist to be 8 pounds faster than Roo Art, and therefore gave Precisionist 125 lbs and Roo Art 117.  Lady's Secret was given 120 lbs. However, by scale Lady's Secret was actually the co-highweight with Precisionist because the 120 lbs was after the 5 lbs filly concession was applied.  On scale, Monmouth weighted Lady's Secret at 125 lbs.  Lady's Secret had been carrying between 124 lbs and 128 lbs against other females, but since the Iselin was against males, the concession was applied and she ran with 120 lbs.  As it turned out, Roo Art won the race by 2.25 lengths with Precisionist 2nd, 1.25 lengths ahead of 3rd place finisher Lady's Secret.

As a result of the handicap weight system used in many races for older males a horse like Forego was forced to carry 129-138 lbs regularly, typically spotting the field anywhere from 5-25 lbs.  How frustrating it must have been for Forego fans to watch him get beat a neck to a horse carrying 20 lbs less weight.  The point of the handicap system, I believe, was for betting. Tracks would not make any money if horses like Forego kept on winning races at 1-10. Thus, they put weight on horses like Forego in the attempt to level the playingfield and make betting on others in the field a more attractive proposition.  

21 May 2009 12:38 AM
slewofdamascus

Steve, thanks for the interesting reply. I agree with you, Azeri was more accomplished, and that DOES account for something, I mean it has to, especially with the number of one-hit wonders that run one super-freaky race. Clearly, Rachael does not fall in that category. It's true I was focusing more on Rachael's intrinsic talent when making the comparison with Azeri. I loved Azeri, btw and I backed her in her Apple Blossom off the layoff, her best win in my opinion, because she defeated a quality field, overwhelmed them, actually, going wire to wire. I was standing up and cheering her in that one (had a little money on her, too - smile), she was unfavored at 2-1, which was actually generous given her immense popularity; she routinely went off at odds-on against one overmatched group after another, and perhaps the streak became a factor in her trainer's decision not to face males earlier in her career. That conservatism had a lot to do with why she was filtered to DWayne for the younger Paulson, who inherited the final decisions in Azeri's management later in her career. I was not a fan of the decision, and DWayne, after getting the initial win in the Apple Blossom, chose not only a more difficult path for her, but a busier one as well, typical DWayne. I have a philosophical objection to his training practices, but I need to eat, too, and the Apple Blossom fed me for a month.

Speaking of fond memories, Slew Of Damascus, the greatest Tenessee Bred (smile) of All-Time, a son of Slewacide, who came out of the Northwest, where he raced early in his career, to Northern California at 4yo, absolutely turned everything I thought I knew about horse racing on its head when he strode onto the track for a comeback race (after a non-descript early career) in a salty 32k claimer for winners going a flat mile.

I was sitting with my girlfriend, Jeanne, in the GGF grandstand right above the saddling enclosure, and the horses were warming up, or just galloping past, and I saw him. He was the #5 horse, in green, and I immediately did a double take. A big, strapping 4yo, chocolate in color, he literally blew my mind over those first few moments, and within 15 minutes he was to make me a believer in Higher Things.

Seeing him that first glance.....it was one of those special moments in life when one is touched by something larger than himself or herself, perhaps something along artistic lines, or even a breathtaking sunrise, something quite real and affecting in any case, and in my case, with Slew Of Damascus, it was obvious to me that I was seeing something I hadn't before seen or witnessed at the racetrack, a horse so classy, so well meant, that he towered over the field, giving off a signal so vibrant and life-affirming that I looked around to see if I was the only one who was seeing this apparent apparition. No one that I could see was paying him the slightest bit of attention, as a matter of fact, and that was the first lesson, about how we can miss things, important things, that are right there under our noses. He gave himself away and few were paying attention. The difference between "form" and the living, breathing creature was never so apparent to me.

On this day, Slew Of Damascus hadn't raced for well over six months (I don't recall, exactly), and he was trying two turns for the first time while taking on grizzled, hardened 2-turn veterans, including a little monster, who was the public's choice in a full field at 8 to 5,  Valentine Lad, a popular gelding (at the 'box'), and a stone cold, veteran winner with several notches on his speedy belt. Slew was 12 to 1, and in my eyes, he should have been 30 to 1, given his form and who he was facing (multiple winners). I believe he only had the MSW win, srinting at 5 and 1/2 furlongs (I believe) at Portland Meadows, but whatever his form was, he was facing several highly significant hurdles, and 12 to 1, on paper, seemed too low to me. In the flesh, 12-1 seemed generous, and I put a few bucks on him, not truly knowing what to expect, but I still felt the eolectricity in the air.

It's a race that I will never forget. I happened to have binoculors with me on this day, unusual in itself, so I caught a very close-up view of the race. In this mile affair, Valentine Lad sat in his usual spot, pressing a speed type who went to the front, and Slew Of Damascus lay a promising third early (sprinter speed). In the middle stages, these three gradually seperated themselves from the pack in a fast race, and when they hit the far turn, Valentine Lad decided to end the drama and started his relentless bid for the lead while Slew Of Damascus remained in 3rd position, two lengths or so off the lead.

At this point, I'm standing up, and I have my binoculars focused nicely on the whole scene from my position past the finish line in the grandstand, and as the combatants hit the middle of the far turn, something truly amazing happened.

Slew Of Damascus took wing, and in one amazing moment after the other he seemed to fly, I've never seen a horse cover so much ground so quickly, and within a few heartbeats, Slew, in hand the whole time, bolted past a startled Valentine Lad and his dumbstruck jockey, who themselves had just spurted to the lead on their way to, seemingly, another easy victory.

My excitement became overt and highly audible, "That horse is flying!" I screamed to no one and everyone, and sure enough in less than 100 yards he had put eye-catching distance between himself and the Lad, and like Rachael Alexandra in the Oaks, he didn't stop, he just kept widening through the stretch even as Valentine Lad was under steady urging. The time came back insane for the level, and this local star was literally born right there in a 32k claimer at GGF.

This was a day I will carry to my grave.

The Hollywood Gold Cup, which Slew wired a couple years later I think, was the icing on the cake. This was truly a case of a horse with indifferent breeding, sans illegal drugs (the connections are small potatoes, honest types), who rose up out of nowhere, from nowhere - Tennessee, anyway - and in the process he swept me up into his amazing story. I was hooked and began following all of his races.

After he began winning his connections made a concerted effort to find his momma, but she was lost without a trace, no one could explain what happened to her (I hate to think). It's not like Tennessee had a thriving breeding apparatus from which to make inquiries. Slew had no significant, living siblings, no sisters, half or otherwise, no immediate family from which his genes might even partially carry on. He was one of a kind.

I use the nom de plume proudly and I try to keep those lessons I learned that day and beyond in mind as I undertake this glorious pasttime.

Thanks, Steve.

21 May 2009 12:51 AM
shuttleworth

Rachel Alexandra = smashing Kentucky Oaks winner, winner of the Preakness S. - she's building a very nice resume, don't y'all think?... beautiful, powerful, classy filly, lots of heart, intelligent eye... We don't get to see a filly like this everyday... let's just enjoy her!! Good luck and Godspeed, Rachel... luv ya..

21 May 2009 12:51 AM
GunBow

The Deacon:

I agree that Gamely was a wonderful filly. I always felt that she did not receive her due respect because she raced more in California than in the East. What I admire about Gamely is that she went all over the country and met the best, whether female or male. She won some huge races like the Test, Alabama, Santa Maria, Santa Margarita, Wilshire(twice), Inglewood(vs males), Vanity(under 131 lbs), Beldame(twice), Santa Monica(sprinting), and Diana and lost some big races due to weight.

In my response, I only stated why I did not mention Gamely in an earlier post.  I did not write that you did not think Rachel was brilliant. I also was not one of the people who wrote that Rachel was one of the top 4 females of all-time. In fact, I have written repeatedly that Rachel needs to accomplish more to be considered among the very elite fillies and mares like Ruffian, Busher, Shuvee, Gallorette, Gamely, Bayakoa, Lady's Secret, Personal Ensign, Serena's Song, Azeri, and others.

21 May 2009 12:54 AM
GunBow

Zookeeper(and others):

I think there really have only been two people on Steve's and Jason's blogs who have celebrated Rachel while disrespecting Mine That Bird. One is Jason himself. The other is someone who is well known for making outlandish statements. Other than those two, Bird' has been receiving a lot of deserved praise.

21 May 2009 12:57 AM
slewofdamascus

I don't know how anyone could look at Rachel's race in the preakness and not say, wow! That race speaks for itself, so when I see the 5lb weight allowance being used as a means to diminish the effort, I have to question the motive or the savvy of the individual involved. It's much ado about nothing. It's a trifle. That thing we call "heart" or "class" is neither derailed nor emboldened by a simple 5lb concession, I guarantee you. Funny, I didn't hear a peep about the weight allowance BEFORE the race, as a legitimate handicapping factor, I mean.

I never even considered the weight allowance, not once, myself, prior to the event, nor did I hear or see it mentioned by a writer or talking head (as a legitimate handicapping factor).

21 May 2009 2:06 AM
LDP

Deacon,

It's kinda hard for one horse to face another if one hasn't run a race yet. Also how was last year a hard season last year for Zen? For the most part she stayed in her home state, only venturing elsewhere once. She beat up on weak competition for the most part aswell. GP was not what she had be the previous year, and hated sythetics, and so did Hysterical lady. Music not seemed to only win at one track in NY, and in the LC Cocoa Beach was blocked and had to wait while Zen was had already built up her momentum. The only horse that Zen beat last year that had a good trip against her and was a good quality horse was Tough Tiz's Sis, who almost beat Zen, and with a few more yards would've. If you want to see a hard season look at Curlin in his three year old year and last year. As a three year old he went from maiden to BCC winner in like 8 months, and i don't know a horse who has done that before. He also was a maiden and won HOTY in the same year, and i think the only other horse to do that was Secretariat, who was a two year old. As a four year old he didn't face the best of company, but he ducked nobody traveling to Dubai and back, then to California, trying turf and synthetic for the first time. He won the Stephen Foster in his first race back, won the Woodward and JCGC. He also had a unbeaten season on dirt. Those are examples of hard seasons. Zenyatta had it easy compared with Curlin.

21 May 2009 7:29 AM
Bill

GunBow brings up an interesting point about how the truly great old handicap horses such as Forego and Kelso carried incredible weights and still prevailed over very good horses carrying much less weight.  Since handicaps today are only pale shades of what they used to be most people don't remember the enormity of the accomplishments of those horses.  There really isn't even a point of comparison.  I truly think Secretariat was undeniably one of the greatest horses we have ever seen, but he never had the opportunity to carry weight ala Forego or Kelso so we just don't know whether he could have spotted quality opposition 20 pounds or so and still won.  I think he could have, but we just don't knoow. l would love to see handicap racing return to what it once was, but that doesn't appear realistic.

21 May 2009 9:34 AM
Secret Stuff

Thanks, Bill, Gun Bow.  The physical resemblance I was speaking about in regards to Regret and RA is mostly in the face and the look in the eye.  Gun Bow, it seems that you are like me and have a keen interest in the history of the sport.  In that context, it is amazing that it has been 90 years since Man O'War made his debut, and still people who know nothing of racing know his name.  That's greatness.  I take exception to the statement that RTR beat a tired Curlin in the Belmont.  t was thrilling the way she wouldn't give up. I haven't read anything in this blog about the psychology of these horses, what we know about how they communicate and dominate each other. It used to be noted who came out on top when horses looked each other in the eye the way RTR squared off with Curlin. The fact that she got so close to him and refused to quit says something about her.  Whether Curlin was tired or carrying more weight, she just had more heart that day.  I don't understand why people feel the need to denigrate these performances but since it happened in Man O'War's time too, (and long before he came along) I guess it's just human behavior.  

21 May 2009 10:09 AM
Ida Lee

I love Rachel so much I can't stand it. She is so beautiful and such a pleasure to watch. Is she another Ruffian? No, no one is and nobody will ever be. But she's close. But let me say that I too fell in love with Mine That Bird. It happened the day after the Derby when his connections were busy giving interviews and he was in the backgound munching on grass, then looked up at the camera and I connected with his eyes. He looked so intelligent and sweet I couldn't stand it. He is now my official number 1 equine crush. And who says he's not good-looking? He's gorgeous to me.

21 May 2009 10:11 AM
Bill

I should add that Forego and Kelso didn't always prevail [Gun Bow's point], but it didn't diminish in any way their greatness. These horses won more than they lost and didn't duck anybody.  I'd love to see that spirit return to the sport love so much.

21 May 2009 10:20 AM
da3hoss

Geesh, Zenyatta didn't run against quality fillies and mares??? Or, they just weren't running at their "best"...or were "blocked"? Every race? How about when Zenyatta was feeling the weather, like in Vanity Handicap (gr. I)? Or when she conceeds 5, 10 or more pounds? Or when she runs faster than Well Armed, same day, same track?

Geesh, there's no need to diss a horse to try and make yours look better...

21 May 2009 11:04 AM
Racingfan

GunBow:  Thank you for explaining weight concessions and weight handicaps for those who may not know how it works. Those things have been standard for as long as I can find but I haven't heard all this whining and complaining until now. Good thing there are no true handicaps anymore where a horse gives away 20 or so pounds-can't imagine the outcry if that horse would lose!! I am still amazed by all who are diminishing her win due to the 5 lbs. Bad sports to me. Wonder why nobody is complaining about the winners who get weight in all the other races - like the Breeders Cup.  Since Ravens Pass and Henry The Navigator got 5 lbs from Tiago and Curlin last year, did they not earn or not deserve their 1st and 2nd places..?  The best horse on the day won then and now - and that does not take anything away from Curlin or MTB who I think is really courageous.

21 May 2009 11:08 AM
The Deacon

To LDP:  I respectfully disagree, Zenyatta did beat the best fillies and mares in the land last year. Her Apple Blossom win was awesome. What did she run 7 or 8 times last year, in todays horse racing business that is a hard campaign. Not sure why folks are ragging on this mare, she has done nothing wrong and is undefeated. So she hasn't run as yet, I think the connections know what they are doing. Gun Bow: you obviously have taken this name from the excellent race horse of the early 60's. One of Kelso's main rivals. With regards to weight, yes Kelso and Forego carried anvils on their back. Also look at the weight Dr. Fager carried in every race he ran as a 4 year old. Anywhere from 134-139 lbs. He set a world record at a mile with that weight. This is why I only annoit greatness to horses that run on different tracks, carry the weight, and set track and world records. If you look at this then the list of all time greats shortens dramactically. This is a difference between brilliance and greatness. Rachel is brilliant, Landaluce was brilliant, Mocassin was brilliant, Ruffian, Lady's Secret, Serena's Song, Busher, Susan's Girl, Personal Ensign to name a few were great. Rachel can become one of the all time greats, she just needs to do more for a period of time.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend...........

21 May 2009 11:47 AM
Greg J.

Gunbow,

    Your Knowledge is greatly  appreciated, Alot of the Horses you mention were before my time, but, It makes me go back and try to educate and inform myself on some of the Names you mention, So, I for one, Thank You...

21 May 2009 12:45 PM
Marc W

To Raz-

-Dahlia vs Allez--you are quite possibly right but I "SAW" Dahlia live at Woodbine destroying a field of colts so I may be biased. She beat the then great Roberto overseas and also won in 5 countries which although it is entirely possible AF could have been just as successful or more AF didn't travel nearly as much.

Gun Bow-

-A warning!!!-it clicked with me when you talked about racing manuals--I did the same thing. So I will go off topic slightly after reading so many of your posts.

I had the bonus that I worked two jobs at the track at the same time (Clocker & Mutual clerk). My dad worked at the track so I was in-bred and going from 5yrs old. Unlike you I wasn't going to University. (I got my BS -Biology @41yrs old)I respect your comments but a note. Mr. Haskin as I mentioned gets it, and you just might. By that and I relate it racing to fatherhood (& marriage) which I discovered at 54 and been enjoying for almost 3 years.

With racing although it is about horses going around a circle at a fast speed, every day is different. The characters are constantly changing as are the methods of doing it. It s like my son learning and doing more each day-both are fascinating. They never get boring. Flip side if you really get it--it leaves time for little else except for exceptional people that can mix horse racing with the real world. Most on these blogs are casual fans-no knock-actually with naming names of some turf writers I think are the same-it is a paycheck.

Sorry for the space taken to warn---I just see something I experienced in my life.

My warning is--unless you are like Mr Haskin with a job that you can pair with your love of racing it can be tough. I managed to live well on my gambling skills for a few years when I tried to be a professional (3) but it is a JOB! It is far more time consuming than most. Owning Horses if not training them yourself is a losing prop. Training them is only profitable for a select few. All are full time.

With the time you spent on these bogs and the research done for your posts--wouldn't they be better served on your school work? I had to stop cold turkey with racing--after a number years efforts put to career now I can play again as I am in the brackets that won't get tax cuts. The thought is always there though I loved and still do horse racing-traveled and saw more of the world than I ever would have if not for racing-and finally got the chance at a job through a racing connection which has turned out very well --What if I had put my efforts to career and family earlier?

Again sorry to take time for this post which actually deals with racing-just on another level.

21 May 2009 1:30 PM
Anne G

WOW! I've never commented before but your article made me feel like I was there! Thank you!

21 May 2009 2:49 PM
ColetteMarie

Hi! I skimmed thru some of the posts, but have not read all. I saw some discussion about the weight difference, MTB carrying 126 lbs. to RA's 121 lbs. Some say that it is insignificant, but my question to them would be...if it is so insignificant, why, then, is it done? I don't know the ratio of lengths per lb., but it is obvious that the general consensus is that it is to even the playing field.  I know, as a filly, RA was given the 121 lbs & the boys all got 126 lbs. But, it seems to me that size should also entire into it.  Look at Zenyatta, for instance. She is huge, an Amazon. Now, don't get me wrong. I love Zenyatta, but if there happened to be a race where she & MTB competed against each other, is it fair that she would carry 5 lbs. less than MTB?? She is probably 2 or more hands (8 or so inches) bigger than he is & God knows how many pounds. That much height also translated into much longer legs. All of us have seen a little child walking alongside an adult. For every step the adult takes, the child takes 2 or even 3 steps... because an adult has longer legs. RA is not as tall as Zenyatta. But, she is 4 to 6 inches taller and 100 to 200 pounds heavier than than MTB.  I would imagine that the 5 pound allowance, given to fillies & mares is because fillies & mares, as a general rule, are shorter & slighter than their male counterparts. But, what when that is NOT the case?? It seems to me that it is common sense that a much larger & heavier filly is at a distinct advantage over a significantly smaller & lighter colt or gelding. The 5 pound allowance, given to RA in the Preakness, put her on an even playing field with all the horses in the Preakness...EXCEPT Mine That Bird. In fact, he was the most disadvantaged horse in the race, in terms of weight. The weight he carried plus his much smaller size had him the most handicapped horse in the race. With all of that, he still beat all the other male horses & came in 2nd, less than a length behind RA. Mine That Bird is probably THE most exciting 3 year old racing today. I haven't seen it mentioned that he has to run that much faster & maybe take more strides because of his size. But, it stands to reason that he does. The next time you see a child walking with an adult, watch how many steps the child takes to keep up.   Colette

21 May 2009 3:01 PM
GunBow

Secret Stuff:

I agree that Rags to Riches' win in the Belmont was an awesome achievement and should be celebrated. Personally, I think Curlin and Hard Spun were a little below their best, but that is horses racing. You are absolutely correct that, in the end, it doesn't matter. Rags to Riches won, and deserved to win. Not every horse can be 100% for every race, and clearly Steve Asmussen and Larry Jones believed their colts, Curlin and Hard Spun, were healthy and ready to run strong races in the Belmont.  In retrospect, we can look back and say that Curlin was possibly tired having run 5 times in 12 weeks, or that Hard Spun was running at a distance beyond his capacity. In the end, these are just excuses. In any race, there are dozens of variables that affect the outcome of a horse race, some which affect certain horses positively and others which affect horses negatively. If it was clear BEFORE the Belmont that Curlin and Hard Spun were tired or that Hard Spun could not get 12 furlongs then they shouldnt have been entered. Once in the starting gate, all that matters is who is best on the day. And for that 2007 Belmont, Rags to Riches proved she was better, at least for that day.

If Curlin was off his game, it was only by a small amount. Rags to Riches showed amazing courage, endurace, and talent to win.

To be honest, I didn't think Rags had much of a chance to win the Belmont. I had been at Churchill to see her impressive win in the Kentucky Oaks against a stellar field.  However, Rags did not possess the ability to accelerate instantly, nor was she particularly flashy.  Even in the Oaks, it took a lot of pumping to get her going. However, once in full stride, she could really cover ground, and it appeared she had the ability to carry those long strides over a limitless distance.  Still, I just did not think she was brilliant enough to win the Belmont, and expected her to finish no better than 3rd, about 5 lengths behind Curlin.  Having not been a racing fan in 1988 for Winning Colors' exploits, I doubted the ability of filles to defeat their male counterparts.  Even Serena's Song, who had beat some decent males in the 95' Haskell and Jim Beam could do no better than 16th against the very best 3 year old males in the Kentucky Derby.  I just didnt think a 3 year old filly could beat a top male like Curlin or even Hard Spun. Rags to Riches proved herself an elite filly in that Belmont.  This time around with Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, I actually picked her to win, although I thought it was going to be extremely challenging.

21 May 2009 4:00 PM
GunBow

Off-Topic,

Today is a sad day in the state of Michgian for horse racing, particularly thoroughbred racing.  The only thoroughbred racetrack in the state, Pinnacle Racecourse, was forced to cancel 63% of its live racing dates.  Instead of a meet from June through October, Pinnacle will only run for the two months of June and July.  

Additionally, the stakes program for Michigan breds has been eliminated.  This last point is hugely significant because even the very best Michigan breds cannot compete against open company in most other states. Perhaps they can run in allowance races in Ohio, but instead of running in $50,000 Michigan bred stakes, they will have to settle for $8-10,000 Beualah/Thistledowns/River Downs allowance races.  The slot-generated allowance purses at Hoosier Park + Indiana Downs in Indiana and Presque Isle in Pennsylvania are other options, but the competition at these tracks continues to increase as the purses do.

Pinnacle Downs, which was less than half built when it opened for its inaugural season last year, has had no incentive to completee construction with the possibility of cuts looming. Now that the cuts are a reality, and worse than feared, Pinnacle may never be completed.  Some are saying this is the death of thoroughbred racing in Michigan.

21 May 2009 4:15 PM
Monica V

I see the 5 pound weight thing has been mentioned again.  I really don't recall anyone bringing that up when Rags won the Belmont.  Why is that?

Gary, didn't  that bother you?

21 May 2009 6:14 PM
LDP

The Deacon,

    I don't know how you can say she beat the best. Yes her Apple Blossom was a great race, but the only horse she beat was Ginger Punch, who as we got to see as the year wore on was not the same horse as she was the previous year. Hysterical Lady was hardly her best on synthetics, and Music note only seemed to win while in NY. In the Ladies Classic she went against Cocoa beach, who never got to start running until Zenyatta was already gone. She almost got beat when facing a horse that was her caliber and had just as good a trip. She stayed in Cali for the most part and beat up on weak horses, i don't care how many races you run, that horse run a race every two weeks, but seven races, six that came from your home state while beating up on lesser competition is not a hard season. As of this year she has taken no risks, hasn't even raced, and it looks like she will stay home again. For her to be considered great she needs to go out and take risks, and she's not. I will agree with your statement on how her connections know what they're doing.... if you want to make sure you keep unbeaten and maintain the illusion of a champion. Champions are made and broke by the risks they take. If she is so great why can't she beat the boys, why can't she travel more than once a year? RA has run a total of eight times i believe, five this year so far. She has run over numberous tracks, beaten the boys, set a record earlier in the year, and last year i think she even ran over synthetics. This filly has done just as much as Zen and more within a shorter time frame. Zenyatta hasn't traveled much or beaten the boys. You cannot call Zenyatta great and not RA, when RA has done more then Zen over a shorter span of time, you just can't.

21 May 2009 6:33 PM
LDP

Da3hoss,

    I'm not dissing any horse, i just don't see how you can call beating up on lesser competion and racing mainly in your home state a hard season. I picked Curlin to compare, because i believe they had around the same number of starts, only Curlin did much more. He traveled probably close to 15000 miles last year. He ran a Saratoga, Churchill, Belmont, SA, Nad al Sheba, and i forget where he ran for the Man o War, i want to say Arlington. He ran over turf dirt and syntetics, never finishing out of the money. All season he ran in Grade 1 open company races. This is a hard season, did he face hard company, no, but he did what he needed to do which was win and did that no matter where they ran him. That was all i was saying. Not trying to make him look good and her bad. My true gut feeling is that she could be great, but until she proves it by going out there and taking some risks, so we can see, i won't call her great.

21 May 2009 6:45 PM
Marc W

Gun Bow it seems you didn't read my comments--no problem-I respect your efforts on these blogs--actually just this one because the other--he just doesn't get it in my opinion and is better served joining in dray comments. Not taking away from his writing skills which exceed mine. The love of experiencing the game isn't there, just observations and they tend to be off quite frequently. The respect to accurate observation is on this blog even if there are different opinions.

LDP--I watched that TT Sis race a few times Zenyatta was just pulling herself up-they were not in the same league, although TTS gets points for gameness.

Another couple of points that I can't prove are I think in the Preakness, Street Sense did the same thing pulled himself up and was beaten. Not that Curlin  didn't keep coming and deserve to win. If you also watch the Derby SS blows past Hard Spun then seems to not keep going-he didn't want to pull away when in front-he did the same in the Preakness and paid for it. Except in the 2yr old BC race I think he had this trait. Again, I can't prove it. But---the races are viewable on the net--watch them and tell me I don't have a point.

As for Rags I think if Curlin was on the outside he would have won to take nothing away from Rags especially because of her bad start. Again she was completely deserving and a super nice filly. I just think in the stretch run Curlin wanted to be on the outside although he had and did win on the rail--of course none of those wins were head to head in a battle, he just flew through.

Just observations --no proof---but I have cashed many a bet noticing horses that won't try as hard inside of horses. Current history--I think if you watch Ventura last year and this one in 3 races I watched she was looked like she was off to an easy win and got caught by a horse she "passed" in the stretch. Horses do pull themselves up when they reach the front.

ON the weight issue--I saw a pony sized mare in Canada win stakes With Appreciation I think was her name--she was the smallest racehorse I ever saw (at least to win) and carried 126 over fillies to be a top 3 filly in the country.

Dr Fager carried heavy weights and set track records the one that stood the longest was the one he carried the most weight I believe. He was definitely the exception to any rule but weight is greatly overrated as a handicap. When you talk about the past put into perspective that when Kelso and other stars were carrying 133 it wasn't the ones carrying 105 that they had to beat or worry about--they were carrying 126 and 128 usually. There are exceptions but I think the spreads between CONTENDERS were a little closer.  Yes, bug buys get pounds off to jumpstart their careers but you will find that a number of jocks that can't make 115 and don't lose mounts to other that can make 105 in handicap races. The Shoe could do 100lbs but trainers thought nothing of putting 30 pounds of dead weight on to ride him, nor did they care that Pincay couldn't make some low weights they could have had.

Soreness, bad trips and rides, off tracks, et. are all secondary reasons for horses losing and as to weight, much less than the 3 mentioned to "the importance" of how much a horse "wants to win" and "their talent". Some have the two mentioned qualities, or some one of the two. ----If they have both---we write about them. The others with one of two find their level, and they are good in it, but not exceptional.  ---  

21 May 2009 6:57 PM
Monica V

I'm astounded by yet more comments on the 5 pound weight allowance.  This has been the rule for a century or so.  Why haven people been upset about his before?  Winning Colors and Genuine Risk won the Derby with a 5 pound weight allowance.  Winning Colors was a huge filly too.  No one complained because they have always given the fillies and the jockey's who still have their "bug" a 5 pound allowance.  Rags won the Belmont as I mentioned and no one has complained about her allowance either.  Why not?

21 May 2009 7:10 PM
Marc W

One other point to comment on---The old Rockingham and the food there, the beauty of Ft. Erie before slots--(its on life support for this year and probably dead) and the worst, if any had seen Hialeah in its hayday--Sorry, I can't pine for Pinnacle-they didn't support the other tracks to any extent in years so why was it going to work? As a former Canadian when the Expo's had one of the best teams in the league and 2000 wouldn't show up at a game let alone the bad teams near their end-Why mourn for areas that never showed they cared anyway?

Michigan had OLE BOB BOWERS and Northern Dancer's full brother stand there---it was always a last stop. They never supported their racing or breeding programs-Sorry I went to the old tracks there in my youth-they are not fond memories.  

Mourn and hope for Hialeah---a worthy state and track (Just have a body guard escort you to the races if they come back)

21 May 2009 7:15 PM
Freetex

Thank you Steve for your commentary on the views of the bloggers toward Rachel Alexander and Mine That Bird. I can't wait to read your next article on Mine That Bird.  I am very curious about what you have observed and think about this great little horse.

For me, this has been a great racing year of three year olds.  It is a shame some of them could not make it to the Derby.  However, I so enjoyed the horse we did get to see run.

I will never forget the tenacity of Musket Man and how his trainer believed in him.  And of course our two other stars Rachel and MTB.

What beauty, what greatness, what history for the future of racing legends.  It would be fantastic if you decided to write a new book on memorable horses of the Triple Crown.

My only criticism of the past days are the conniving actions of some of the connections of the horses.  Disappointed, mostly.

21 May 2009 7:31 PM
BK1

Steve - a beautifully written column - one of your best. Everyone can say what they want about all the drama the past couple of weeks, but in my opinion the first two legs of the Triple Crown have exceeded expectations and have elevated the sport, putting it on the front page again for all the right reasons. Kudos to both the mighty Rachel and gallant little Mine That Bird. Also, thanks for the nice comments about Musket Man - I've been in his corner since the beginning. As far as I'm concerned, the Preakness ended just the way I hoped it would - in fact, I hit the Trifecta!

21 May 2009 8:22 PM
Robert W.

"Weight stops freight trains". I don't think the weight "allowance" was mentioned until well into this blog because posters knew that there would be howls of protest if that subject were brought up. The fact is plainly evident -- they did not run on even terms the history of assigning horses weights notwithstanding. Simply put, one animal carried 5 pounds more than the other.

21 May 2009 9:19 PM
The Deacon

Gun Bow and LDP seem very biased when it comes to Rachel and dissing Zenyatta. Now she is getting knocked for running out west, a little east coast bias don't you think. Make all the excuses you want about surfaces and horses were past their prime but Zenyatta still beat them. Why blame her for the other horses being tired. Rachel's win was then tarnished because the rest of the 3 year olds except MTB were weary from hard campaigns. Come back in a few months and lets revisit this blog and tell me that Zenyatta is not the queen, then I will listen......nuff said.

21 May 2009 10:16 PM
RottsNScotts

As was said, the weight allowance for fillies vs. colts has been in place FOREVER! And, when one enters their horse in a race, they are, in fact, saying, "I believe my horse can beat your horse at these conditions" since the weight allowance is certainly not a surprise they spring on race day!

And to really put weight in perspective....police officers, wearing at least 30 pounds of equipment and usually boots have to chase down bad guys that MIGHT be carrying their loot (usually not as they drop it!) and do so very successfully! LOL

21 May 2009 10:24 PM
Matthew W

Steve I think she cakewalks in the Belmont--that race will play to her strengths--she has speed and stamina--that combo usually wins the Belmont.....

21 May 2009 11:33 PM
Mike Relva

HELLO STEVE:

Here's something that should amuse you. Few days ago Draynay posted on Jason's blog he thinks he has more knowledge of handicapping than you do. Thought I had heard stupid remarks,but he continues to top himself. lol

21 May 2009 11:53 PM
Matthew W

I saw nothing in the Preakness that would inspire assuredness towards an upcoming affair with Z.....talk is cheap, she hasn't even been beaten one time!....

21 May 2009 11:58 PM
GunBow

The Deacon:

You are most definitely mistaken concerning my opinion of Zenyatta. I have never written that Rachel was better than Zenyatta. My stance is that whichever filly/mare does the best from here on out will prove herself the better of the two. Unlike LDP, I have nothing but respect for what Zenyatta has done, and have not written otherwise. She beat all the best fillies and mares last year, save maybe Proud Spell.  Contrary to what LDP wrote, Ginger Punch was by no means washed up when she ran in the Apple Blossom. For, after the Apple Blossom Ginger Punch won the gr.2 Louisville, gr.1 Ogden Phipps, gr.1 Go For Wand, gr.1 Personal Ensign, and lost the gr.1 Beldame by a head to Cocoa Beach.  

The Deacon, I am sorry that you got the impression I don't respect Zenyatta, because that is the furthest thing from the truth. Also, I grew up in California and truly believe that a horse does not have to leave that state to be considered great, especially if the Breeders Cup is at Santa Anita. Funny, but people don't criticize horses like Ruffian, Easy Goer, Kelso, Forego, and countless others for not winning a race west of the Mississippi. Just like those horse did not have to prove their greatness by winning out west, horses like Lava Man, Best Pal, and Zenyatta do not have to win races east of the Mississippi to prove their quality. Of course, Zenyatta did win that Apple Blossom on dirt and in Arkansas, although it was not east of the Mississippi. So, Deacon I'm on your side when it comes to Zenyatta. I also agree with your comments on Dr Fager and the weight he carried while setting speed records. Amazing!

As a side note. if all the horses entered for the Milady actually run, Zenyatta will be facing a stern nest. Her stablemate, Life is Sweet, is the real deal.

MARC:

Not sure how to respond.  Thanks for caring?

I posted alot before and immediately after the Derby because I went down to Churchill for the Oaks and Derby. However, I did not post before the Preakness, and did not write one word during the controversy over Rachel's sale, the attempts to block her from the Preakness, Calvin Borel's decision, etc. I was so moved, so excited over the running of the Preakness that I felt I just had to respond. I never expected there to be so much animosity between some of the Rachel fans and some of the Bird fans, and found myself getting caught up in it all. However, I've just about exhausted myself with things at this point, so if you don't see me post for a while you will know why.  This is my typical pattern. When I get into, I go all out, and then nothing.

By the way, I wasn't trying to generate sympathy for Pinnacle Racecourse. But you must remember, that Pinnacle is the only thoroughbred racetrack in the state of Michigan.  So, if thoroughbred racing at Pinnacle is dead, then thoroughbred racing is dead in the whole state of Michigan. You may not feel much because you do not live here, but for those like myself that do, and were hoping that with Pinnacle the state could finally have a first rate thoroughbred facility, this is definitely a sad day. For someone who cares so much about my well being, I thought you would be feeling me on this.

22 May 2009 1:02 AM
GunBow

I want to clarify something. I did not get all my racing knowledge from books.  For events pre-1989, yes.  However, since I became a fan of the sport in that year, I have been committed to seeing, in person, as many good horses and good races as possible.  Growing up in southern California, this was not difficult. Living in Michigan, however, I have been forced to do alot of travelling. I'll be honest, due to the cost of travel, I rarely bet. While there are times I have thought about how nice it would be to pay for the trip with winnings, I just have not been able to afford the possibility of losing. Thus, I am 100% fan.  I have saved every program and every Racing Form from the days I have been to a racetrack.  I also keep a log of every stakes race I have seen in person, even ungraded stakes, and keep notes of the final order of finish and margins, as well as the winning time and Beyer figure. I may not be a horseman, but I know what a good horse looks like and how one runs.

Marc, you are correct that those who work within the industry put alot into their jobs. I'm not sure I would like it if my hobby, my passion, was my job.  I am quite content being able to post 50 comments in a week and then not post anything for a month, if I so choose.

22 May 2009 2:55 AM
ColetteMarie

I realize that the weight allowance has been around forever, However, that doesn't make it more fair or less fair. Plus, how often do we see male TB racehorses 15 hands tall?? Almost never. I'm just saying that rules or no rules, the reality is that MTB was running at the biggest disadvantage,compared to every other horse in the race, male or female, due to his size.

ColetteMarie

22 May 2009 4:58 AM
LDP

The Deacon,

    For the tenth time i'm not dissing Zenyatta, but i am stating the facts. The horse only raced outside of cali once. She didn't face all that good of competion either. GP was past her prime when Zen faced her, hysterical lady disliked the surface, and Music not only won in NY. Other than Cocoa Beach and Tough Tizs Sis who did Zenyatta beat. I'm not say come to NY or the edge of the coast, just let her travel. She ducked the boys in the classic last year, when she could've gone and proven herself. I am not saying break the filly, but good dear mother of jesus take at least a couple risks! RA has not ducked anyone. When she proved to good for her own sex, she took on the boy, and WON. She unlike Zen has traveled. The facts are as of now RA has done more, racing wise then Zenyatta has done. Nuff said.

22 May 2009 6:12 AM
Matthew W

LDP beating the boys does not "one up" RA over Zen....beating Zen would "one up" RA over Zen....taking on boys is a decision made by racing managers--and to say the field Zen beat was suspect is a big tell! You're biased.....

22 May 2009 10:59 AM
Monica V

If the weight allowance for fillies is unfair then maybe they should give a weight allowance to small horses if it's that unfair but to be honest, MTB's size did not hinder his winning the Derby.  Could be that the track was a little deeper and he was a bit tired at the Preakness.  He still ran a hell of a race but I don't think that his size has anything to do with it.  He ran well with 126 before and he ran well at the Preakness.  He didn't have the same trip at the Preakness, he saved lots of ground on the rail at the Derby and that could be the difference.  That's racing.

22 May 2009 11:16 AM
sweet terchi

GunBow, I agree with you completely on the subject that westies don't have to prove themselves on the east coast.

22 May 2009 11:47 AM
LDP

Matthew W,

    I have stated before i'm not biased. I have told people before that I actually do like Zen and think if her connections would let her show it against the best she would be great. But the fields she faced were suspect. She beat horses that were passed their prime, did not like the suface, or just ran winning races in one state. Those horses being Music Note, Ginger Punch, and Hysterical Lady. Whenever she faced them they were not at their best. The only horses she ever faced were TTS and CB. This weekend she'll face a filly that is unbeaten since switching barns and in on her game, it should be a good race. I will admit i am still ticked off that she scratched earilier this year. Was the track muddy, yes, but come on horses run in that crap all the time, it's not a good reason. Also if Zenyatta had beaten boys and RA had not ppl would be crediting Zen with that, so RA should be credited too. And even if you still don't agree, RA has traveled to more tracks and states. She holds wins at Oaklawn, Fair Grounds, Churchill, and Pimlico, and thats just this year. That means she's been to LA, MD, KY, and sorry but i can't remember where Oaklawn is located, but Zenyatta has won only in KY and CA, the majority in CA. She again one ups Zen in that area. As i said she has done more than Zen has at this point, plain and simple.

22 May 2009 12:07 PM
Matthew W

LDP "good dear mother of jesus" Zenyatta is unbeaten/and has shipped across the country twice--Whine on!

22 May 2009 12:10 PM
LDP

How may times must i say that i do respect Zenyatta? I simply am stating facts of what she did and didn't do. I have said millions of time i think if given the chance she could be great, but part of that is who you beat. Is it some of how easily a horse does things, yes, but also the competion and what they do in their career is what defines them as great. Gun Bow, GP was past her prime, yes she won her races, but by close margins, she almost lost the one to a very big longshot, who's name escapes me. She was not running like she had the year before. I hold no disrespect for Zenyatta at all, i just feel at this point RA has done more, and honestly feel that if the two were to meet that RA would win. RA just has too much speed for a horse to close into, even one like Zen. Its my opinion, if you disagree fine, but don't ever ever tell me i disrespect that mare, because that is a very wrong assumption.

22 May 2009 12:18 PM
Gary

Robert W.,

Thanks for noticing, and I hope the post was helpful.

Slewofdamascus,

My comments about the weights carried in The Preakness, and the outcome of the race, were not intended to "diminish" what Rachel did.  Not at all.  They were simply aimed at giving the accomplishments of the top 3 or 4 finishers some objective perspective.  I do, however, think that the "parity" revealed by how the filly and the colts finished surprised both Calvin and the new connections of Rachel Alexandra.  Hence the need to make public excuses for the winner...not handling the track(?)...didn't see the real Rachel(?), etc.

Monica V,

Was I bothered by Rags to Riches win over Curlin in The Belmont because she was carrying less weight?  No, not really.  The circumstances were much different then.  One thing that was different: there was no possibility of a Triple Crown when she ran.  If Curlin had been running for The Triple Crown, and she beat him a nose being given 5 pounds, I think I would have been upset.  Giving fillies - who many horsemen say come to hand earlier than colts anyway - a 5 pound weight allowance against colts seems a tad "quaint" and obsolete to me.  This being the 21st Century and all.

Gunbow,

Among other points, thanks for your insights into the use of weights for wagering purposes.  

I will add this.  I brought up weights because some people were going a little overboard (in my opinion) with the praise for Rachel on the one hand, in a background of disrespecting the 2nd and 3rd place finishers of The Preakness on the other.  At least gauged by many comments in the media and on these blogs both leading up to a shortly following The KY Derby.

If a colt were getting 5 pounds from a rival, and won at 9.5 furlongs by a diminishing length after being whipped over 15 times down the stretch, I doubt any serious horse player would say that the winner was THAT much better, IF AT ALL, than the 2nd place horse.  Or the 3rd place horse, who was just 1 and 3/4 of a length back!  Perspective...that's all it is!

22 May 2009 1:11 PM
Anne

I watched both races with awe.......they are unbelievable athletes!  I've been racing TBs for about a year now and the thrill is just awesome!  Our hearts were all pounding as they ran...you wrote a wonderful article and captured the moment.  Giving credit to their ability, not their sex is commendable.  The entire field was filled with great horses, but then you have two..two who just take a stand and love what they do...RUN!  Thank you

22 May 2009 2:43 PM
sweet terchi

LDP, you may have respect for Zen, but it sure does not come across that way. for every Zen positive that is brought up,( or concerning any horse that you don't favor)  you bring out the "yes,but." factor in negative way and sounding a bit hostile in the process. both RA and Zen are magnificent in their own right, and as Cathy pointed out a few days ago  the two are equal in size, if the two ever did meet on the same track we really don't know who would win but that sight alone would be one for the ages. two great big beautiful girls, and their regular riders smith and borel, who each in their own way compliment the two horses.....i swoon!  

22 May 2009 3:10 PM
TerriV

We are really blessed to have two amazing horses to excite both racing fans and those who haven't yet been made fans.  I hope Rachel and Bird bring in thousands.  They both have such a depth of talent and appeal.  It's even better that they are so different.  I can't get enough of either one of them.  But I have to also say that it really bothers me to hear anyone say that this is a poor crop of 3 year olds.  I have loved following them as they developed and grew with each race.  The ones that were believed to be superior that didn't make it - Pamplemouse, Quality Road, I Want Revenge, Old Fashioned...etc don't make the ones who did get to the Derby any less talented.  It makes the ones who got to the Derby lucky, strong, trained to perfection and developing at just the right time.  I'm sorry, but no horse that makes it to a Triple Crown race (out of the thousands born)can be frowned on as being inferior.  Always love the horses.

22 May 2009 3:48 PM
LDP

Matt,

   Zenyatta didn't race last time she shipped across the country. She won last year, but this year nothing. I'm not whining, these are facts get that through your thick head.

22 May 2009 3:52 PM
Grandefan

Thanks Steve - another great story that is still unfolding. I'm also with you on enjoying the ride. Racing needs exactly what we are now experiencing -- lots of talk and lots of action. Everyone- railbirds to newbies are talking horses, owners, riders and the thrills we are having this season. This sport can have the highest of highs and at any moment may crash to the bottom. That is not unlike car racing or mountain climbing -- it's part of the risk to participate in a very physically demanding and competitive sport.

So - let's build on the energy and keep TB racing in the news, on the air and in the air. Ride the ride ...

22 May 2009 4:47 PM
marc w

Glad my last tangent didn't get posted it was way off topic.

Gun Bow--I don't worry about you, so much as I saw little of you in me and thought to give you some advice. Taking racing a little too serious. I guess I was wrong. I only succeeded in getting my degree on my 4th university try. I knew from previous talks you were a student, I would have blown it again if I didn't go cold turkey-even that is strange as I worked the phones for a bookmaker I knew while going to school to keep money coming in.

I admire the work and facts you put in. I go strictly from memory which sometimes is off/in error and opinionated. Problem with facts is I can never prove what I have seen and believe occasionally--if I said I thought Viceregal was the best Canadian-Bred horse I ever saw  having seen Northern Dancer (ND lost 2 of the 3 times I saw him run live) run. No facts on paper will ever back that up. I also though Silver Deputy was the second coming in the 2 races I saw him run. Was he great? He never ran a third time so I can only think of him that way. I do know I felt strongly enough to get them to buy in to his syndication.

I hate hearing arguments proved by comparing facts of previous years, different tracks and surfaces et. especially in regards to time of races.

Looking at the posts here--

Getting back to everyone--if people have opinions like who is better Rachel or Zenyatta with them facing each other or waiting until the end of the year to see what happens you are like me saying Viceregal was the best Canadian bred ever. Opinionated without facts. Times are only times. My opinionated opinion of this weight thing is even weights the filly wins the Preakness and it is stupid to discuss any 5 pound difference in any race-20 you have a case if still a weak one.

Solid Facts--RA won the Preakness-Now Opinion-I was impressed if other were not.

Fact Zenyatta is undefeated and to me unchallenged thus far-Opinion-I think Coca Beach is a very very good filly that could beat most colts running today (I'd bet her over Well Armed)--so obviously I hold her in high standing since she has beaten her. Since the word "far" all is my "opinion only"

Fact--comparing or fighting about Calf. racing against the east is unfair (CA and CA). Canadian racing is considered east as is FL, DE, PA, NY, AR, LA, TX

--a good horse is a good horse but lets face it odds are stacked in the east favor. On the flip side is as a state it is as strong as any and and with so many pots to go after in the east the best don't always face the best in a particular track---this isn't like the Derby where they all gear for one race. You can win a 300/500K pot at all so why not duck a tough challenge. In the west the best tend to all have to go for the same pot. --Notice I didn't go to opinion there.

Also--the riding colony in the west is as good as anywhere as are the trainers--difference is "most" are all concentrated in the south--I am not forgetting JH he is good wherever he applies his trade.

Fact--I am enjoying this years twists and turns as a fan but I actually lost a bundle about ($2800) on Derby Day--not on the Derby. Usually I clean up in the other races with the big pools throwing smart money off. Preakness day I got 1/2 back although in the hospital after major surgery but had the form all over my bed while betting on line. If Musket man was second I would have won a whole lot more.

Fact-I love reading the articles by Mr Haskin and his observations--I wonder to myself how some others ever got their jobs as turf writers. We should do a blog on rating the writers, handicappers, why not even the announcers, TVG and Xpressbet hosts? I think if you talk about a horse climbing some turf writers in print would look at me weird and say "Silly, horses don't go up trees or mountains", that's how unknowledgable I think some on payrolls are.MY OPINION ONLY! Don't even get me going on some track handicappers. Hire me--I'll take the cut in pay to show how it is done for a couple of weeks!

The Belmont--interesting -I'd pick Rachel if she runs. I don't know why but I don't think MTB  run will have the kick shown when he goes further--hope I am wrong--he is good for horse racing.

I guess that is all to my rambling thoughts. I'll blame it on the morphine and lortabs I'm still taking after being cut up-they make you itchy as well. You are all safe as I will be back to work shortly.

22 May 2009 5:13 PM
Racingfan

C'mon people - the "size" of the racehorse does not matter.  A 15 hand horse can run just as well as a 17 hand horse.  Remember little Northern Dancer?  It is the ability that matters.  FYI - from what I read, Zenyatta is a little over 17 hands while RA is just over 16 - so if Z would win is it because she is taller...?  This is getting ridiculous!  First the weight and now the height!  Why don't we all just try appreciating ALL the horses and stop trying to minimize their abilities or make excuses!? Poor Smooth Air - guess he better not lose the Met carrying 118 while all the others carry less or their victory is going to be unimpressive....! Right?   NO!!!!!!!!

22 May 2009 5:53 PM
GunBow

LDP:

This post is not meant as a critique. However, I think facts must be stated.

When Zenyatta crushed Ginger Punch in the Apple Blossom, Ginger Punch was most certainly still at the top of her game. Furthermore, Ginger Punch reamined in peak form for most of the rest of 2008.  Here are the facts of Giner Punch's performances AFTER the Apple Blossom:

1) Ginger Punch won the gr.2 Louisville by 4 lengths.

2) Ginger Punch won the gr.1 Ogden Phipps by 6.

3) Ginger Punch won the gr.1 Go For Wand by 1.5 lengths. The race was only that close because she had been blocked and forced to wait for room at the top of the stretch.

4) Ginger Punch won the gr.1 Personal Ensign by only a head. However, the race was at 10 furlongs, which was probably a little past her preferred distance. Still, Ginger Punch's Beyer for the Personal Ensign was a 104, the same figure she earned in winning the 2007 Breeders Cup Distaff.

5) In 2007, Ginger Punch only won one of her 3 gr.1 wins by more than 1 length(she won the Go For Wand by 6).  She won the gr.1 Ruffian by 3/4ths of a length over Miss Shop, and won the Breeders Cup Distaff by a half-length.

6) Ginger Punch's Beyers were the same in 2008 as they were in 2007. She never ran over a 104 in 2007.

I also do not see how Music Note and Cocoa Beach were compromised in last year's Breeders Cup Distaff(Lady's Classic). I think Zenyatta just straight-up beat them.  Hystericalady was another case, because it was clear she was not nearly as fast on synthetics as on dirt.

I do get your larger point. Zenyatta has been managed very carefully, much like how Dolph Morrison and Hal Wiggins were planning on managing Rachel. By taking a risk, Jess Jackson allowed Rachel to accomplish something very rare. In winning the Preakness, I do believe Rachel accomplished something greater than any one thing Zenyatta has accomplished. I just think you are barking up the wrong tree when you try to critique the quality of the fillies and mares that Zenyatta has defeated.

In my opinion, Zneyatta's greatest weakness, vis-a-vis Rachel, is that Zenyatta has not been asked, in any one given race, to accomplish something historic, something rare. After all, every year some filly or mare is going to win the Breeders Cup Distaff; in contrast, it has been 85 years since a filly won the Preakness. Zenyatta has been managed much like Laura de Seraux managed Azeri, carefully. This is to take nothing away from Azeri; she won 14 of her first 15 starts, including 8 gr.1 races, so she was already "great". However,  Allen Paulson's son, Michael, wanted to shoot a little more for the stars and gave her to D Wayne Lukas, a master of getting fillies to defeat males. The gambles in the Met Mile and Breeders Cup Classic against males did not work out for Azeri, but she did win 3 more gr.1 races as well as a 3rd Eclipse Award for older filly+mare. While Zenyatta has not had the chance to do something historic in a single race, she did go undefeated last year, 7 for 7, and is undefeated in 9 races for her career.  If she were to remain undefeated through this year and then retire, Zenyatta would accomplish something, over the course of all of her races, that would be just as historic as Rachel winning the Preakness. May she remain sound and get this opportunity for greatness.

Do beware, however. If Sheriffs runs both of his mares in the Milady, Life is Sweet will represent a big challenge to Zenyatta. Remaining undefeated is never easy, especially if running in grade 1 and 2 races.

22 May 2009 6:48 PM
GunBow

Gary:

I have been consistent after the Preakness stating that Rachel was not "much" better than Mine That Bird and Musket Man in the Preakness or in overall ability. I do, however, have Rachel ranked as my #1 3 year old. If Mine That Bird were to win the Belmont, he would deserve to be #1, whether Rachel ran or not. If Rachel does not run in the Belmont but Bird does not run well, then I will probably keep Rachel #1, unless a horse like Charitable Man were to romp by open lengths. The mere fact that Rachel can be compared with the top males at this point in the year makes her a quite unique filly.

As for the 5 pound weight concession, it really isn't a variable, in statistical terms. It is a constant, in that the weight concession will be 5lbs again in races like the Belmont or Travers. For those that believe Bird or Musket Man would have beaten Rachel at equal weights in the Preakness, that opinion really doesnt have much handicapping value. After all, Rachel is going to run with 5 fewer pounds in other races as well.

22 May 2009 7:07 PM
GunBow

Marc W:

I probably do take racing too seriously, even without wagering. Of course, there was a time when I would put a little money on the races. However, I found the same thing that makes me take the sport so seriously made me take the winning and losing of betting too seriously as well. Even when I won, I could get upset for having not wagered enough or for "just" placing a win bet and not an exacta, or double, etc.  In the end, I didnt want anything to interfere with my enjoyment of a day at the races, because I don't need to win money to have a great time.

Marc, I will say you are perceptive. I wasnt quite sure what you were getting at in your first post, and realize you were going for the obssesive/wagering angle. As the frequency of my posts reveal, and their length, I sometimes do get carried away with blogs like this.  I have faced challenges in my life that were probably similar to what you had to deal with in playing the ponies.  For some reason, however, I just never got that serious about betting.  Maybe because I learned very early that there is a huge difference between information and handicapping, and handicapping and gambling for profit.

22 May 2009 7:23 PM
sweet terchi

Racingfan, nowhere on my post did i mention that a horse will win because of impressive size. i refer to the beauty of the throughbred form. for me it all dates back the the lovely Ruffian who was a sight to behold.she wasn't called Black Beauty for nothing. as to who would win is moot for me because in my book they are all winners. the throughbred is complete grace in motion from the winner to the last straggler coming to the finish line. some horses just capture the heart. and are remembered even 4o  years later even if they were never "famous"..Sweet Terchi, bf '70 out of Terchi Berzo-Sweet Sal. see what i mean?

22 May 2009 7:34 PM
Mike Relva

TO: MATT

I'm a huge Zenyatta fan,but I agree with LDP that you are being thick headed!

22 May 2009 7:43 PM
Mike Relva

TO:IDA LEE

Nice comments about MTB and RA

I agree!

22 May 2009 7:44 PM
Mike Relva

HELLO STEVE:

Agree with what you're saying about RA and MTB. I have love for both of them,but I don't and never will care for Jackson and his trainer. Jackson should have kept Wiggins as RA's trainer. After the Preakness I heard Jackson spinning it that he did this for the fans and horse. lol He did it for his large ego. Anyone that believes that is nuts!

22 May 2009 7:49 PM
LDP

sweet terchi,

    I bring up the yes but, because i'm wary, remember all the yes buts Curlin got, and he actually did face anybody and anything they threw at him. Zen still has to prove to me that she can can win against top quality horses, away from home, more than just once or twice. I have no doubt she is a brilliant mare but i feel in order to accomplish more than RA she needs to remain unbeat against the males. I don't care where she beats them at, but i would like to see it.

Gun Bow,

    Point taken. In the Ladies Classic MN was not really interfered with too much, but my point was she only seems to win in NY. Cocoa Beach is who i think could've had a better trip, because she kinda got trapped on the rail for a bit and had to wait while Zen was already rolling. GP, i see your point, on synthetics though she and HL were not with it though. I will let anyone know here and now if Zen looses tommorow, i would give her the benifit of the doubt, since she has not raced for like over six months i think, because as you said staying unbeaten is hard, especially when up against a horse like Life is Sweet.

22 May 2009 8:42 PM
needler in Virginia

To Steve: AGAIN you have done it; you made me laugh and cry in the same article. As a reward, I'll not bother you with my dumb questions for an entire month! Thanks for this one, Steve; I've printed it out for repeated readings.

To everyone else: you can poo-poo one another's horses, you can insult MY horses, you can bitch about 5 pound weight advantages, you can bemoan your losses on the Derby, you can weep over a lost Triple Crown, you can berate Borel for riding Rachel, you can curse Smith for NOT staying on the Bird, you can argue over the the use of the word "great" when applied to horses, you can try, BUT YOU WILL NOT RAIN ON THIS PARADE! Go ahead, tell me this hasn't been the most interesting, unique year in racing that any of you can remember. Tell me this ride hasn't been fun and funny and sad and happy and fascinating and glorious and downright wonderful. Go ahead........I DARE YOU!  

I'm loving all of this.....the little brown gelding, the amazing filly, the winners, the losers, the jockeys, the connections, the mystery, the intrigue, the drama, the passion.......oops! That sounds a bit like a blockbuster best seller, and maybe that's exactly what racing needs right now.

Safe trips to all, and cheers.

22 May 2009 11:06 PM
Kat

Just to throw another stick into the fire, Zenyatta was not the only horse to beat Ginger Punch in the Apple Blossom.  Brownie Points did also.  How did GP's Beyer in the AB compare to her other (and perhaps more typical) Beyer's?  If GP ran a subpar race, that doesn't necessarily take away from Zenyatta's performance in the race (just the comparison of the 2 on the basis of that race).

I would agree that Zenyatta has been (more) conservatively managed (post RA Preakness), but in my opinion, her performances (in an absolute sense) speak for themselves.

It will be interesting to see the match up, particularly with their very different styles.

And it will be great to see Zenyatta back on the track this weekend.  Looking forward!

23 May 2009 1:09 AM
Racingfan

Sweet Terchi - I did not address my comment to you.

23 May 2009 2:30 AM
LDP

Thank You Mike!

    I have somebody who agrees with me, you just made morning, now i can go to work happy :)

23 May 2009 6:13 AM
Ranagulzion

needler in Virginia:  Bravo!  Great post.

23 May 2009 5:28 PM
Forego

Oh Yeah, Zenyatta!  Awesome. Now that's what I'm talking about.  Bring on Rachael, anyday, anywhere...

24 May 2009 12:30 AM
Forego

Mike Smith summed it up perfectly, saying that Rachael is a great filly, BUT, "Zenyatta is Zenyatta."  Here, here!

24 May 2009 12:35 AM
Mike Relva

TO:LDP

As I've told you several times,you bring alot of great points/ideas to the discussion. Too bad that some are way off! lol

24 May 2009 12:20 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Needler. You summed it all up perfectly. Well done. For such a great comment, you now are entitled to one free month of bothering me with all the "dumb questions" you wish.

24 May 2009 2:57 PM
Monica V

No question....Rachel would have her hands full with Zenyatta but it would be fabulous race to watch.

24 May 2009 2:59 PM
LDP

Who like the idea of Zen and RA in the Steven Foster taking on Einstien? What a field, you have Einstien who can win on anything and already has two grade ones on two surfaces this season. You have the Zenyatta, unbeaten champion female and runner up for HOTY, who looks like a freakin moster right now. Lastly you have the new comer, the brilliant RA who beat the boys in the Preakness. What a story this would be. We all know that Einstien is going for his i think third grade one in a row, and trying to do what only Lava man could do and win a grade one on all three surfaces. Zenyatta who looks like a powerhouse right now would have three weeks to prepare, which should be fine, since the race looked like she was out for a morning gallop. Lastly RA would have the extra week to rest up, would get to stay at Churchill, so she won't have to travel, she love the strip, and like the other two, a 1 1/8 should be perfect. What a dream race this would be.

24 May 2009 3:20 PM
LDP

Mike R,

    We all have our opinions, lol. You can't say i jump ship easy though. I'm stubborn as PO'd mare, lol. Yeah bad joke i know.

24 May 2009 3:22 PM
sweet terchi

LDP, that would be a dream race!! Even though I said you can be contrary & negative at times (which you can be!) that's ok,'cause like Mike R said some are valid points, and we also need a devil's advocate. Otherwise we'd all be on the same band wagon. To tell the truth, between RA and Zen, I would be torn to choose one over the other, so the only result that would satisfy me is a dead heat to win!!

24 May 2009 7:48 PM
LDP

Sweet Terchi,

    I've been told i'm a very negative person most of the times, which is very correct. I'm very high strung, hot tempered, nevous, and fussy. I don't know why, but i am. Believe it or not i am much better than i used to be. I used to be one of those nerds in class that everyone kinda picked on so in turn i kinda hated them. I'm much looser now, which is scary because i'm still very uptight. Thanks for the compliment, about me bringing up good points. I'm young and still have a lot to learn, but i try to learn as much as i can as quickly as i can, so knowing that i do actually know something gives a bit of satisfaction, lol. To try and be positive on Zen for once she looked indescribable. I was literally at a loss for words in a good way when i saw her in the paddock and post parade. I've never seen a horse that dappled out. Her muscle literally were rippling under that perfect sleek coat. Seriously my jaw dropped. Any doubt about her loosing for any reason was erased, i'd be an idiot yesterday to say she wouldn't. All i can say, for lack of better terms is WOW.

24 May 2009 11:11 PM
Mike Relva

TO:LDP

I was trying to say that some of the others' on here are "way off".

25 May 2009 1:54 AM
GunBow

Zenyatta is back, and as good as ever. Life is Sweet was dominating at Santa Anita, yet Zenyatta brushed her aside like she has done all the outstanding fillies and mares she has faced. Zenyatta's march towards greatness continues. I love Rachel, but I'm not sure if any horse currently in training can beat Zenyatta on synthetics.

I was also inspired by Brass Hat's win in the grade 3 Louisville Handicap at 1.5 miles on turf.  It was his first graded stakes win on turf, in a career with wins in the gr.1 Donn, gr.2 New Orleans Cap, gr.2 Ohio Derby, gr.2 Indiana Derby, Mass Cap, Rushaway, and a strong 2nd in the gr.1 Dubai World Cup which he was later disqualified from. Just another in the many great stories over the last 23 days.

All of it, however, is tempered by the saddness over the injuries to Rene Douglas.  I have been to Arlington, Hawthorne, and Churchill many times, so I have seen Rene ride in person alot. He's been one of the very best jockeys in the Midwest, and really, the country. Just so sad.

25 May 2009 3:03 AM
Wanda

I agree with you needler you called it. Why are people jealous of JJ? He's got money so what. Anybody that brings money into the game is good for racing. If he had not bought her she would not have made history. Like needler says it's a blockbuster movie. So he has an ego,most millionaires have them. That's what got them there. He buys expensive horses, another guy buys sports teams whatever. IMO anybody that invests in racing is good for the sport.

25 May 2009 10:50 AM
LDP

Mike,

   O. Wasn't trying to be rude just stating what i am in an inturpritation of what you'd said. I'm sorry i took it wrong, i was tired right then, i'd worked all day on saturday, and came out of it with very bad ache in my shoulder, so i wasn't with it. Sorry again.

25 May 2009 12:58 PM
Karen in Indiana

Steve, I agreed 100% with your article about changing the Triple Crown races. What glory, what honor, what saisfaction is there in winning something that has been dumbed down???

It reminds me of a class I took in college. Out of 36 people in the class, only 1 passed the first test. So who was responsible for that? I would say the teacher. In the same way, training methods have changed to something more manageable as a mass market and we are in a very long TC drought. Is there a relationship? I would say yes.

So, do you think the Kentucky Derby was an example of the failure of mass market training versus the success of hands-on, more personal training?

25 May 2009 2:32 PM
Karen in Indiana

One more thought - there has been debate on the horses nowadays being more fragile. There are some lines - Unbridled Song - that seem to be that way. But if that was such a problem, why are retired racehorses in demand for careers such as steeplechasing, dressage, and even trail horses where durability and stamina are needed? I think there was even a retired racehorse in this past Olympics.

Einstein, the person not the horse, said the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. If the training methods of this day are not producing TC winners, the answer should not be to make it easier, but to examine why that is so. It sounds like Lukas isn't willing to do that, but is willing to have the industry scrap tradition to better his chances of winning.

25 May 2009 3:05 PM
Mike Relva

TO:WANDA

I can't speak for everyone,but I can assure you that I'm not jealous of Jackson. I just think it's big ego and poor judgement to even think of running her in the Belmont. She's proved her point,period! There are other races ahead for her amazing talents. Also,I was against her being sold and took away from Wiggins. What do you think Steve A. did for her in the nine days before the Preakness,not a hell of alot! Wiggins had her where she was prior to the Preakness. I don't like anything about her new trainer. He hasn't a clue what morals and class are,Wiggins does. I wouldn't trade one of a Wiggins for a thousand of the other. RA's new connections need to "dial down" their huge egos and consider the long term for the horse's racing future,instead of possibly burning her out.

25 May 2009 7:46 PM
Karen2

NEEDLER....AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't believe you got to say "bi*ch" on the blogs but perhaps the editor could see it was the correct word in a very well put post : ) Like Ranagulzion said...BRAVO!!!!!! Lets enjoy this ride...for it has been a great year!! I mean, we couldn't make this stuff up. It has been that fantastic........We have witnessed history and we have witnessed greatness... Breathtaking.

25 May 2009 7:47 PM
TerriV

Great post, Needler!  I agree 100% I've been having a blast this year.  And I just read your article about Lukas' statement regarding the Triple Crown, Steve.  You are absolutely right!  I especially like your analogy to Mt Everest.  If it is changed in any way it is no longer the Triple Crown; we'll have to come up with a new name.

25 May 2009 7:55 PM
needler in Virginia

Thanks to everyone for liking my post. It's nice to make everyone nuts at least once a month!

SEE, STEVE??? Since you've granted me a whole month of dumb questions, obviously my one to you yesterday has gotten a rise out of everyone here, and I didn't do a thing!! I SWEAR!! As a finale to THIS month, and before I begin my month of dumb questions in June, I would ask that everyone bear with me as we have wandered WAAAAAAAY off topic already.

I'm gonna say one thing about the Lukas mess, and this will NOT involve lawyers, Steve. There is absolutely nothing about racing that we can get everyone to agree on (except that the fall and resultant injuries to Rene Douglas stink; my heart and thoughts are with him and his family) ...does that strike everyone as a true assessment? No kidding; ask seven trainers how to get a horse ready for the Derby and you'll get eight answers. It seems Mr Lukas has found a way to make everyone agree that he might need a vacation to rest up. Personally, I LOVE the quirky all-grey races at Halloween, the ridiculous two furlong races for babies, the marathons, the sprints on the turf, the races run at "almost a mile" on some overseas tracks (WHAT, exactly, does "almost" a mile mean?), the Derby at 1 1/4 miles, the Preakness at 1 3/16 miles and the Belmont at 1 1/2 miles. THAT'S IT! I know we have grocery stores because everyone likes different brands of coffee, and racing has races of all lengths and configurations. If Mr Lukas doesn't like the classic distances of the three TC races, then he doesn't have to enter them. No one is holding a gun to his head, after all. Then we'll all be happy with the distances, surfaces and purses and no one will be disappointed!

25 May 2009 10:51 PM
Marc W

Since comments are flying all over the place--including mine

LET'S GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO JONESBORO.

One of my favorite horses-He is not the cream of the crop as horses mentioned above but he shows up every race and has grinded out more than a million in purses in unlisted and Grade 3's. He is by the well bred but little known stud Sefapiano but is the only good horse the Hall of Fame mare Mom's Command has thrown. Mom's Command is in the history books for showing that a girl riding basically only her fathers horses can win grade 1's on a great horse--horse 95% jockey 5% or less when they can go to the front and improve their position.

He lost a heart breaker in Texas yesterday, but as always gave his all. Those on these pages who don't have big money but breed horses could do a lot worse than bred to a sound, he's 8 and running as well or better than ever, hard knocking horse that has hall of fame blood in his veins when he retires and probably stands for $1-2,000.

My comment is off topic but this is the Bloodhorse Magazine and is benchmark for breeding news as well as current racing.

26 May 2009 12:27 PM
Marc W

I said Joneboro was 8 he's 7

26 May 2009 12:43 PM
Racingfan

Needler In Virginia:  I agree 100% about the triple crown!  And if they ever change it to make it easier then it loses its significance. NO distance changes and NO time spacing changes.  From what I can tell though from studying racing history for many years, the horses are trained much less now days (4-5 furlong works instead of 7-8 furlong+ works) so I believe that is the biggest reason we haven't had a winner since Affirmed.  Any thoughts?

AND to all who keep dogging Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen: I would love to see the names of those of you who actually KNOW either of them. I doubt any of you making all these rude and negative comments about them have ever even met them, let alone be around them enough to know anything about what type of people they are!  If you don't have that first hand knowledge then you really have no business making any comments about them.  How would you all like it if that was done to you?  New fans to racing likely come onto this forum and reading negative stuff about the owners and trainers does not make a good first impression on racing.  

26 May 2009 1:14 PM
needler in Virginia

To my long suffering, but (I hope) good friend, Steve Haskin:  I was very careful not to involve lawyers for either you or me, so it CAN be done. And your non-existent blog finally got responses, as we both knew it would. Comments like that CANNOT be ignored. If you wanted a plethora of opinions, you certainly have them now, Steve!

Well done, well said and well spotted. It IS possible, you know that saner minds just might prevail to save our beleaguered sport. It's just a shame that the fruitbats have to come out to get a response.

Have a fun week racing and safe trips home to all.

26 May 2009 1:45 PM
Marc W

OK The knocks on Jackson and Steve A

One, racing the filly was what racing needed, and he kept Curlin running at 4-another sporting gesture. If people knew the insurance rates to run him they would know it was not a profitable move let alone that he would have made more at stud. I have nothing against Hal Wiggins and he did a great job. Saying that, Steve A is Jackson's trainer and that is part of the game. Ask Ms. Pitts (Pasch, Renyolds) although she is part of the family now. It happens all the time, and often to people that are not as well established as Wiggins or Pitts and can ill afford losing their horses. They also sometimes lose their whole barns in changeovers, just because of one horse.

As to Steve A---the whole family trains and does well. Trust me through breeding or osmosis he would be a good horseman. Unlike some when a horse is claimed from him they don't magically stop running for others as happens with some other trainers. You all know who they are if you follow racing. When REAL SPORTS -HBO- did a hatchet job on drugs in racing of 3 trainers asked for interviews he was the only one that agreed knowing he was going to take fire.

Personally I'd love to see trainers who developed the horses keep them. BUT in business how many people that work for companies for years are cut when a company buys another out? I have a good friend the was the buyer for a small chain of drug stores for 21 yrs lose her job when a big chain bought them. Life is not always fair.

Talk about life and being fair. I cringe when I read about Rene Douglas. Another friend I have just died from urinary complications that happen when a person is in a wheelchair. I knew him since elementary school, went to HS with him, then played hockey with him, some 45 plus years we remained close. He was playing for the Oshawa Generals in Junior A hockey when he was paralyzed at 19. 8 universities had offered him scholarships for football let along the 20 or so for hockey. His future was so bright, and even after his accident he never let it get him down. He ended up teaching at a community college--and ended up losing his job due to monetary cuts, then did whatever to support himself. Enough of that.

I truly hope Rene walks again even if he should never ride. My heart goes out to his family and him.

26 May 2009 4:25 PM
Monica V

Mike Relva,

I always enjoy your posts and most everyone's posts on here but I have to comment on your post to Wanda.  Mr. Jackson bought RA legally and he has the right to do that.  Also, when one pays millions for a horse they also have the right to switch trainers if they want.  This happens all the time.  It's part of racing.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion, no one questions that but buying a horse and changing trainers is nothing new.  Mr. Wiggins knows this and has accepted it.   I feel for him too but I'm sure this has happened to him before, probably not with a horse like RA but it is part of the game.  As for Assmussen taking credit for RA's conditioning, I did not hear anything he said to that regard, only his commending Mr. Wiggins for the great job he did with RA.  I don't believe he said he was responsible for her win through his training.  Wouldn't that be just a tad ridiculous after only having her for a week or so?  

I believe we can all feel the way we want and share our opinions but we all perceive things differently.  I don't see JJ as being a horrible person and his changing trainers has nothing to do with any of us anyway.  We didn't pay any of those millions, he did.  It's his call, not ours but certainly feeling for Wiggins is a normal reaction.  I just don't choose to hold that against Mr. Jackson.  As someone else said on here, probably most of us have never even met these people or know anything about them.  Why are so many so bitter and angry at Mr. Jackson?  I jut don't get it.

26 May 2009 4:57 PM
Monica V

Steve,

I had to comment on your Triple Crown article.  It seems to me that Mr. Lukas has made these statements a few times starting several years ago.  I couldn't believe someone would even think of changing the TC races to make them easier.  It would no longer be a Triple Crown.  Any number of horses could win those races and the horror of it would be they would be compared to Citation, Secretariat, Slew and Affirmed and not even be in the same league as any of them.  If it changes to make it easier then it isn't anything special.  It's ordinary and who would even care if a horse won those races?  Nobody.  It's when the Triple Crown is tough and hard to win that we can open our hearts to the champion who does it and it's part of what makes this sport great.  The challenges.  

I totally agree with you, Steve, and I'm so glad you wrote that article!

26 May 2009 5:15 PM
GunBow

The Triple Crown, as it now stands, should remain. End of story.

However, and not to be argumentative or contradictory, isn't it true that only  3 of the 11 Triple Crown winners captured the 3 races under the format:

10 furlong Kentucky Derby, 2 weeks later

9.5 furlong Preakness, 3 weeks later

12 furlong Belmont

Sir Barton didnt(Preakness 9 furlongs, Belmont 11 furlongs, Preakness 4 days after Derby and Belmont 1 month after Preakness), Gallant Fox didnt(Preakness 8 days before Derby), Omaha didnt(Preakness 1 week after Derby, Belmont 1 month after Preakness), War Admiral didn't(Preakness one week after Derby), Whirlaway didnt(Preakness one week after Derby, Belmont one month after Preakness), Count Fleet didnt(Preakness one week after Derby, Belmont one month after Preakness), Assault didnt(Preakness one week after Derby), and Citation didnt(Belmont 1 month after Preakness).

And, as some have mentioned, geldings were not eligible for the Belmont in the Triple Crown runs of Sir Barton, Count Fleet, Assault, and Citation.  

Additionally, geldings were not eligible for  Gallant Fox's 1930 Preakness.

Thus, the only horses to have won the Triple Crown under the current format have been Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. War Admiral deserves some major credit because he won the Triple Crown with less than a month gap between the Belmont and Preakness and had to face geldings in all 3 races. Additionally, he had only a week between Preakness and Derby, separating himself from the Triple Crown winners of the 70s.

So, to repeat, Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, and Citation either had a month between their Belmont and Preakness and/or did not face geldings in all 3 legs.

Of course, for those that had a month between Belmont and Preakness, they usually only had a week between Preakness and Derby.

26 May 2009 7:42 PM
hmb0725

Steve - Awesomeness, pure awesomeness. I also liked your column in regards to Lukas and the TC.

26 May 2009 8:41 PM
hmb0725

Oops, Not sure if I spelled "Lukas" right.. Anyway, I enjoyed reading! Keep on keeping on...  

26 May 2009 8:45 PM
Karen2

Gunbow you make some excellent points.

Can someone help me out here. Is it true "toe grabs" are no longer allowed??? I thought that was a change made however couldn't help but notice the photo of MTB's half brother and his obvious toe grabs on his back feet. Thanks

27 May 2009 2:32 PM
sweet terchi

LDP, you are who are and it's all good. Plus we all have something to learn, I used to live and breath thoroughbreds until life led me on a adventure away from the sport, and now 20some yrs later here I am right back in. I'm learning a lot from some of these posts. (Some of them).

Gone are the days when a owner would keep a quality horse, it is all $$$. But I will say this, Asmussen did right by Wiggens in acknowledging that it was due to his care that RA is in the form she's in. Now the ball is in his court to keep her that way, which he should be able to do with no problem.

needler in Virginia, comments about TC, 100% in agreement

27 May 2009 3:51 PM
Karen in Indiana

Karen2, they changed the length of the grab and made it shorter. I don't think that's a state regulation. If I remember correctly, last year the Jockey Club made recommendations and then certain tracks took them up. Churchill Downs was one of them. Is that correct, anyone who knows?

27 May 2009 5:18 PM
LDP

Karen2,

    I think they did away with toe grabs on the front feet. I might be wrong, but i'm pretty sure of it.

27 May 2009 7:46 PM
Karen in Texas

If you just search "toe grabs" on the Bloodhorse site, there are several articles over the past year addressing the safety and banning issues. It looks as though NYRA and CDI have banned all but 2mm plates. The Thoroughbred Safety Committee apparently made that same recommendation last June.

27 May 2009 8:18 PM
Ragsy

needler you are so very right, we need the Triple Crown just as it is... Mr. Lucas was wrong and does need a very long vacation... lets wait and get that one special horse that can accomplish the trip....love the horses always....I am not a racing fan, but am learning about the horses and leaning toward becoming a racing fan..

28 May 2009 10:30 AM
Pedigree Shelly

      No Way should the Triple Crown races be shortened!! I remember when Lukas made that comment, He is a great trainer but,if he likes shorter distances he should just stick to Quarter Horses !!!

28 May 2009 10:37 AM
Ragsy

What do you guys and gals have against Rachel Alexandra winning the Preakness, yes, I like Mine That Bird but I knew Rachel would beat him why, just a feeling I had..WE dont need a Triple Crown winner until a horse can win over all competition on the field..

Long live Queen Zenyatta and Princess Rachel.....hope they win them all......

28 May 2009 10:39 AM
Racingfan

Agreed Ragsy!  And glad to hear you are becoming a fan.  Racing is an awesome thing to follow!  Lots of history and great race horses!  

Gunbow:  You are correct that the distances and spacing of the races has not always been what it is now but it has been a long time since it was standardized.  It is true that only the last three triple crown winners won under the current format.  BUT, all previous winners had it even more difficult I would say. Those who had a month between the Preakness and the Belmont:  Sir Barton, Omaha, Whirlaway, Count Fleet and Citation all ran in another race in between (Sir Barton, Omaha & Count Fleet ran in the Withers, Whirlaway ran in the Henry of Navarre Purse and Citation ran in the Jersey Stakes). Gallant Fox, War Admiral and Assault only had 1 week between the Derby and the Preakness and then 3 weeks to the Belmont.  So, I personally think the present spacing it much the best and I hope it is never changed or the accomplishments of these great horses will certainly be diminished. :-)

28 May 2009 8:04 PM
slewofdamascus

Are we far removed from the MTB VS. RA blogosphere melee that followed the mighty gelding's gritty, down-home performances in the early Triple Crown races?

While underatandable, I ask because as understandable as that was, the real debate, already percolating from the depths of the blogosphere, found its tipping point in the Belmont's extra week, typically a slow, beleaguered week, in which breaking news is on the order of: Baffert Introduces, 'Cody's Greatest Hits; The Age of Poddy'......and so on. Ho hum.

But in these unusually robust times, a new story has found big traction, a story befitting the new queen, Rachael. "Z" has entered the builing.

Like any great matchup, it pits one absolute style versus another, one history versus another, one style of ownership versus another; there is nothing whatsoever in common in their stories, if they were people they would either love or hate one another, and we all know "it's a fine line between love and hate", anyway.

But in reality, these two, let's callem RAZ, they are so different that I wonder if it's not a classic case of Apples and Oranges. Take, for example, Forever Together, the overlooked mare (in the great triumvarite), who would not be and has not been compared (competitively) against RAZ, because she is precisely so obviously different. She's a turf horse. A great one. But no one has pined for a matchup with the other two.

The point is, might this be a case of having 3 entirely different girls, with different surface and distance strengths. RA on the dirt - the classic campaign in every respect, a 3yo (of either gender) for the ages. Z on the sythetics -  a California synthetic girl so pumped that they call her "Guv" around the barn, she prefers a shorter stroll over a longer one, as undefeated as the day she was born. And FT on the turf - hall of fame certainty on the grass at the classic distances.

I doubt seriously that any of these three - let's call them FARTZ  - will ever race against one another.

And perhaps that is as it should be?

[ahem]

28 May 2009 9:59 PM
MATT H.

I ENJOYED THE ARTICAL BUT HERE IS MY QUESTION WHY ARE THEY TAKING SO LONG TO MAKE A DECISION ON THE BELMONT I PERSONALLY THINK SHE IS ALREADY IN THE BELMONT AND THAT IS WHY THEY WORKED A HALF MILE IN THE BELMONT BU THEY LIKE TO PLAY HEAD GAMES MAKE PEOPLE THINK THEY ARENT NOT RUNING WHEN THE ACTUALLY HAVE EVERY INTENTION TO DO SO THAT THEY ARE WAIT TILL MONDAY BECAUSE CALVIN DOESNT HAVE THAT MUCH TIME BACK WITH MINE THAT BIRD THEY ONLY HAVE 4DAYS AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN IF THEY PUT RACHEL IN THE RACE THEY HAVE TO FIND A JOCKEY  REALLY QUICK FOR MINE THAT BIRD AND AS TO MY KNOLEDGE THEY HAVENT PUT GOMEZ ON ADN THAT WOULD BE 3 JOCKES ON AND BACK TO RACHEL THE RUN ON MONDAY SHE DID IT 50 SECONDS A FULL SECOND FASTER THAN MINE THAT BIRD BUT YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER WHAT TRACK SHE DID THAT AT CHURCHHILL NOT BELMONT FUTHER MORE IF YOUR RUNNING HER IN A HALF MINE DONT YOU ALREADY KNOW WHERE YOUR GOING THE BELMONT STEAKS IT DONT TAKE A GUINUS TO FIGURE THAT OUT AN HE JUST NEED TO MAKE A DECISION I THINK HE IS GETTING ENJOYMET OUT OF PEOPLE WONERING WHATS GOING ON BECASUE THE BALL IN HIS COURT AN AS FAR AS MINE THAT BIRD THEY HAVE TO WAIT TO SEE WHAT JACKSON IS GOIN TO DO. HORSE RACING IS A MENTAL GAME AS WELL AS PUTTING THE HORSES ON THE TRACK

29 May 2009 11:14 AM
Karen2

Thanks for telling it like it is Steve. I can always depend on you to keep it real. There is no telling why they are holding out on a decision to run RA in the Belmont. Perhaps its as simple as "because they can". They are holding the cards right now and I would say they really enjoy that. Just a guess : )

Slewofdamascus: loved your post. Always interesting to hear these very observant points of view. I also love the name RAZ! To cool!

29 May 2009 2:01 PM
slewofdamascus

Karen, thanks. There are some good, observant posters on this blog.

[then there is draynay] smile

Steve, I read your take on the JJ waiting game. Nice work! You may have influenced the connections, such that they announced their decision, today.

I said earlier I'd be floored if she runs in the Belmont, I won't repeat the reasons, but the reason for waiting to announce the "decision", I think, has to do with a sort of gamesmanship, where they don't want anyone to think that this race was NEVER under consideration (which is what I believe); on the contrary, they want the voters to think this was a tough, drawn out decision, that was touch and go, until finally, they declined to run.

In many ways, it's like poker, not showing your hand, even after you've been victorious (but you'll be happy to lie about what you had).

There was no way, in my mind, that they were going to run her a mile and a half against ANYBODY, 3 weeks after making modern-day history in the Preakness. Just as a practical matter, why undo all the good that comes from making that history, over the Derby winnner, which is how it will be remembered?

This is the race that has befuddled many Derby and preakness winners - especially with fresh, rested warriors ready to fire their best shots.

Chocolate Candy, for example, has been training over the course, and doing everything right by all accounts, and if you can get a price (5-1 or higher) there are a lot of good connections in one's favor, for this Candy Ride is likely to stay the trip, one way or the other.

As for Rachel, this was the best (only) decision that also made great sense. Just as the connections didn't choose to enter the Preakness in a vacuum, they didn't dismiss the Belmont likewise - they laid out a plan, a long-range plan probably, likely before the ink dried on the ownership transfer agreement back in April. Everything else - gamesmanship (a distraction).

Jmo, of course.

29 May 2009 7:22 PM
slewofdamascus

I wanted to add about racing's current Triumvarite, each one can do (or has already done) things on their own particular surface that mark their individual distinction. They don't need to face eachother to prove how great they are, at least imo.

In the case of Forever Together and Rachael Alexandra, they have each  beaten males in highly prestigious races, the Breeder's Cup and Preakness, respectively. Why Zenyatta's connections refuse to even consider facing males - on her best surface (synthetics) - is a bit deflating, frankly, and for me it needs to be addressed in any future discussions of "the all-time greats". I love these connections, so I'm not going to knock them, but I hope they realize what's at stake. And she can do it. I don't quite get it. Maybe their goal is simply to out-pace Personal Ensign?

This is a problem (of legacy) for Z that won't go away until (if) she beats males. Jmo, of course.

29 May 2009 8:20 PM
needler in Virginia

Oh, hell, I'm just glad they finally got off the pot!! While I applaud Borel's faithfulness to the amazing filly, it does seem pretty tacky to keep him up in the air for so long about the Belmont. The Jackson waiting game got to be more about how many times he could yank our chains than "making the final decision" because there MIGHT be something the filly would say today that she did NOT say yesterday! Gamesmanship? Poker? Chess? Chinese Checkers? More like BS and a peeing contest, I think.

So the final announcement is made .... she won't run ....... let's just make sure Mr Borel is wearing the correct silks that day, OK?

Safe trips to all, and cheers.

29 May 2009 11:04 PM
GunBow

Slewofdamascus:

Your analysis of Jess Jackson makes sense. It is possible, however, that he convinced even himself that he was really thinking about running in the Belmont, lol.

Slew, can't quite agree with comparing Forever Together to either Rachel or Zenyatta. Forever Together did not defeat males in the Breeders Cup; she won the BC Filly and Mare Turf. The filly that beat the boys on Breeders Cup day was the European 3 year old, Goldikova, in the Turf Mile. Forever Together is a nice turf mare, but is really average as far as Eclipse winners are concerned; she has a long way to go to be comparable to a female like Flawlessly, one of the very few female turf horses in the Hall of Fame. Forever Together is not really that close to even Possibly Perfect, a 6-time grade 1 winner that, most likely, will never get into the Hall of Fame.

Forever Together won the gr.1 BC Filly and Mare Turf, gr.1 First Lady, and gr.1 Diana, and ran 3rd in the gr.1 Just a Game and gr.2 Canadian. She started this year in good fashion, winning the gr.2 Jenny Wiley.

Slew, my intention is not to be negative. I just take Hall of Fame talk seriously. Forever Together is a nice mare, and is the #1 female turfer in North America right now. However, to be a realistic Hall of Fame threat she most likely needs, at the very least, to repeat last year's record by winning 3 more gr.1 races, and repeating in the Filly and Mare Turf, or defeat males in a gr.1.

In comparison, I believe Rachel and Zenyatta are already on the doorsteps of the Hall of Fame. Rachel might need to win a few more races, but even if she were to never run again, I think Rachel's conncections could make a strong case for the Hall. Zenyatta probably needs to win a few more races, with gr.i races preferable, but would also have a strong case even if she were to never run again. If Forever Together were not to win again, she would have zero chance for the Hall.

I do agree with your larger point. These are 3 wonderful female racehorses, who appear to have a certain degree of speciality. Zenyatta did beat the 07' champion older female, Ginger Punch, on dirt last year, and Rachel is facing a run on synthetics if she is to win the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic. Hopefully, Zenyatta will get a chance to either prove herself on dirt again or compete vs. males, and Rachel will display in the Breeders Cup that she is extremely fast on synthetics too.

30 May 2009 1:31 AM
Kat

Although Jess J prefaced the comment with his negative thoughts about synthetics, he said that IF Rachel goes to Santa Anita for the BCC series, it will in the Classic, not the "Ladies" (unlike Zen's connectios who have stated their goal is the Ladies).  Of course, this is still May. . .

Given the arguments last year that Big Brown needed to "go" to the reigning HOY to meet him, that might seem to indicate that public opinion would be that RA needs to seek out Zenyatta, not vice versa.  Although Zenyatta would certainly up her  credentials to leave CA and race on dirt again.  IMHO, that is the more satisfying solution.

30 May 2009 2:18 PM
slewofdamascus

Gun Bow, I think you make good points, and I obviously got the win against males wrong (sorry), however, I'm a little higher on Forever Together than you are, in that I think she will repeat her performances of last year, probably improve on them. I hope they will take on males, also. I believe she will win you over by the time it's all said and done (this year), let's check back later on this. But you're right, she still has to do it (that's the corner I'll be occupying). And, perhaps, then maybe you'll see the same trumvarite that I do.

Here's a crazy one for you that came to me while I was writing the FT thing, and you may not appreciate its potential because you don't think much of her ability, but if you look at the handicap division (males), it seems to me that a mare like Forever Together would have a real chance in the BC Classic on synthetic, not too different (in nature) than the outcome of last year's edition. I know it sounds crazy, but I'd point Forever Together to the BC Classic.

[I've probably lost all credibility, but that was bound to happen......smile]

Thanks for the feedback.

30 May 2009 9:49 PM
slewofdamascus

Gun Bow, I was wondering if you have an opinion on Brown Bess? If not, that's okay, just curious, she's the first really good turf mare that I got to see up close (out of NoCal).

Who is the top male (American) turfer right now? And what would the public think of FT's chances in a grade 1 that included the top male turfers?

Thanks.

30 May 2009 10:01 PM
GunBow

slewofdamascus:

It's not that I am down on Forever Together. I was writing only on what she has accomplished. Does she have the talent to repeat? I think she does. However, as you said, I need to see her do it before I can place her alongside the upper echelon female turf horses of all time. As her record stands, right now, I would not rate her an exceptional Eclipse winner; I really can't even say she was faster or more accomplished than Gorella, a mare that never won an Eclipse. Of recent Eclipse winning female turfers based in the US, Forever Together, as of today, does not stand out from the likes of Soaring Softly, Perfect Sting, Golden Apples, and Intercontinental. And, I do not think I'm going out on a limb to state that none of these horses will be elected to the Hall of Fame. As I mentioned, Flawlessly is one of the very, very few female turf horses,based in the US, to have been elected to the Hall.

However, if in 6 months we are looking at a Forever Together that has won 6 total grade 1 races, repeated as the Eclipse champion, and either won a second Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf or defeated males in a grade 1, the Hall of Fame would be a very serious possibility.

In my opinion, Possibly Perfect is the second best North American based female turf horse of the last 15 years; she was a 6-time grade 1 winner and the Eclipse champion of 1995. Yet, as I mentioned, I doubt she will ever make it to the Hall of Fame; through 2009, Possibly Perfect has not even made it onto a final ballot(final 3 under consideration for the Hall). However, Possibly Perfect won only one Eclipse, and won only one Beverly D, at the time the biggest race for female turf horses. Forever Together, with 2 Eclipses and 2 Breeders Cups, would be a stronger Hall contender.

One problem when considering Forever Together's chances of getting into the Hall is that female turf horses are an often overlooked division, and have been virtually ignored by Hall of Fame voters. For US-based runners, Flawlessly is the standard for female turfers over the last 15-20 years. Flawlessy was a two-time Eclipse champ(1992, 1993), and was runner-up two other years(1991, 1994). Flawlessy won 9 grade 1 races, including 3 wins in both the Matriarch and Ramona(John Mabee). Unlike top Euro females, including American Hall of Fame members Dahlia and Miesque, Flawlessy did not beat males. Thus, A win in a grade 1 vs. males would really strengthen Forever Together's Hall of Fame resume.  Again, though, she still has to go out and do it.

Slew, dont forget that I did say that Forever Together is a wonderful horse and the clear #1 female turf horse in North America. Just because I think it is premature to put Forever Together in the Hall of Fame right now doesnt mean I do not respect her or think she is anything but a top-level horse. I'm not sure how you inferred from my previous email that I "dont think much of her ability" (I'm not writing with any anger, just a little confused because in my previous post I delibrately added some compliments to make sure I didnt come across as overly critical of Forever Together). Again, I think alot of her ability, but I don't like her chances to get into the Hall of Fame, at least if she were to never win again.

How does Forever Together compare with the males on turf and synthetics? Right now, Einstein is probably considered to be the best older male on both turf and synthetics. While I respect the heck out of Einstein, he doesn't exactly have overwhelming talent, so I think Forever Together would have a chance. In general, the older males on turf, synthetics, and dirt are not an intimidating group. I'm not sure if Forever Together wants 12 furlongs, but from 8 to 10 furlongs, I think Forever Together would have a real chance against the likes of Cowboy Cal, Court Vision, Gio Ponti, and Hyperbaric. However, I would probably rank her behind Einstein and Kip Deville at 9 furlongs on turf, and behind Grand Couterier and Dancing Forever at 10 furlongs(turf). And do not count out other female turf horses like Cocoa Beach, Ventura at a mile, and maybe Rutherienne.

Pointing Forever Together to the BC Classic would be ambitious. Although US older males like Einstein and Well Armed do not strike fear into the heart, what if Europe sends a couple of stars equivalent to Ravens Pass or Henrythenavigator? What if a 3 year old colt like Quality Road returns 100%, or Mine That Bird continues to improve? And what if Rachel and Zenyatta are pointed for the Classic? If a couple of these scenarios occur, I would expect to see Forever Together back in the Filly and Mare Turf.

As for Brown Bess, 1989 was my first year following the sport, and I lived in California, so I was very much a fan of Brown Bess. She was just a pint-sized little thing, but she was a fierce competitor, a female John Henry. And like John, Bess won grade 1s late in life, at ages 7 and 8.

As for Brown Bess' place in history, do I think she was great? No, but she was very, very good. As with Possibly Perfect, Brown Bess is most likely a longshot to make the Hall. Since each year only one contemporary female can be elected to the Hall, voters are more likely to focus on dirt/synthetic stars rather than turfers like Brown Bess, Possibly Perfect, and Forever Together. Thus, in recent voting the finalists for the Hall have been Open Mind, Sky Beauty, Silverbulletday, and Inside Information and not Possibly Perfect or Brown Bess. I think the US-based female turfers are hurt by the belief that the best females turfers are in Europe anyways, and that in comparison to the rest of the world, US-based female dirt horses are superior to the US female turfers(same thing for males, which is why there are so few pure turf runners in the Hall).

31 May 2009 3:14 AM
slewofdamascus

Gun Bow, thanks for the great post.

Sometimes I write without thinking (WWT), I meant her ability as it relates to the BC Classic, I assumed wrongly, didn't mean to put words into your mouth. Sorry about that.

Nice take, in any case. Brown Bess winning the Yellow Ribbon (which I think was the top race at the time?) was a memory that will always stay with me, because of her NoCal association (Jenda), with a trainer I liked at the time.

Jenda, interestingly, was the trainer of a 2yo who got sent to Mullins and flourished, winning the SA Derby, if I recall correctly. Can't recall his name, however. What's memorable about that, for me, was that Mullins made derogatory comments (essentially) about her previous training when asked to explain the turnaround.

It is my belief that it wasn't the difference between Mullin's "extraordinary" training ability and Jenda's lack of the same that accounted for the form reversal. It was Mullins illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs, most likely.

I'm not trying to open a can of worms, I just feel bad for Jenda who never got another decent horse after that. He still toils in the local ranks.

Imo, Mullins should be in jail for illegally altering the outcome of a sporting event (probably about a thousand or so times).

But I digress.

31 May 2009 11:33 PM
helsbelles

What I got from you latest article about training up to the Belmont stakes, is that in this edition of the race we will have a lot of less than fit horses running (similar to Big Brown not being prepared for the 1 1/2 mile challenge last year).  I wonder if I am correct though in my opinion that Mine That Bird will the most fit of the entrants, since he seems to gallop farther and more often on a regular basis.  I wonder if I am right in this?  Also, you mentioned you would have more to say about MTB's gallops, but did not get a chance to.  I am still hoping you can somehow fit in that article about Rachel and her connections winning the Kentucky Oaks, even though circumstances have changed dramatically for her.

01 Jun 2009 3:22 PM
Karen2

Gunbow you are being asked for on the other blog. I can see why you are remaining over here. This seems to be a much better place to be without near the bickering. I have immense respect for those that are open minded to others opinions. Thanks for all the great knowledge you bring to these boards. I am missing For Big Red.

Helsbelles: I am baffled by the training for the Belmont but its not the first time and won't be the last. As long as MTB comes into this race feeling good and fit I believe he will be a major contender. The distance is right up his ally and he just may be far more prepared than some of the others. If this race out plays out for MTB, my guess is he will win it. Charitable Man is a threat.

02 Jun 2009 9:27 AM
Bradgm

Steve, I've been with an ill relative so haven't been reading or posting much. But wanted to take time to say your comments about Rachel and her connections is the most spot on comment I've read.

I'm sort of amazed in the country that loves the little guy and the underdog,even somewhat embraced the filly. Me? It goes back to how I feel about Hal.

The reason people get to bickering on the other blog? Seem to feel free to trash people at will.

By the way Steve, nice article on Wayne. But what else is new, spend most of my time talking to you telling you "Nice article, Great Book, terrific blog"  Just keep it up.

Hopefully I will get back in the swing of things soon and be able to read more and chat.

02 Jun 2009 6:21 PM
helsbelles

Karen2, GunBow smartly stays away from the free-for-all over on the other blog, then comes back with his well-reasoned synopsis of the whole mess (LOL).  Well, no one can say Mine That Bird isn't getting the respect he deserves now;  he is 2-1 on the morning line.

03 Jun 2009 3:38 PM
GunBow

I just posted over on Jason's blog. Here's my basic take on this past week:

For those concerned about the general population's interest in the Belmont, this year's Belmont has received more media attention than any Belmont I can remember(back to 89) that did not involve a horse trying to win a Triple Crown. And to be honest, I think the general media focus on this year's Belmont is very, very close to last year when Big Brown was going for the Triple. While many on this blog have debated the comparative merits of Rachel, Bird, Zenyatta, and Jess Jackson, not enough attention has been paid to the one story that the larger sports media and general population have really latched on to, and that is Borel going for the "Calvin Crown".  Guess who is on David Letterman tonight(Friday June5th)? That's right, Calvin Borel.

There has been alot of discussion the past 3 weeks about the relative abilities of Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra, and which one is a bigger "story" or "draw".  Ultimately, this debate has missed the marked, because the biggest star of this Triple Crown campaign, in the eyes of the larger sports media and general public, has been Calvin Borel. He, more so than Rachel and even Bird', has transcended the sport of horse racing and been embraced by millions of "casual" fans. And in the story of the "Calvin Crown", Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra are not mortal enemies to be argued over, but  are part of a larger story, each having been teamed with Calvin and having given him the opportunity to accomplish his unique Triple.  If Calvin and Bird win the Belmont, the story should not be how Rachel "ruined" Bird's Triple Crown, or how poor a sportsman Jess Jackson is; the story should be how two wonderful racehorses, one a small, longshot gelding with a big heart, the other a brilliant, giant filly with amazing spirit, combined together to help an unheralded but engaging veteran jockey reach the pinnacle of the sport, and national fame.  

06 Jun 2009 12:36 AM
Karen2

Gunbow: Calvin didn't get his jockey triple crown but it doesn't matter. Calvin, MTB and RA have brought more to this industry this year than we could have dreamed. I have considered myself a "lone" avid horse racing fan for many years living up here in the North country among cowboys and quarter horses. But this year has been different. My husband watched the Belmont with me, is reading the book about Secretariat and proclaimed that he is really starting to get in to this horse racing. My nephew called me right after the race today to discuss the heart of MTB and what he witnessed and the toughness he saw in Dunkirk. My brother in law sent the you tube video of MTB winning the derby around to every one of his friends proclaiming the best horse race he has ever seen. My office partners were all aware of the race this weekend and were going to watch to see if the little gelding could pull it off. Furthermore they have all watched Calvin in interviews and on T.V and of course on "Jay Letterman". They love the guy. He is so real and unassuming and all he has ever cared about was riding a horse. None of these people have been horse racing fans in the past. This has been a year I tell you. I have loved every minute of it and will chalk it up as one of my most favorite three year old campaigns ever and the coolest thing about it..there was no triple crown on the line. Just good horse racing. My only regrets this year have been the obvious missing of QR,IWR and for me the Pamplemousse. I now have mad love for a filly and a little gelding from NM. Dunkirk stepped up several notches in my book today and proved his worth. I can go to bed content and happy as all is good in the horse racing world. I would like to hear word on Gabby though as that was a concern to me. Hope you all enjoyed this as much as me. I couldn't wait to get on the board and see what my fellow bloggers had to say........ Wow... can't wait to see more of this little gelding. He has danced the dance and in commanding style. I feel like he has won the crown in his own way.

06 Jun 2009 7:55 PM

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