Countdown to the Cup - Rachel Rocks the Spa

Joan of Arc defeated the English in the Hundred Years' War. The Amazon queen Penthesileia killed hundreds of Greeks in the Trojan War. Zenobia, the Syrian queen, crushed the Roman legion. All three of these powerful and feared female warriors eventually succumbed to male foes.

So far, the same cannot be said of Rachel Alexandra, who has decimated both male and female opponents in routs, has tasted victory on many of the nation's most storied battlefields, and now in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5 has shown she can conquer older males in hand-to-hand combat.

Continue reading this column or feel free to post your comments below. 


Leave a Comment:


Rachel ran a good race.  I think Calvin did a wise thing to put her out on the lead, if her didn't, she would have been boxed in.  Also, this was a pretty fast pace for her to.  I'm very proud of her.  That 24.95 I spent on my "Rachel Alexandra Runs Like a Girl" shirt was worth it.

08 Sep 2009 9:41 PM

There is a lot of talk about how crazy Rachel Alexandra's pace in the Woodward was. But Ghostzapper won the Woodward half a length off a 1:08 and 4 pace, Cigar won it coming from 4 lengths off a 1:09 and 3 pace, Holy Bull won setting a 1:10 and 2 pace, Skip Away won it setting a 1:09 pace, and Bertrando won it setting a 1:09 and 4 pace, just for a few examples. So, I'd say that Rachel's pace wasn't as ridiculously quick as we're led to believe. Not to say she is not a great filly, but best horse since Spectacular Bid, as I've seen stated?  That doesn't appear to be the case, in my opinion.

08 Sep 2009 9:58 PM

What a fabulous article about a 1st rate filly! This article made me feel as if time has stopped briefly and I can bask in the memory of something extraordinary that is Rachel Alexandra. I can't help this what it felt like when Secretariat was racing? How about Seattle Slew or Affirmed? Up until 2003, I was like the person who doesn't watch a team all season and then I'd watch the Superbowl, only in my case it was the Triple Crown races. I had no idea of what came before or after those races. Then Funny Cide came along and grabbed ahold of me never to relinquish that grasp. How grateful I am to him for that! Each year I've seen some very, very good horses and I remember them with great affection. However, this is the first time I've witnessed Greatness and I feel so lucky to have a chance to see it if just once in my lifetime. This article is going into my scrapbook along with a photo of this sensational filly. Thanks, Steve, for such an eloquent article that allows me to savor the moment over and over again.

08 Sep 2009 10:02 PM

Thank you for a great write up on a Great filly!

08 Sep 2009 10:07 PM

"well talk is cheap" but today she proved she is the best filly of all times on the track> Where debates or settled.  long live Rachel

08 Sep 2009 10:10 PM
Hialeah Ray

Rachel Alexandra has given good reason to consider her Horse of the Year.  She hasn't ducked anyone, by running at seven different tracks, and beating males and females, of all ages.  This is great for Horse Racing. Wouldn't it be great to have Rachel and Zenyata run against each other?  We can only hope this will happen one day soon.

08 Sep 2009 10:15 PM

Rachel's not going to the Breeders Cup.  Don't you think has given enough space to Rachel-praising without wasting space that is supposed to be about the Breeders Cup?  The title of this article is "Countdown to the Cup".  Are you conceding the whole 2009 season and are we now counting down to the 2010 Cup on the assumption that maybe she'll be there?

Rachel deserves all the praise she is getting - give her her own darn page or something if you want - but when you say an article is about the Breeders Cup...can you PLEASE make it about the Breeders Cup?

Thank you

08 Sep 2009 10:17 PM

Steve, as always, you have managed to capture in print what so many of us feel in our hearts, that we are privileged to be able to witness this truly great filly. I, too, have sat and watched this race over and over, and each time her courage and will to win have brought tears to my eyes. My deepest thanks to Jess Jackson and all connected with Rachel for keeping her healthy and allowing her to race "outside the box" and prove she is the greatest filly of all time.

08 Sep 2009 10:18 PM
Greg J.

     Well Written Mr. Haskin!  I made the drive up from Connecticut to witness history being made, and Rachel didn't disappoint!  In all my years going to various races and tracks, Nothing compares(Not even close) to what I felt being right there seeing the pure joy and happiness in that Winner's Circle after Rachel Won!  The electricity was building from the first moment I walked into the Spa, Words cannot describe that feeling as the day progressed, with each race came the feeling that you knew you were that much closer to witnessing one of the greats of all time.  I am not one to toss that phrase around lightly, Rachel IS one of the all time greats!  Thank You Mr. Jackson, Mr. Asmussen, Mr. Wiggins, Mr. Borel, And Rachel Alexandra, For allowing me the chance to witness history...Bravo!

Mr. Haskin, I don't know if you caught this, Here is "Sam the Bugler" before the Woodward, Paying tribute to Rachel:

My pictures of Rachel in Winner's Circle:

Video of The Stretch Run of the Woodward(Shows the incredible excitement of the crowd!, Turn the volume down!):

08 Sep 2009 10:22 PM
belles forever

beautiful just beautiful.

08 Sep 2009 10:22 PM

A pleasure to read Steve!!!

Also seen you at facebook. Great!!!

I'm glad you did not exclude to mention the 21 hits.

I'd really love to know what jockey Borel has to say about that.

I'm in Argentina, saw the race on video, and was shocked when I saw Rachel being hit so many times.

A horrible sight. With any horse I feel it's a terrible thing to do, but with this beloved champion, one of the best of all times... and a Lady... Shocking!!!

And the industry expects new fans on this sport to watch... that?

08 Sep 2009 10:25 PM

It really sucks that ESPN didn't televise this race, many fans were robbed of watching her.

08 Sep 2009 10:29 PM

Such a lovely article. The words felt like I was there, too. I saw the race at my local otb but the article is a fitting tribute to a great filly. Also, on another note, has there ever a time when there was a co-horse of the year? Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta for the title! I am a fan of both.

08 Sep 2009 10:34 PM

I feel so privileged to have seen this race in have been in the midst of the deafening cheers. "Rachel, hold on Rachel!!" It was amazing! My 8-year old son got to see it with me, and I know he will never forget it seeing the greatness that was Rachel Alexandra. Thanks to Jess Jackson for his courage in putting her season on the line. He is single-handedly bringing back the true sportsmanship of racing.

08 Sep 2009 10:35 PM

I think we're all in a daze over this magnificent filly. It seems to me that it's escaped everyone's attention, statistically speaking, that Rachel won one leg of the filly Triple Tiara along with one leg of the colts' American Triple Crown. That in itself is an achievement that won't be duplicated any time soon and probably never again in my lifetime.

08 Sep 2009 10:40 PM

Great perspective!  It sure was fun to watch.  When I saw Macho Again coming up I thought it was over, then she decided to show her heart!  I hope she comes out of this in top shape, or noticeably tired to make the next decision quick and easy.  Again, great description!

08 Sep 2009 10:45 PM

Good column, just leave Calvin alone(the whip thing).  

08 Sep 2009 10:48 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Mr. Haskin, I really enjoyed reading this piece.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to personally witness this race...and on my birthday.  What a present!

By the way, it was an honor to briefly meet with you after the ceremony for Commentator on Sunday.  

I really appreciate all of your writing as well as your assistance with my research earlier this year.

Take care,

Fahad Malaikah

08 Sep 2009 10:50 PM

Great piece, Steve. My palms started sweating again, halfway through it.

Three days later, still...magic

08 Sep 2009 10:54 PM
jaw jacker

Great article.  After I watched her win the Wooodward, I just kept replaying it in my mind sort of in disbelief of what I'd just seen.  So many challenges and she bested them all. What a great gift this filly is and what a privelage it is for all of us to witness something great right before our very eyes.

08 Sep 2009 11:08 PM

Hey Steve, Diamond Jim and Laura here to wish you and everyone on your team, but mainly your charge Rachel Alexandra who'd thrilled us all out here watching from TV land. Brilliant is just the correct word, and so would be Awesome, amazing, unworldly, spectacular, fabulous, incredible, unbelievable, super, beyond any appropriate description I can think of to top these. We'd like to say thanks to you, and to Mr. Jackson for presenting Rachel Alexandra to those of us with big dreams! We're grateful to have witnessed this victory, and hope to be around next year for the return of Rachel Alexandra, the fily for the ages! Bless you all, and keep 'em all safe!! We miss the coffee too! You is da man!

Best in 2010!  

James (Diamond Jim) Brooks, & Laura J. Hearn

08 Sep 2009 11:10 PM
Emily W


08 Sep 2009 11:15 PM
Summer Bird is king, Rachel is queen

Just keep her to a mile and an eighth and don't ever let her run against Gone Astray.  1:48.27 at Philadelphia Park has to be like 1:47.27 at Saratoga.  Since Rachael ran a 1:48.29 at Saratoga, she is clearly 5 lengths slower.  Of course there's the 8 pounds she didn't have to carry. If Summer Bird wasn't knee deep in the mud on the rail during the Haskell, she'd already have been soundly beaten.

08 Sep 2009 11:19 PM
Matthew W

Steve it was not in the desperate last stride that had "just enough" to hold off a (fortunate) Macho Again....No, Steve, it was at the head of the stretch, when appearing from behind that rail curtain, splitting the seam in perfect stride, was The Whitney Winner, Bullsbay, and it was there where it was ON...and she gave it her all and DISPOSED .....of......THAT ONE.....Then she just laid it all out there under an angry whip....ANYTHING less than her all wouldn't have won it....which is also why she's the only one (filly) to have won the Woodward....

08 Sep 2009 11:26 PM
Abbie Knowles

A wonderful, wonderful piece of writing about a truly great filly and an incredible race!  Rachel was so very courageous and just would not be beaten. Very moving to watch.  Great to know just how much she is loved by those around her and by the racing world.

But no horse should be whipped like that.  She was giving her all!  i know there are no whip rules in the US but there should be if that sort of beating is allowed!  Am glad that it would not be allowed to go unpunished in the UK; in fact it would probably have caused a wave of protest!  I know a number of people over here who were appalled at seeing such a brave and wonderful filly hit so much!  I believe she would still have won if she had been pushed out hands and heels more or if the whip had been used a LOT more sparingly!  Rachel wants to win.  She does not need bullying into doing so!  You would never have seen Steve's brother Cash ride a horse like that!

But Rachel was everything that could have been hoped for and in showing such raw courage she won even greater affection and admiration!  A filly for the ages indeed!

God Bless

Best Wishes


08 Sep 2009 11:30 PM

I was lucky to watch Rachel walk over to the Paddock.  And yes, I was really nervous when she took the lead going into the 1st turn.  I was even more nervous as she was still in the lead as she rounded the corner for home.  I was in the grandstand with all the rest of the crowd that was screaming and yes everyone I came with was crying as she crossed the finish line.

Rachel deserves a rest and I hope she is done for this year.  I would be real upset if she ran again this year and got hurt.  It would really turn me off to horseracing.  

Being able to see her in person is something I will never forget.  I'm glad I purchased a painting of her while at Saratoga on Saturday.

08 Sep 2009 11:31 PM

What a gritty performance!

I would have liked to see Rachel try her luck against Einstein, Col. John, etc. at Del Mar.  

There might still be one or two horses (not colts)in the US that are better than Queen Rachel.

Hope Zenyatta swings over for a showdown, or Rachel takes on Europes heavy hitters for a chance at "world's best".

08 Sep 2009 11:31 PM
Mary in VT

EXCEPTIONAL article, Steve. You nailed it. Thank you for that. And you know I will tell you and everyone else including the janitorial staff all about it if I think you have slighted her in any little way. <g>

I am an Evangelist, and though I just don't get to the track as often as I would like to, I made it for Curlin's Woodward, Rachel's Haskell, and was at the front gate of Saratoga Race Course by 4 AM so that I could be absolutely certain that there would be no one and nothing but a rail between me and Rachel Alexandra. Whether I can physically go see her races or not, she will never race a step without my prayers lifting her up to God for safety.

Godspeed Rachel.

08 Sep 2009 11:41 PM

All the hype, all the heroism, all the wonder that is this horse you have captured perfectly here.

What more can be said?  The horse, and the article: one for the ages.

08 Sep 2009 11:49 PM

Brilliantly written. You captured the feelings I had after watching the race on TV knowing I just witnessed history. She's an incredible athlete, the campaign she's run this year has been a joy to watch. Ruffian is etched in peoples minds for many reasons, but the accomplishments of Rachel this year have catapulted her into the upper echelons of fillies.

08 Sep 2009 11:53 PM
Va Horseman

Beautifully written and a pleasure to read. It is such a pleasure to be able to watch such a magnificent animal perform. I am not one of the people who compare her to the greats from the past, that's impossible because they can never face each other on the track. She is one of the true greats and has earned her place among them. it's such a shame that so many people are seeing the show, but missing the message.

08 Sep 2009 11:53 PM

Rachel made our hearts sing!

What a wonder Woman!

Write about her every day!

08 Sep 2009 11:54 PM

"It was that bravery that had her trainer, Steve Asmussen, weeping in his wife Julie’s arms, as he buried his head in her embrace."

Aw, shoot.

When I covered the opening of Retama, I interviewed Steve for a story, and he was as nice as any one person can be. I know he has a lot of knocks for drug positives and all, but you sure did humanize him and I can't help but  be happy for him.

09 Sep 2009 12:02 AM

I was just a young child when Ruffian ran, and always regretted not seeing her.  RA is this generation's Ruffian, likely better even.  I feel priveleged to see this phenominal gal, and I tell my children to remember this one, because it will be a very long time before her equal is seen again.  

Hope to see her in a 4yo campaign too.  Til then, hope she gets a well deserved vacation and comes back sound and healthy next year.

Thanks for the thrills and memories Rachel!

09 Sep 2009 12:11 AM

Steve, you have so beautifully captured the many details of this very challenging race...the details that demonstrate her rare and awesome talent.  Any doubters now clearly just want to doubt!!  What a complete privilege to be alive and to witness such greatness!! My hope is that they really do let Rachel take the time for a good rest. She has earned it!

09 Sep 2009 12:27 AM
Judy From Burbank

Steve ~ I have tears in my eyes! I felt the electricity while reading...

She's beautiful - beautiful inside and out.

Thank God I've had the pleasure of watching her while she makes history. I hope I can see her in person one day!!

Steve, thank you for sharing.

09 Sep 2009 12:33 AM

don't see how anyone could still possiable doubt her

09 Sep 2009 12:45 AM

Absolutely great column! I felt like I was there. I hope they do rest her until next year. I do not want to see her run in the Beldame no matter what other horse will or will not be there. It's too soon and her welfare comes first. She's earned the right to kick off her shoes. God willing, we'll get to enjoy her next year.

Thanks Jackson!

09 Sep 2009 12:50 AM

I've been remiss as I clearly see now, as I'd totally left a very important comment I'd had for the very one responsible for this very nice article,.... I apologize Steve Haskin!! You did an awesome job in recounting this years Woodward. I just expect more from you I suppose and you haven't failed to deliver!! Thank you for pouring it out from your heart! This one had that extra ummmph! Just as Rachel Alexandra had to hold off her rivals in the Wood. Thank You Thank You! You're the leader for this reader! Smiles,.. lj

09 Sep 2009 12:54 AM

Thank you so much Steve for this wonderful article. As always, you write with a strong sense of the moment, and allow the reader to feel as if he or she were there. Additionally, your command of racing's past gives you the ability to place the moment in historical context. And the quotes, particularly the one from John Nerud, were profound.

Just to warn you, there are still a surprising(to me) number of people who remain unconvinced in regards to Rachel's greatness or her place among the immortals.  Some will probably comment on this article. Let's just say, however, that your opinion carries a "little" more weight.

09 Sep 2009 1:22 AM


Rachel Alexandra is indeed the epitome of racing greatness.  We may have differing opinions of her exact spot in the hierarchy of the greatest equine atheletes to run on dirt or "look through a bridle" but there should be no doubt that she has earned her exalted position at the summit of the 3YO filly's mountain.    

Seeing Rachel run is a privilege and every genuine fan of Thoroughbred racing should be thankful for such a talented horse and her enterprising connections.  Respect is due to them (although I disagree with them "dissing"

the Breeder's Cup at Santa Anita this year).  

Her jockey Calvin Borel has also been brilliant and should not be castigated for his use of the whip in the Woodward, bearing in mind his record of seldom use of it in all her previous races.  IMO he is a very decisive jockey with a keen sense of timing, pace and racing space.  He has piloted Rachel with excellence, giving her copy-book rides whether from in front or from "sitting in the cat-bird seat" and she has clearly responded very well to his skillful handling.  Kudos to him.

I'm almost ashamed to say it but I feel like the Charles Dickens' character Oliver Twist (the boy who asked for more).  If it is at all possible, if there is one more jaw-dropping performance in Rachel's legs for this year 2009, let her strut her stuff one more time ...just once more ... in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in October.  A win there puts her over the moon (forget about seeing the stars), negating any need for a 4YO campaign, except to conquer the Euros across the pond on turf.  If not we shall be gratefull nevertheless for her outstanding performances and the excitement that they have generated in the game.  

At this point HOTY looks to be a mere formality and her only worthy rival as a nominee should be all conquering Euro, Sea The Stars (if he makes a successful appearance in the Breeder's Cup Classic).

Thanks again for another great column Steve.

09 Sep 2009 1:31 AM

This article is so good it is almost ( but not quite ) as spectacular as Rachel's race !

This is written in a style that made me feel as if I was there, and I also learned several more things that haven't been in other pieces , so thank you, and I can see why you are the best sportswriter in the business today in my opinion. This is a work of art.

09 Sep 2009 2:37 AM

WOW - I watched this race at home and now my neighbors are sure I'm crazy as I was yelling and jumping up and down with the doors and windows open. To see the raw power of this filly as she flys down the stretch - unbelievable. It's been over 35 years since I have seen anything like her and none have stood this close to Secretariat.

09 Sep 2009 3:37 AM
An Italian fan

This filly is amazing, a real treasure, not only for American racing, but for all us horse racing lovers.

I just hope she will be now put away for the year. The Woodward was a very hard race and she has competed and won in five straight graded 1 races.

In 1994 Holy Bull concluded his season with a triumph in the Woodward and was voted champion on HOY without running in the Breeders' Cup. I hope RA's connection will remember Jimmy Croll's words and "not squeeze the lemon dry".

As far as I'm concerned, RA is the HOY.

How couldn't she be? The list of her accomplishments/records in 2009 is so long I don't see how any of the other horses running this year could best it.

Zenyatta might complete her career unbeaten, but what does it really mean if she was keeps running in a division where she has not opponents?

She isn't Personal Ensign, who beat the males in the Whitney. She isn't RA, who has been tested time and again out of her division and won.

Zenyatta has been kept in her little pond...they didn't even dare to run her in the Pacific Classic, on a track/surface she likes!

I believe RA has nothing more to prove, while Zenyatta...well she still has. A lot.

I might also point out that RA has won 5 graded 1 in one year against Zenyatta's (current) 6 in two years...

So thank you for the emotions, Rachel Alexandra...I hope you'll give me much more next year!

09 Sep 2009 6:12 AM

Steve - remarkable. you capture the essence of the sport better than anyone I've read. You should be the mouthpiece of Thoroughbred racing.

09 Sep 2009 6:14 AM
Kate C.

Wonderful... What a race, what a great recap (with plenty of your signature behind-the-scenes moments... Love them - thank you!).

Rachel had to work to steal my heart because I loved Vertigineux and am absolutely ga-ga for Zenytatta... But Rachel is absolutely divine... So brilliant and game.... So rare and special.

I hope they do put her away for the year. She has proven everything - more - and Zenyatta does not need to add her name to Rachel's formidable list of vanquished foes. Hopefully we can just appreciate both of these special gals for who they are. Zenyatta can yank the spotlight back for her farewell Breeders' Cup to cap off an unforgettable year of racing... And we can look forward to a scintillating 2010 with Rachel!

Thanks Mr. Haskin - I really enjoyed that!!!

09 Sep 2009 6:41 AM

This is a great piece of writing about a great horse and a great race.  Well done!!

09 Sep 2009 6:51 AM

She is an amazing creature whose beauty and strengths have captured the attention of racing fans. The anticipation of her victory has brought joy into the hearts of many.  I pray her well being is the first condideration in all her future plans.

09 Sep 2009 7:10 AM

I was at Saratoga on Sat.;  your article summed up very well a fantastic and yes indeed, an emotional day. It ranked up there with four other very memorable days I spent at the race track; on those days I saw three horses win the Triple Crown and Forego win the Marlboro Cup.  

09 Sep 2009 7:30 AM

WHO CARES. stick a fork in ra she is done.

 Lets start talking about horses that will still be running, like big Z in the cup classic with sea the stars and others, now that is a race to stay home and watch.

09 Sep 2009 7:44 AM

While there can be no argument over the superlatives that go to Rachel Alexandra, and rightly so, the fact remains she has not won at the classic distances, and for a horse to be truly great, I feel they have to win beyond a mile and an eighth.  Had the Preakness been at a mile and a quarter, Mine That Bird would have beaten her,  the same for Macho Again in the Whitney.  I know this-at a mile and a quarter, are you still sure RA would beat Zenyatta?

09 Sep 2009 7:46 AM

It's a shame that Jackson won't run Rachel Alexandra in the Breeders' Cup.  Methinks the "sportsman" is a "chickenman".

I doubt she'll ever hit the track again unless it's a goodbye parade.

 Jackson, et al didn't develop her, they bought her.  He knows that and will have to prove to himself that he can "create" a racehorse instead of buying one. She'll be in foal to Curlin asap.

09 Sep 2009 7:48 AM
dave york

She is simply the greatest ever.  There has never been a 3 year old filly in the history of thoroughbred racing that is the equal of Rachel Alexandra, NEVER!

Dave York

09 Sep 2009 7:51 AM

Eloquently written as always Steve.  

I was there and will never, ever forget what the experience was like and the incredible feeling.  The wall of noise and emotion even trumped the feeling when Smarty Jones turned into the Stretch for the Belmont.  Unlike that day, though, the cheers grew even louder after the finish line instead of going to stunned silence, although I will admit I was standing there in silence just marveling at what I just saw.

A truly historic performance that I hope makes everyone realize what a truly great sport this is!!!

09 Sep 2009 7:55 AM
Neil Brown

I could not agree more with the article.  We could not hear Tom Durkin's call of the race as 31,000 plus fans were screaming for Rachel.  After the race I went down to the path from the Winner's circle to the jockey's room and as Mr. Jackson came by I said "Mr. Jackson, thank you".  And being the true gentleman he is he turned and replied "your welcome".  How fortunate racing is to have someone like Mr. Jackson willing to lay it on the line and give all of us an oppertunity to witness the greatest race I have ever seen. Again I will say,thank you Mr. Jackson.

09 Sep 2009 7:57 AM

Wow, Steve!  I wasn't there on Saturday, but reading your words put me there.  Rachel is just what everyone needs right now--to have such a special three year old, and then for her to be a filly is just the cherry on top!  Great article!

09 Sep 2009 7:59 AM
Don from Delaware

Thanks for the wonderful written words, a fitting tribute to RA the greatest..wish I was there too but had read that in post parade she bucked with, guess who? Macho Uno passed her, if that is true she truly is special in other ways, she knew who she had to beat and didn't even want to passed in before the race by that big bad boy

09 Sep 2009 8:04 AM

HOY, case closed.

The Breeders Cup will be anti-climatic compared to what this filly has done. If they had run the Breeders Cup races on dirt and not the fake crap maybe they would have taken a different direction to get RA there. I hope this is a lesson learned. It's an awful shame we won't be seeing biggest thing to come along in horse racing in maybe our lifetime not run on racings biggest day because of a failed expierement on plastic.

Guess we'll have to wait until next year and hope she comes back bigger and better than ever. Gulfstream Park here I come.

09 Sep 2009 8:08 AM

Thanks for another great read Steve.  I was lucky enough to see her race at Monmouth in the Haskell.  Wherever she runs she does the best she can, it's exhilarating!

09 Sep 2009 8:12 AM
stanley marcinkowski, Plowville, Pa

Rachel Alexandra vs Ruffian.  John Nerud who trained my favorite horse of all time Dr Fager picks RA. For the entire package I would pick Ruffian, no question, 100 % sure. Ruffian is from 8-c branch which has become #1 branch in producing quality stallions. This is VERY hard to do. Everybody would love a horse from La Troienne{1-s}which has 1,000 stakes winners under her-unheard of,yet she is just so-so- maybe a failure as far as sire power. As far as I am concerned the 8-c branch has developed into the #1 sire power branch without Ruffian. How much more superior would it be  had she produced!!! Is RA better than Ruffian-maybe-but NEVER as the whole package-NEVER. The breeding industry does not understand what it lost on July 6, 1975

09 Sep 2009 8:17 AM



09 Sep 2009 8:21 AM

After having watched Secretariat race at Arlington Park in 1973 and watching Ruffian in the Mother Goose in 1975. I have to say that Rachel is the best filly I have ever seen race. She is brilliant and her owners deserve a KUDOS for giving all of us a chance to watch history being made so, Thank You from your racing fan public.

09 Sep 2009 8:22 AM
great sentiment and inside information

Thank you for recapturing the race in such detail. Although we were there ,your description really helps remembering. We always go to the Belmont and have witnessed the failed efforts of the triple crown contenders. Rachel gave us a "triple crown" victory feeling!!

09 Sep 2009 8:37 AM
rich loughrey

Thanks for the really touching column.

09 Sep 2009 8:44 AM

Thank you, Steve! Best reading I've seen so far of it.

And thank you, Mr. Jackson -- for Rachel and Curlin before her! You've been great for the sport and I feel privileged to be able to experience it with her in it!

09 Sep 2009 8:47 AM

Steve--thanks for such a wonderfully descriptive article that helped those of us not lucky enough to be at Saratoga experience that wonderful day.

09 Sep 2009 8:48 AM

Great Article! I wish I was there

09 Sep 2009 8:50 AM

If you don't win an award for this, someone has their head on backwards.   Absolutely the finest article on not only Rachel but the entire momentous occasion.

Rachel is a gift and so was this article, well done.

09 Sep 2009 9:01 AM

Thank you, Steve, for your incredible storytelling, behind the scenes, indepth coverage of the events and emotion, you had me eagerly reading each word with anticipation.  No one else can write like you, just like no one else at this point can win  our hearts like Rachel Alexandra has done this year.  Amazing!

09 Sep 2009 9:06 AM
Emily C.

Steve, Thanks for allowing me to re-live this moment as if I were actually at the races instead of watching/cheering from home. You managed to bring me chills and tears again. What LIFE this filly brings to so many fans and spectators!

09 Sep 2009 9:09 AM
Bill Daly

Great column!  Now, the people who weren't around to savor the greatness of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed or Spectacular Bid understand what it is to witness an immortal runner.  She is truly one for the ages. There is nothing more I can say.  There is no such thing as hyperbole when it comes to this horse.  Simply amazing.

09 Sep 2009 9:10 AM
Lupe Aranda

AWESOME retelling of an AWESOME feat!  Thank you Mr. Haskin, I was waiting for your article!!!  Such an awesome horse as Rachel Alexandra and her STAND needed to be captured RIGHTLY and you did it!


09 Sep 2009 9:21 AM
Joanne Kraft

Rachel Alexandra has come along in my lifetime and I am grateful to have witnessed her Preakness.  But the Woodward - words are inadequate.  What she has accomplished this year will not be duplicated.  She is all alone - and we look up to her with thanks and gratitude.  

09 Sep 2009 9:35 AM


I am thinking you have some material for your next book.  This one needs to be written.  A riveting tale....i was hanging on every word....and I watched the race and all the lead up...



09 Sep 2009 9:37 AM
Rachel Alexandra Dad

Starting with the Martha Washington this year I have enjoyed wathing the BEST race horse I've seen, bar none. She caught my attention because I am the proud father of two beautiful daughters. Rachel, my college freshman and Alexandra, my high school sophmore. There will always be a part of my heart for this super GIRL horse!!!!!  

09 Sep 2009 9:42 AM

You did it again Steve!  This is a great piece of writing, I absolutely loved it!  A fitting tribute to a magnificent horse.

09 Sep 2009 9:49 AM

So often a horse's greatness isnt perceived until years after the events.  It seems horses look greater the further back in time they are.  Rachel has achieved greatness in our time. I dare say we will never see a filly with the resume she has put together this year, ever again. We are so fortunate to have been able to witness this firsthand.

09 Sep 2009 10:05 AM
John Benjamin

Thank you Steve.

RA is no longer only a god in Egypt. Now RA is a goddess in America.

09 Sep 2009 10:10 AM

Beautiful, Steve. Just Beautiful.

This article is proof of your passion. Thanks a million

09 Sep 2009 10:12 AM

Wonderfully written story - reminds me of William Nack recreating Secretariat's races - the next best thing to being there.

09 Sep 2009 10:16 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you all very much for your extremely kind words. They really mean a lot.

As far as the heading, it's funny, because I tried to have two heads -- one being Countdown to the Cup for the BC page and Woodward Recap for the Racing page, but they can only have one head per story. So, let's just say, there were other horses in the race who could show up in the Classic. Also, I will be writing about the rest of last weekend's stakes later in the week. I just felt Rachel deserved her own column.

Thank you again.

Fahad, it was nice meeting you. I'm sorry we couldnt have talked more, but it was pretty hectic out there.

09 Sep 2009 10:21 AM
Bill Daly

Citation is comparing Woodwards run at different tracks. The Woodwards run by Ghostzapper, Skip Away etc. were run at Belmont - a track which can produce supersonic splits in the fall of the year. You will never see those kind of fractions in a mile-and-an-eighth race at the Spa.  Different surface and configuration.  I sincerely doubt whether you would have seen the same splits had those horses run their Woodwards at the Spa.  That was a testing pace Saturday - maybe not the fastest ever run at the Spa at the distance, but testing enough.  For her to survive the buzzsaw early on and still have enough left to hold off the challenges of Bullsbay and Macho Again is an experience which you won't see every day.

09 Sep 2009 10:21 AM

There aren't enough words, especially adjectives, to describe the talent and heart of this filly. She's the best ever hands down because she has accomplished so much more than thoes that preceded her.

While I'm not crazy about all that Mr. Jackson doesracing owes him a large thank you. If he didn't purchase her we would never have seen or experioenced all she has given us. Her former owners were sternly against racing against boys so we would have always "wondered what could or might have been'.

Racing can learn a few lessons from Mr. Jackson. He understands the fans, and gamblers, ultimately determine the fate of the industry. Obviously the owners and breeders "risk" or invest the money, but the game is dead without the fans and gamblers.

It's the same in all sports. The Rooney family owns the Steelers, but what would that franchise be without the immensley loyal fans ?  Mr. Jackson understands this and it ruffles lots of feathers amongst the "old guard".For those of us interested in and that love racing know its in trouble. Look what Rachel, thanks to team Jackson, has afforded us.. probably something we will never see again. We got to see Curlin run as a 4 year old. These athletes have far too short of a career and go to the "shed" so that thier owners or syndicates can stuff their pockets . The economics make it hard, but racign needs "investors" that are in it for the long term but that are willing to recognize how to attract fans. The Steelers, The Patriots, The Red Sox and ultimately racing have to understand that their loyal fan base require putting a good product on the feild/track and the economics will work out not the other way around. Mr. Jackson has "put up" and given the fans the type of product they will support. Good for him that he doesn't want to run in the BC because its on synthetics. It's his perogative and yet he has provided more to and for racingin the last 4 months with RA than it will derive from the 2 days of the BC. give the fans what they want tand they "will come". thank you Rachel for showing the world how it could and should be doen.

P.S. congratualtions too to Dallas Stewart and Graham Motionfor runnign their race in an attempt to win instead of trying to see Rachel lose !

09 Sep 2009 10:23 AM


If it were not for the Jacksons, we would have never known how good Rachel was. you've forgotten their previous owners had no intention of running her against males. The Jacksons not only shelled out $10 mill, but they also ran her against the boys in the Preakness with two-weeks rest.

Not content with that, they've run her against males not twice, but three times...that's three times more than Zenyatta's connections

All of them in G1-company, and against older males. Didn't you read Steve's article? NO 3-year old FILLY had ever defeated older horses.

If there is no showdown between RA & Zenyatta, blame the Mosses. Andrew Beyer wrote that "Jackson has been the consummate sportsman in his management of Rachel Alexandra, picking tough spots such as the Woodward so that the filly can show how good she is. And it would be extraordinarily sporting for him to risk Horse of the Year honors in the Beldame. Meanwhile, Moss and Shirreffs have so far avoided any serious challenges this season for their mare. They have avoided racing against males. They have acted as if their main goal is not to lose and not to jeopardize the mare's perfect record. If that was their aim, they could have retired her last season. But if they are in this game because they like the excitement of the sport, how could they resist a showdown with Rachel Alexandra?"

09 Sep 2009 10:30 AM

This was the best write up about Rachel.  It showed the emotions. I too cried when she won.  May God bless all of you and Rachel Alexandra!  Calvin is and was the best match for Rachel. I'm glad for Calvin, for being able to live his dreams!  My hero!

09 Sep 2009 10:47 AM

Rachel will always be the Greatest Filly of all time, she was a blessing from God to us all who love the sport.  Reading this article made tears come and go.  They should make a Movie about her nameing it The Filly That Came From Heaven.

09 Sep 2009 11:16 AM

Mr.Steve Haskin:

AWESOME STORY.....what a joy it is to read your articles....  


09 Sep 2009 11:19 AM

great race from a champion!now mr jackson could u please think about racing against the great zenyatta! if u got the best filly , what r u scared of?prove it on the track!ever heard of da breeders cup?that's where champions show up!don't be scare, prove it!

09 Sep 2009 11:19 AM

I wanted to comment on Calvin Borel and the remarks about him whipping Rachel. I was stunned to see him hit her so many times, and I usually abhore the over use of the whip.  Yet, it has been so crystal clear how deeply Calvin and Rachel are connected, and how much he loves this horse!!  I heard from a friend that when she spooked, pre-race, and Calvin jumped off, he stood right in front of her, she lowered her head to Calvin's, he eyeballed her and said a few words, and she settled immediately.  There is something between them that everyday logic and explanation defies.  I'm just going to trust that Calvin knew what he was doing and why, and that he would never sacrifice any of her spirit to win the race.

09 Sep 2009 11:20 AM

Great Race Great article. Wonderful Filly. I  know she will get a good rest and who knows what she will do next. Still Love Ruffian and always will she was a splendid filly with Class and Heart. Rachel showed Heart saturday . I Cant wait to see what kind of Babies she will have!

09 Sep 2009 11:25 AM


It reads like a juicy novel yet all the facts were accurate!!!

Rachel Alexandra is intoxicating to behold. It is a privelege to be alive and witness all her accomplishments!!

09 Sep 2009 11:37 AM
Grade 1

she is a filly for the ages. Its to bad the male competition is so weak. Some of the colts of yesteryear would have broke her heart. This present crop is very bleak.

09 Sep 2009 11:38 AM


You have such a gift of transporting us to that race and letting us feel the excitement and the emotion of the connections and everyone else there.  It was almost as good as being there.  Thand you very much.

As you can see, there are the people who just can't give this filly her due.  Summer Bird would have beaten her if he hadn't been in the mud...right.  She beat him by six lengths.  She was in the mud too.  She didn't run it as fast as several other horses who ran the race at Belmont.  Sorry, different tracks play differently.

This horse has been the best thing for racing this year.  She has people excited.  Zenyatta is wonderful but she has only raced 3 times this year.  She hasn't done what Rachel has done this year.  Who knows who would beat who and does it really matter?  It won't happen.  They have their own place in history.  Why belittle one over the other?  Doesn't make sense.  Be happy to have witnessed both of them.

09 Sep 2009 11:40 AM

While there is no doubt about the greatness of RA's accomplishments the fact of the matter is they were not accomplished at classic distances. For a three year old filly to do all this is remarkable and maybe one of the colts she beat in the Woodward will uphold her form later in the championship races at SA lets not determine HOY yet.

Why don't the stewards look at abusive whipping? Borel should face suspension for accesive use of the whip and until something is done about it we will never be raised to a world level in horse racing.

09 Sep 2009 11:40 AM

What a beautiful article, Steve. Thanks. And how special to be on this earth during the lifetime of the sport's greatest filly ever!

09 Sep 2009 11:43 AM

Great story, even greater filly... shame about the brutal tactics delivered by her jockey.  I wonder if and when she runs again, will she remember the pain of the 21 whip hits...shame on Borel for over the top cruelty.

09 Sep 2009 11:44 AM

Hey Citation,Sure all those "champions won after running fast opening splits, but they also did it over a one-turn mile and one eighth at Belmont Park where it is much easier to click off those splits then the two turns at Saratoga.Just being mention with the likes of those greats is quite an accomplishment for any race horse,let alone being a three year old filly.

09 Sep 2009 11:47 AM
Saratoga AJ

Absolutely wonderful article. To read the comments of opposing trainers, along with Blasi and Asmussen, and especially John Nerud speaks volumes of the greatness of this filly. I was so fortunate to be at Saratoga Saturday. And to see one of the very best of all time.

09 Sep 2009 11:52 AM

I now can say I truly have personally experienced a horse of greatness in my lifetime. I was only a toddler when Slew, Affirmed and the Bid were running. I think I now understand the feeling racing fans must have felt seeing them run. I have seen many good horses and races that I love to watch over again like Tiznow's classics, Alysheba's derby etc.. but overall I think she has passed pretty much all the "greats" since the Bid. I feel so lucky to live near Churchill and that I got to see her in the Goldenrod last November. My only regret is not getting any pictures or video. I can only hope she will race there again.

Your article was very emotional, like reading a fictional story, as the outcome seemed to good to be true. With Rachel's greatness though, the ending indeed was the true ending. I have watched this race over and over. I still can't believe what I saw. I know people continue to talk about the 8lbs. she got, but anyone who is half a handicapper or fan knows it was justified. She is just now fully blossoming and all the others were full grown mature BOYS.

It concerns me so much that this sport is facing the tribulations that the industry is trying to overcome. I know since I love horses so much and love to watch them race that I am biased. If people who read your articles could pass them around to people who know nothing about the sport, maybe it could attract new fans. You always seem to hit on the raw emotion of the full embodiment of the sport from the fans, trainers, exercise riders, horses,etc.. I don't think some people could resist tuning in to see if they would become a lifelong fan. To me there is something so majestic about a horse, unfortunately a lot of people don't feel that way. At least we have Rachel Alexandra right now to lead the cavalry of the much needed resurgence of the sport of kings. Thank you again Steve for a resoundingly beautiful article!

09 Sep 2009 11:58 AM
Don in Massachusetts


I have been anxiously awaiting your thoughts and words on the Woodward and Rachel Alexandra.

You have written another super article which comes from the heart to touch all others.

I was privileged to be there for the Woodward, and although it has been 4 days now since Rachel Alexandra ran, I still have chills when thinking about her, the race, and her achievements.  The whole experience was emotional and electrifying as you so adequately wrote.

We are so blessed and fortunate to be witnesses to this extraordinary and mystical filly, and we should treasure every moment.  I don't know if Rachel is the greatest ever; I just enjoy the ride.

I do not think God will give us quite another like her in our lifetime, and hopefully, we all will recognize and appreciate the gift that is Rachel Alexandra.

It is my sincerest hope that Mr. Jackson and Mr. Asmussen will let Rachel relax and kick off her [racing] shoes for the remainder of 2009.  She has accomplished enough and deserves the time off... she is only 3 and still growing physically!  Forget about the Beldame or Jockey Club Gold Cup because no amount of money should lure her for possible injury.  Personally, I don't care if Rachel Alexandra faces Zenyatta this year.  She has raced enough!!!

Thanks for the continuing great articles!

May God bless Rachel Alexandra, her connections, and all horses!  Let's keep Rachel Alexandra and all horses safe and secure.

09 Sep 2009 12:10 PM

I agree with WWSTP about Calvin and the use of the whip.  He would never ever hurt that filly.  If she had tried to bolt when she found herself more or less loose before the race, he probably would have tossed aside his own safety to stop her.  His girlfriend has been quoted by Mr. Haskin as saying Rachel is all Calvin talks about.  Steve Asmussen has said the same.  Calvin worships that fabulous filly.  We have to trust that he did not put a whole lot of effort into the whip and did it more to keep her going since she's never had to run really hard all the way to the wire until Saturday.

I hope the Rachel team comes back strong in 2010 and sets the BC Classic at CD as their goal.  She's done enough this year.

09 Sep 2009 12:19 PM

What a filly! What a horse! Stomped a hole in the den watching it and thought Tom Durkin's call was fittingly great also. I just wish the country was as in tune with racing as the days of Secretariat, Slew, Ruffian, and Dr Fager. Steve, enjoy listening to you on Steve Byk's show on XM. Write a book on Racheal. I know it's in there.

09 Sep 2009 12:26 PM
Steve Haskin

WWSTP, I agree with your comments on Borel. I brought up the number of whips because it was part of describing the race. I did say that we just have to assume he felt the situation warranted it. Some will agree, others are upset over it. That's OK. The use of the whip has been a controversial subject recently and eveyone has an opinion. I remember Gary Stevens hitting Silver Charm 34 times right-handed in the Preakness and no one mentioned it. But times have changed. Calvin does have a special bond with Rachel, and only he can comment on his use of the whip. As you said, he would never do anything to abuse her, and you can see how she came right back to him after he jumped/was tossed. Had she run off it would have been a disaster. She's an extremely intelligent horse.

09 Sep 2009 12:26 PM
Gordon Richards

While Rachel A has earned tremendous accolades for an amazing racing season this year, to say she's is now the one that everyone else should be compared to seems a bit of a reach.  Like any another individual, she has limitations.  The most notable limitation is her running distance, 1 1/8miles.  Yes, she won the Preakness at 1 3/16m but every other race she has not raced past 1 1/8m.  The reason:  her chances of winning diminish.

Credit must be given to her owner and handlers for campaigning her in such a fashion to keep her winning and become most likely, horse of the year.  They have proven the term, "picking your spots" about as good as it gets.  And Rachel A. was more than up to the task.

However, if she were to run at a distance of MORE than a 1 1/8m and/or get hooked from the 1/4 pole to finish line, the outcome most likely would be different for her.

Black Tie Affair won the BC Classic basically being hooked all the way at 1 1/4miles.  Curlin won The BC Classic as a 3yr old and much more at 4.  Is she as good as these horse were?

Finally, there was a brilliant filly who went undefeated in her career, making a final start  coming from last to first to win the BC Distaff at the wire.  Personal Ensign set the bar and still holds it.

There is no doubt Rachel A. is a top horse of our time, but great, not yet.  I'm also sure that Zenyatta would contest Rachel A's stature and ability,  if we could only be so lucky to see them compete against each other.

09 Sep 2009 12:38 PM

Wonderful article, Steve, it was the next best thing to being there! I live on the west coast and will probably never have the chance to see RA run in person, since she is not coming to the BC this year. She is surely something special.

And, as much as I would be interested in watching Zenyatta and RA in the Beldame (hopefully against a full field), as a horse owner and rider of 17 years, I know in my gut that Rachel is a one tired filly and if she wasn't so tremendously talented, she might have lost by now to lesser competition. Instead we have just seen her margins diminish and her times slow a bit. She has had a very tough campaign this year and I want to see her run again next year. It also just doesn't make much sense for Zenyatta to ship to the other side of the country a month before the Breeder's Cup--certainly, if I was her owners, I would be hesitant to do so. Shipping around is stressful for a lot of horses and if they are indeed considering the tougher race in the Classic against the males, I would want everything to go perfectly for my mare and not risk screwing things up with excess travel and upsetting the routine.

The best I can hope for is that Zen tries the Classic and wins. That would make my year--both my favorite filly and favorite mare show that they're tops!

Am also curious to see if Stardom Bound ever comes back. I'm assuming part of what is complicating things is the lawsuits going back and forth between Lanzman and IEAH. It would be a shame if that debacle is what stalls her career, because she had serious talent. Loved that little grey filly.

09 Sep 2009 12:39 PM

21 hits... sounds like American stewards need to take a page from the Brits, would it have changed the outcome, I doubt it. Rachel would run her heart out whether she was hit or not. The first few are a wake up, after that, it's just punitive.

09 Sep 2009 12:39 PM

Excellent article.  I didn't see the race live, but feel as if I were there while reading this story.  Thanks so much for bringing this event and especially this fabulous filly to life!

09 Sep 2009 12:41 PM
Pam S.

First off, Steve, you've penned an article for the ages about a race for the ages.

Second, many posters on this and other blogs have asked whether Zenyatta would be in contention along with Rachel for HOY if she were to win the BC Classic.  After all, it would be a great and unprecedented achievement, especially capping off an undefeated career.

If this should happen, could the two great ladies be co-HOY's? I know this happened before, with Roman Brother and someone else, believe it was a filly, in the 1960s.  I don't know if the voting is different now or if ties are even possible.

You could never satisfy everyone, but this would come close.  Both owners "stuck to their guns" (no races on "plastic," no races outside California) and both would get to share racing's most prestigious award for their once-in-a-lifetime horses.

09 Sep 2009 12:49 PM

I agree that RA is not a "classic" distance horse. Soooo many thoroughbreds throughout history were spectacular up to 8 and a half furlongs but were duds going longer. RA seems to fit in that category. Maybe we should say, RA, the best Fillie Miler of all time.

09 Sep 2009 12:52 PM
s lee

I wondered about the number of whip strikes, too, but only Rachel and Calvin knew how many were "hits" and now many were "come on girl".

And there are lots of rules that the stewards can invoke if they feel the whip use was abusive.  In NY, for example:

(sorry the address is so long but it took a while to find the "best text" in a search match).

TVG did show the dismount in the post parade and RA did turn around to Calvin as if to say "hey, fix this".  It looked like she got tangled up with the lead pony and the lead got stuck in her bit somehow - Calvin did appear to undo something or straighten something on her left lip.  

Any debate about the greatest of all time will always be just that, but if we lined up, oh, 12 or 15 of the great female race horses of the last 100 years in this country, ones who beat boys, ones who went distances, ones who carried 130 or more pounds, ones who set track records, and one list looks like this (make up your own for fun), in no particular order:



Twilight Tear

Devona Dale

Ta Wee

Chris Evert


Winning Colors

Genuine Risk

Lady's Secret


Dark Mirage


Rachel Alexandra


Personal Ensign

Allez France


wouldn't THAT be a fun race if we could agree on a surface, distance and weight (oh, and time travel would help too!)!

09 Sep 2009 12:52 PM

Thanks for the great article. I was standing on the track at re finish line and it's a story I'll be telling to anyone who will listen when I'm 98 and living in the old age home. It's a syory i'll never forget.

09 Sep 2009 12:57 PM

Thanks, Steve, for your comments on the use of the whip.  As an earlier poster mentioned, the whip doesn't hurt a horse.  If you've been on a horse and used a whip, they either a) move forward (something that they are trained to do; a young horse will often stop, look at the whip and be really confused until they learn what the signal means) b) look annoyed, or c) do nothing.  A whip is not a tool of "abuse" but simply an aid, and in racing, a reminder to keep/start really running.  Jockey's have no leg on the horse, so the whip is one of the few aids at their disposal to communicate with a horse.  For me, a jockey using the whip with every stride would be akin to a hunt seat rider using the spur every stride (something that is frequently done).  Maybe it was too much, but given the way Rachel is used to winning her races, and the frequency that front runners can be nailed at the wire by closers, I can understand the concern that would make a jockey want to repeatedly remind her that the race is not over.

09 Sep 2009 1:02 PM

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09 Sep 2009 1:04 PM

Calvin did what he had to do to get her home to win. The use of the whip is legal and I felt that he needed to use it to keep her going.

It's part of riding a horserace...if he did not use the whip and lost the race, then it would have been another story.

09 Sep 2009 1:20 PM

After reading this excellent article on RA, I couldn't help to think about, that in one of the pictures of Mr. Jackson after the race on here as he is approaching Calvin & RA, he looks very angry.

Do you think he was upset at Calvin because he used the whip so many times during the stretch or was it because of the way he rode her, very fast fractions, when there was known closers in the race? Just a thought...

09 Sep 2009 1:20 PM

Wonderful article; great race; great horse!  

I don't understand the excessive whipping; what has Calvin Borel said in response.  He knows best what to do.

I hope the gods of racing allow her to retire sound.

09 Sep 2009 1:21 PM

Thank you.

09 Sep 2009 1:21 PM
Lady Ruffian

Steve -

simply beautiful! almost as beautiful as Rachel Alexandra flying towards the wire :)

09 Sep 2009 1:25 PM

KCK, any Woodward winner can be mentioned along with those great horses, being a Woodward winner doesn't necessarily make a horse as good as they were. I am also aware that different tracks play differently, but I thought that Saratoga has been very fast and also slightly speed-favoring this year, so a pace of the sort that the race had this year was to be expected. As a huge Macho Again fan, I was rooting for him to win the race, and when I saw the opening fractions, I thought that there was no way he could catch her after fractions like that. I am still stunned he came as close as he did. If any horse in that field other than Macho was to win that race, though, I'm glad it was Rachel Alexandra, she was my second favorite of the horses running in that Woodward. Also, last year Past the Point ran early times that were even faster and still almost held on, so those fractional times weren't crazy, even for  Saratoga. Again, It was an exceptional effort for a filly to win the Woodward, but I will repeat that I don't think she would beat many of the top males that have run since the Bid.

09 Sep 2009 1:30 PM

Thank you for the WOnDERFUL piece..

I was sad to see her being whipped also,and in the rerun of the race watched closely, and it looked to me like her was purposely breaking the blow with his boot and aiming to hit the saddlepad, so the noise etc spurred her to give everything she had right then when she needed to, and not to cause her pain.

09 Sep 2009 1:40 PM
Silver Charm


Great stuff and congrats to you and the staff there at the Bloodhorse for a tremendous 6 weeks of coverage of all of the racing at The Spa and where the "Surf meets the Turf"

09 Sep 2009 1:43 PM

As long as we're talking about the whip - please watch the reply of the Woodward carefully.  Borel was mostly hitting Rachel on the saddle blanket (not the skin).  The last few jumps he moved it to her shoulder area but he was only waving it at her then and not connecting.  Don't just look at his arm movement, look where the stick was actually landing before accusing Borel of "cruelty" and so forth.  

09 Sep 2009 1:49 PM

WWSTP: You are spot on...thank you for your comment.  You said exactly what I had been thinking.

Steve, Steve, Steve...can I say I love you man without getting in trouble???? I was waiting patiently for your take on the race and as usual, you did not dissapoint. In fact, you exceed all expectations every time. I re-read this article twice, just so I could re-capture everything that RA is.  I have watched the re-play dozens of times and have had my co-workers watch it.  What a filly. I love her. Thanks Steve for being my life line to this industry.  I hope I get to meet you someday!

09 Sep 2009 1:52 PM

The way you wrote this article, you made me feel as though I was there at the race.  Myself, and some of the ladies from church were trying to justify going to watch Rachel run, however, between our declining health and finance's,  this kept all of us from attending in person to watch our Rachel in action.  However, I called our little Rachel group and read them what you wrote, and I had to promise all of them to bring a photocopy of your synopsis to church tonight.

Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to be there with you for this remarkable feat in Rachel march towards immortality.

09 Sep 2009 1:59 PM

Best article-loved it.  She is surreal.  Of course she's horse of the year but is there an athlete of the year (US) and if so is a horse eligible to win?

Truly admire and love this lady!

09 Sep 2009 2:03 PM

Steve, your article was absolutely perfect and the mention of the whip was essential, given the reasons you mentioned - it is controversial and it is part of the story.  I just wanted to bring up the point, to the bloggers who have an issue with it, that for hard held opinion about the use of the whip found an exception this time.

I also want to thank you profusely for being "the writer" who has put this story in its total context and perspective.  I was hoping someone would, and you did.  Something in me just relaxed and sighed a sigh of relief when I read your first paragraph - Joan of Arc, Penthesileia, Zenobia.  This is the historical perspective I was looking for...and you "get" it, and you shared it.  Thank you!!  

09 Sep 2009 2:03 PM

Can I ask a question.....

where do you guys see in her pedigree that she cannot go 10 furlongs?

09 Sep 2009 2:12 PM
Matthew W

.....even the names of the horses she staved off---Bullsbay and Macho Again---even the NAMES of her rivals will add to her legend of that fateful Woodward, where the three year old filly named Rachel faced the "big bad older males"!.....

09 Sep 2009 2:13 PM
Matthew W

1 1/8 dirt IS the Classic distance for fillies---she doesn't HAVE to defeat older at 1 1/4 to be considered an all-time great!

09 Sep 2009 2:16 PM

  Great article about a great race and an exceptional filly.  If she stays sound and retains her desire, she should only become is amazing that at three, she could hold off the older horses the way she did.

  As to the whip, I assume no marks were left.  I doubt Calvin was hitting her hard enough to hurt her...the whip can be used as an aid, the way the leg is used when riding a horse in other sports.  Jockeys cannot use leg.  I don't believe Calvin would abuse Rachel or any horse, for that matter.  

09 Sep 2009 2:18 PM

Hey there is another 3 year old ripping it up against older.  Zensational bests the older sprinters at 120lbs.  Who is going to beat this one come Breeder's Cup on synthetics?

09 Sep 2009 2:19 PM

Throw in Lookin at Lucky as Baffert's other "Hot Hand" in the Breeder's Cup.  What 2 year old is going to beat this one on synthetics.

09 Sep 2009 2:22 PM

Calvin rode the Perfect race IMO. Rachel was peaking and was in the best form of her life.

She took him to the lead because she was running so easily and the fact that she won the race proved Calvin do the right thing.

Calvin used the same tactics to win the Preakness, the only thing different this time, is the fact that she has blossomed into a Great horse and she proved it in the Woodward.

Great article Steve, as always.

09 Sep 2009 2:23 PM
Steve Haskin

I also agree with Steve about most of the blows coming against the saddle towel. But again, whipping is always going to raise controversy. Even Calvin hitting Rachel "only" a half-dozen times in the Haskell with a big lead raised controversy. It actually takes skill to use the whip, and a good rider can use it without hurting the horse. On the opposite end, I remember seeing Congaree after the BC Classic and it was pretty ugly where he had been hit -- way too aggressively. Although I am a big supporter of restricting the use of the whip I think Calvin's actions probably looked worse than they were.

09 Sep 2009 2:24 PM
Steve Haskin

Karen2, you can definitely say it without getting into trouble, and I do appreciate the sentiments, as well as everyone else's comments. My goal is to make readers feel as if they're there, and it is extremely gratifying to know that so many feel that way. Thank you.

09 Sep 2009 2:27 PM

Just to add my $.02 to the whip use discussion, I don't mean to try to excuse CB's actions, but it was an emotionally charged race even before it got started.  RA was not her usual calm, cool and collected self, after all, and with all the fanfare emotions had to be running high.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I have hit the ground from the back of my horse--not in a post parade, but in a show situation and other times--and I sure didn't get up giggling.  I'm sure he was professional as can be, but I'll bet that he was going to do whatever it took to win.  And they did.

09 Sep 2009 2:28 PM
Steve Haskin

I also must comment on the comments that Rachel cannot go classic distances. 1 1/8 miles has become the classic distance for fillies in America whether we like it or not. There are only three grade I stakes for fillies at 10 furlongs -- the Alabama, CCA Oaks, and Personal Ensign, and the CCA Oaks does not have importance it once had. The BC Distaff (Ladies Classic), Beldame, Spinster, Kentucky Oaks, Vanity, and Mother Goose are all 1 1/8 miles, and the Lady's Secret and Clement Hirsch are 1 1/16 miles. In her 12 starts, Zenyatta has only run 1 1/8 miles three times; most have been 1 1/16 miles. Watching Rachel's 1 1/8 mile races and looking at her pedigree, I dont understand why anyone thinks she can't go 1 1/4 miles. She beat classic colts going 1 3/16 miles over a track she supposedly did not like. Filly championships nowadays are decided at 1 1/8 miles. Rachel has already won farther than that, beating the Ky. Derby winner.

09 Sep 2009 2:41 PM

it was a great race but i will like to see her go 1/1/4 miles that like her daddy he can win at 1/1/8 i don`t think she can ran all day like summer bird and he is a better horse now dont get me wrong she a good horse but not a the bull he can get 1/1/4 miles and win by 6 or 7  

09 Sep 2009 2:49 PM

calvin didnt do anything during the woodward.  May as well just let her run riderless.  Didnt rate her at all.  Darn lucky she is a gutsy filly.  You can tell she understands whats goin on out there and she just wanted it more.

09 Sep 2009 2:49 PM

Thanks Steve.....most of the horses in her pedigree have distance influence. I dont see any sprinter influences in there. But I usually dont get my facts

Great article again....I got chills reading it. very cool

09 Sep 2009 2:52 PM

As I have said throughout, Rachel is simply breathtaking and has nothing but a heartful of desire and willingness to please.  I am privileged to have lived in a time to she her in motion.  She deserves all the best in life.  And, Calvin is one with her and does whatever it takes to make her safe and comfortable.  You can tell the deep admiration and devotion he has to her, and her back to him.  Cut him some slack as I would be heartbroken for anyone else to be on top of her.  They are meant to be together for her entire racing career.  Go Calvin and Rachel!

09 Sep 2009 2:57 PM
Majella from Ireland

I havent had the time to read all the comments but can I just say that that article is perfection and also I think the whip was overused. But thats just my opinion.

It was a great race and it ended a perfect day following Sea the Stars. I was at L'town that day and I will never forget it. It was our equivilent of what happened at the Woodward and I actually met an American lady at L'town who showed me pictures of Rachel Alexandra and she is one beautiful horse.

09 Sep 2009 2:58 PM

Didnt her daddy win the travers?

1 1/4

09 Sep 2009 3:20 PM

Being hit 21 times leaves a mark in more ways than one no matter how soft the whip or kind the hand.  Under that kind of urging she's going to be burnt out and unsound.  Time to give the girl a break.

Nice job Rachel.

09 Sep 2009 3:23 PM

Next year Rachel will stomp the crowd at 1 1/4.

21 hits is about 18 too many...I bet he didn't even know he hit her that many times.

I breed working Police K-9's...dogs with the correct drives don't need to be hit for's in their blood, only jerks hit a true working dog...the same for a race's insecurity to whip an animal already giving you all it can...not meaness, necessarily.

His voice would have been enough...fortunately her adrenaline was up enough for it probably not to have been too painful.

09 Sep 2009 3:33 PM
Matthew W

Steve, between both fillies, Rachel has license to get the 1 1/4--moreso than Zenyatta as one run closers are (generally) not as stamina-laden than are stalkers--indeed, Rachel turned back Bullsbay THEN kicked on--she'll get the 1 1/4.....

09 Sep 2009 3:37 PM

What a wonderful column, so beautifully written.  I feel as if I was in the crowd instead of at home watching on television.  Thank you.  And thanks for your comments on the "classic" distance for fillies.  And isn't the Preakness a "Classic"?

This great filly's detractors seem to feel that if she couldn't beat each and every immortal horse, male and female, of the last century, then she doesn't deserve the accolades. Onion beat Secretariat.  Upset beat Man O'War.  So what?  Zenyatta has been raced to be perfect in 2009.  Rachel Alexandra has been raced to be great.  Great is much more exciting.  Cherrypicking races?Wow, what are all those other trainers doing when they select races for their horses?  Hoping to fail?  I say Rachel beats Summer Bird in the Travers (she likes the mud, already has his number) and easily beats Careless Jewel in the Alabama at ten furlongs (would have been a thriller though, hope they meet next year).  When she's a happy horse on the farm ten years from now, I think her star will still be shining bright in the galaxy of The Best Ever.  

09 Sep 2009 3:51 PM

Citation -- Do remember that all of those horses outside of Holy Bull were 4+ years when they won.  She might get the chance to do even better next year.  Still, I would agree that it's going too far to suggest that she is better than Ghostzapper et al., but you're missing the fact that the horses you are comparing her to all ran the Woodward at Belmont, where the track is generally acknowledged as faster.  It's always a little dangerous to compare times from year to year, but to be comparing fractions at different tracks is really sketchy.  This also relates to "Summer Bird is King's" strange claim that Saratoga plays faster than Philly Park.  My ARM from 2004 at least has the track record for 1 1/8 miles as lower than Saratoga's, despite the fact that a much better quality of horse has obviously run at The Spa over the years.  Your roundabout way of trying to prove that Summer Bird is somehow better despite his clear loss in the slop, which he ran awfully well in on Travers day, is pushing it to say the least.

09 Sep 2009 3:54 PM
Scott, UK

It's a tragedy that we won't see Sea The Stars, Rachel and Zenyatta go head-to-head at Santa Anita.

09 Sep 2009 3:56 PM

This is something I posted on Jason's blog regarding whips.  it is interesting for those who might have missed it.  Pay particular attention to what Mike Smith says about how to use a whip.

Regarding Whips:

The Ontario Jockey Club has recently issued a mandate that all whips must be of the Soft Touch Variety......I read that Delmar emplores the use of such whips but has not mandated them.....two big time jockies endorse them:

Mike Smith...“I’m really happy we have made this change,” said jockey Mike Smith. “I’ve used one for quite a while. They are very equine friendly. With the old crop, if you knew how to use it, it was fine. Sometimes though in the heat of battle you might make a mistake. With these new riding crops, it really eliminates that possibility. They make noise, but they are all cushion and don’t cause any harm to the horse.”

Garrett Gomez:

“This is a great step for racing,” said jockey Garrett Gomez. “All the jocks discussed it and wanted to make this move. One of our biggest problems was getting enough riding crops for everybody. With Del Mar’s help, we were able to get a big enough supply, including for riders who couldn’t necessarily afford them. With the new riding crop, horses seem to react to the sound of the popper rather than from a physical reaction to the whip. It’s good for racing and we wanted to be at the forefront.”

Do whips hurt....yes, especially if used the wrong way.

Maybe the new whips should be used throughout the racing community.

09 Sep 2009 3:56 PM
Lil Darlin

Steve Haskin, you are a helluva gifted writer!  Wow, how lucky are we to not only have the talent of Rachel Alexandra on the track, but the talents of folks like Steve to tell the tale as it should be told?  You gave me goosebumps.

On the whip - Rachel didn't seem to be bothered by it, so why should we be so bothered?  She was more angry that some big grey thing was actually trying to put a head in front of her.  If it had really bothered her, she would have let Calvin know it (she does seem to be pretty darn intelligent). She finished pretty straight and strong for a creature that was being "beaten."  

Honestly, I think if Calvin could marry a horse Rachel would have a great big diamond anklet above her left front hoof, doubtful he would do harm to her.  And, I believe Mr. Jackson's post race comments included the words, "perfect ride." (I saw it on MSG+)

On the mile and a quarter question - watch the Oaks, Mother Goose and Haskell and tell me she can't get a mile and a quarter.  I believe she was still pulling away at the end of all of those races.  And as for the classic distance: Preakness = Classic, therefore, 1 3/16 = classic distance. Rachel won the Preakness at a mile and 3/16, therefore, Rachel won at a classic distance.  Enough with the knocks, she is awesome!  Try to enjoy her and what she HAS done rather than nitpick all of the things she hasn't done.  Bottom line is, she has done everything she's been asked to do with grace, grit and determination, and that is all we can expect.  Go, Rachel Baby, Go!

09 Sep 2009 4:05 PM

I was there, I can't believe it...I saw the best horse I've ever seen...., hope she is around for next season...Wow....

09 Sep 2009 4:07 PM

Thank you Steve for an amazing article.  You captured the race and pre-race sentiments perfectly and made me feel like I had been there.  My mom watched on HRTV and gave me the call, as I am in Alabama.  I was crying when it was over, just listening to it.  But your writing gave me chill bumps!  I hate Calvin hit her so much.  I distinctly remember when another great filly Rags to Riches beat the mighty Curlin and even though they had a tough stretch drive, head to head, Velasquez did not hit her.  He didn't need to, as you said, her "blood was up".  Calvin didn't need to either, she would have won without the punishment because of her huge heart and courage.  He should be ashamed and I hope she wasn't injured.  We should have that ban here, horses give their all for our enjoyment, they don't need to be beaten.  

09 Sep 2009 4:14 PM
Lil Darlin

I wonder, if Rachel and Zen had "girl talk" what would they have to say about all this Rachel and Zen banter?

Z: Hey Rachie!

RA: Hey, Zen, what's good?

Z: Oh, you know, just enjoying some light reading, have you seen the blogs today?

RA: OMG! I am soooo over those humans. I mean, like, seriously, what does a girl have to do to get some credit, knock out the ghost of Secretariat with a pink saddle cloth?

Z: I feel you, Girl! They talk about me like I race on another planet.  I mean, last time I checked I AM an American citizen, running on American soil...well, almost soil!  With all of this negativity, I'm starting to feel like maybe I'm not a real racehorse, I mean, after all, my surface isn't real...

RA: Whatever, your surface is your surface! All the power to you.  I mean, Personal Ensign can't say she won a race on synthetics, now can she?

Z: You know, I guess I never thought of it that way, thanks Rachie!  Ugh, the two leggers just got here, I gotta go for a jog.  Good luck with the HOTY bid, go get one for us girls!

RA: Thanks, Zen! Hey, why don't you "run like a girl" and win the Classic for us? That'll REALLY get those humans going on this Rachel vs. Zen talk. I could use a few laughs on my break, I mean, it's sooo boring away from the track.

Z: HAHA, that would be funny, and retirement will totally stink without some juicy gossip.  HOTY is on like Donkey Kong!  TTYL!

RA: Peace Out, Girl!

Just a thought...

09 Sep 2009 4:36 PM

The question isn't about whether RA will get 1-1/4 its whether she should be mentioned with the greatest of all time until she does! No doubt she is at the top of the field in her division distance but until she beats top level competition at classic distance I don't think she breaks into the top 10 of all time.

09 Sep 2009 4:41 PM
Claire loves Rachael


What an extraordinary and moving piece of writing!! When they make the movie, you must be the writer!!

09 Sep 2009 4:55 PM

Am I mistaken, or are the connections of Zenyatta not being given the same amount of criticism that has been flung at Jess Jackson these past couple of months?  He sent Rachel into some pretty high profile races against Classic and other Graded Stakes winners, majority of them being males.  She prevailed in every race she entered this year. But unless he changes his mind about the Breeders Cup, he will continue to be accused of being afraid or to have his opionions discounted or disregarded.  Yet there is nowhere near that kind of "put up or shut up" mentality when discussing Mr Sherrifs or the Mosses.  Seems they are being let off easy with their careful handling of their mare.  An undefeated record for Zenyatta is certainly nothing to sneeze at but until Rachel won the Woodward, there were still many people saying she really didn't beat any noteworthy horses.  Also, in Zenyatta's last race she nearly got beat and I don't remember there being a stand-out field behind her (maybe one or two) and, again, there weren't too many folks saying that her reputation was tarnished because although she won, she didn't destroy a field by daylight or that they were all GR1 winners.   Someone else pointed out that Zenyatta could have been entered in the Pacific Classic and wasn't -- that would have been interesting to see.  I think if anyone should now be accused of ducking the competition, is should be Zenyatta's camp.  

It would be nice to see these two champs meet in a race this year - but no match race please! But even if it doesn't happen, Rachel still is tops for me.  The Woodward was about the most exciting race I ever saw -- it certainly wasn't the same as the '73 Belmont but that was in a class by itself, for everything it meant to racing.  But this filly took our collective breaths away.  From what I'm reading from other posters, young or old, male or female -- we are all awestuck by this amazing girl.

I spoke with a friend from Florida who used to own racehorses here in Ohio some years back and I asked if he'd been keeping up with racing of late and he said just a little (he's a busy doctor now) And I asked if he heard about the Woodward and he said, "Oh you mean THAT FILLY....I did hear about it and watched the race replay -- she's a superstar"   And yes! She is!  

Thanks Steve for your fabulous column.  As always, you know exactly what to say and how to express what so many of us feel.  

09 Sep 2009 4:58 PM

Lil Darlin.... you crack me up!  Just finished reading your posts....   thanks!  I needed that.

09 Sep 2009 5:01 PM
Abigail from Canada

A wonderful article that really does you proud, Steve, and demonstrates why you are such an admired sports journalist. I will be downloading it to go into my Rachel scrapbook. Having missed Ruffian's career, I feel so privileged to be able to share in Rachel's triumphs and your writing makes these memories so much richer. As an aside, for those of you who couldn't see the race in real time, try being Canadian. I can't get any horse racing coverage here in Quebec except on the internet & even our main newspaper completely ignored the Woodward !!!!!

09 Sep 2009 5:18 PM

We have been waiting since 1978 for another Triple Crown winner. Well, we got much more than that this year, we got Rachel.

09 Sep 2009 5:24 PM

I am thrilled that I am around to see Rachel Alexandra run. I believe she is one of the very best of this decade, and one of the greatest fillies ever.

I will, however state that I believe a sound Ruffian would have trounced her. What people seem to forget about Ruffian, is she ran record breaking fast, without being asked. Jacinto rarely hit that filly, and Borel loves to beat Rachel down the stretch, even when she is ahead by many lengths. If I were Jackson, I would do a rider switch pronto. A great horse will run on heart alone and does not need to be beaten down the stretch. No way, no how would Ruffian have let anyone pass her. It didn't matter what Vasquez did on her back- she was the boss out there, and won easily. Rachel works for her wins (Preakness and Woodward). Rachel has certainly done more than Ruffian, and her resume is far more impressive, but what made Ruffian a legend is that we will never really know just how good she is.

Still I love Rachel, and thinks she more than deserves Horse of the Year- maybe even Horse of the Decade. And that God thus far she has one thing Ruffian never had- durability.

09 Sep 2009 5:31 PM

Lil darlin.....LOVED your post!!!!!!! Thanks for the laugh. I bet if horses COULD talk it might go something like that. Hey, I also love the "run like a girl" thing...I have got to get me one of those shirts..long live the queens.

09 Sep 2009 5:58 PM
Oliver Zasdret

Rachel is a fantastic filly, but there's a better filly who has beaten the boys on more occasions, won bigger races than Rachel and is currently ranked higher than Rachel - Goldikova!

09 Sep 2009 6:10 PM

What a race, what a horse! We are all so very lucky to be able to say we have seen her race.

WONDERFUL article Steve. My very favorite one yet.

Greg J,

Thanks so much for sharing your pictures. They are great- looks like you had the time of your life!

09 Sep 2009 6:18 PM

Thanks, Steve, for this deeply emotional article.  I was so sad not to be there but you made me feel as if I watched her cross that finish line.  I have to say too, as a long time fan of Macho Again, I was so proud of him.  His best race ever, even if he did come in second.  Rachel is a miracle.  I'm grateful to have seen her race and can't wait for more.

09 Sep 2009 6:38 PM

Since when is whipping a horse 21 times NOT abuse? I bet Rachel is sore. I think Calvin pannicked, thought he would lose the race,hence all the whipping. I think in order to save face, that Calvin would have whipped her 50 times, just to get her over the line. But weather it was 21 times or 50, doesnt matter. It was the INTENT to make sure she won. Calvin has too much to lose. He did what he did. He sure did'nt do it for the love of Rachel, but instead the love and demands of the sport. Right now I don't have a lot of respect for Mr. Borel. You say the horse doesnt feel it? Than why do it. There needs to be a fine for excessive whipping, and Calvin needs to loose some mounts as punishment.

09 Sep 2009 6:55 PM
My Juliet

  "I think she's the best I've ever seen"...from a 96 yr old racing legend..that says it all.

Thank you, Steve, for helping us to get to relive the excitement again, reading this article, and taking us 'behind the scenes' like you do. I liked Steve A's comment to a fan, that Rachel is the star, not him. He sounds like such a caring person from what you mentioned. I think what's so cool about RA is noone told her she is a filly- running with the older guys and winning, WOW. Jess and Steve have done a lot for fans of this sport. I loved his comment also, noticing fans smiling as they left the track, and him enjoying that.

09 Sep 2009 7:04 PM
Ida Lee

I don't know how to start. But, let me try. First, this was your best article ever. I'm still watery eyed. Next, this Filly is just too much. The emotions she brings out of people is incredible. My throat is still hurting from the screaming I did on Saturday but quite frankly I could not believe my eyes. After all she's done this year, I was still worried about this race and actually thought that if she lost, it would be OK anyway. I was not ready to see this incredible athlete do what she did on Saturday. I, silly me, actually underestimated her. It will never happen again. This was the most exciting race I've ever seen, better even than Rags and Curlin's Belmont spectacular. As much as I want to see her, I say take the rest of the year off and rest my beautiful Queen. I'll be anxiously awaiting for your return next year when you will be the best 4-year old TB in the country.  P.S. Macho Again is one of my favorite boys and what a race he ran. And Pyro is back looking more beautiful and talented as ever. Wow what a great weekend of racing.

09 Sep 2009 7:51 PM
Betty S

Steve H, your article is the best---really remarkable and every word is true.

Steve A, I am glad you love her but don't be afraid to hug her once in awhile.  They respond to physical expressions of your love.  It won't turn her into a petting zoo.  It will just make her love you even more.   She's so wonderful, just let it all hang out.

09 Sep 2009 8:03 PM

Re: Rachel and the charge of "distance limitations"

My understanding is not that most people believe Rachel can't ever "get" 1 1/4 miles, but that they believe she is potentially *vulnerable* at 1 1/4 in a way that she is NOT at 1 1/8. By all appearances she is virtually unbeatable at 1 1/8, but there have been some close calls in races where there is a fast pace and some talented closers in the field (MTB, Macho Again). One does not have to think very hard to guess that *if the same scenario happened* at 1 1/4, RA would likely tire late and get passed or be nipped at the wire.

That said, I'm sure Calvin wouldn't rider her that way at 1 1/4 if he could help it, especially if there were some good closers in the race. It seems reasonable to guess that if she rated well early, she could win at the "Classic" distance of a mile and a quarter.

It's sort of like her sire--he did win at 1 1/4, but he also ran second a few times at a 1 1/4. He was what I would consider "vulnerable" at that distance. It would be unfair to say, though, that he couldn't "get" a 1 1/4--it's not like he hit a wall with a furlong to go and staggered home last. He just needed things to go well for him to have just enough left for the finish to hold off any challengers.

Anyway, that is my take on the debate over RA and distance. And until we see it, there will be questions in some folk's minds. I have no doubt that next year they'll probably find a 1 1/4 mile race to run her in and they'll get their curiosity satisfied.

09 Sep 2009 8:06 PM

Well said Mr Haskin. My wife and I were there. You could feel the static in the air, something very special was about to happen. I thank Mr Jackson for allowing everyone to witness something that will happen, maybe, "Once in a life time."

I knew from the first time I saw her run at Oaklawn that here was a very talented filly, just had no idea how talented. I have traveled to New York from Arkansas 3 times in the last 3 months, each time I was part of history. WOW!

09 Sep 2009 8:09 PM

I've been to 5 derbys and the noise level at the Woodward was every bit as loud and we had a lot less people!  She gave her all and we are STILL in awe.  I have never seen a crowd line the fence all the way down as far as you can see after a race.  Applause all the way back to the barn, and she deserved every bit of it.  

Thanks for the story Steve, and thanks to all of Rachel's connections for sharing her with the fans.  She is truly Rachel the great!  

09 Sep 2009 8:35 PM

What a tremendous race.  I watched that race at least 10 times and each time I watched Calvin and I honestly don't think the 13 spanks he gave Rachel were all "hard" spanks.  Jockeys get into a rythmic use of the whip and Calvin loves this filly more than anything.  He would NEVER do anything to hurt this filly.  His use of the whip to those who don't know about racing probably seemed excessive.  Calvin know this filly and knew that he had to urge her more than ever before.  But the whip he used does not hurt the horse.  It makes a snapping or popping sound that does not hurt the horse.  I believe if the trainer got to the barn and saw welts all over Rachel's rear end, Calvin would probably have some explaining to do.  As such, he worked in tandom with Rachel and got every bit of run he could.  Rachel ran the race, Calvin rode the race and together they won the race.

09 Sep 2009 8:50 PM

Wonderful article!

Not to dismiss Rachel Alexandra's accomplishments; I was comparing her to Ruffian after her Kentucky Oaks win, and at this point I rank

her as better. Ruffian, of course, didn't survive long enough to accomplish as much.

But --

I find misleading (if technically correct)  the oft-quoted fact "no 3-yr-old filly had ever defeated older males in a two-turn, grade 1 dirt race."  Grading only dates back to 1973; for 3/4 of the 20 C.

grading didn't exist, at least in

any official form. This makes it very easy, for those unfamiliar with history, to ignore the accomplishments of great fillies

of past decades.

I DO appreciate you specifying

"Grade 1" though (& mentioning Misty Morn).  Too many articles

or comments elsewhere are making

it sound like NO 3-yr-old filly had EVER beaten older males in a route dirt race, period.  

In addition to RA & Misty Morn, I've come up with the following 3-yr-old fillies who beat older males.  Unfortunately, I cannot verify the distances of these races.  Seems unlikely they were all sprints:

Busher in 1945 in the Washington Park Handicap (against the great Armed, then a 4-yr-old); and the Arlington Handicap. She won 2X that year against males her own age, as well!

Gallorette in 1945, in the Empire City Stakes.

Twilight Tear in 1944 defeated Hall of Famer Devil Diver, then 5.

Don't know distance or name of race.

Beldame in 1904, in the Saratoga Cup.

         (On TURF)

Dahlia in the 1973 Laurel International

Miesque in the 1987 Breeders' Cup Mile.

Goldikova in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Mile

In France, Zarkava won the Arc

in 2008.

Seems likely some other European

fillies have managed the feat.

Rare enough even there, though.

Does a mile count as a route? Seems

to be gray area.  Not a sprint,


If anyone out there knows the

distances of the dirt races I mentioned, I'd be happy to have the info.

09 Sep 2009 8:55 PM

They say thAt thoroughbred racing is the sport of kings. Now it belongs to a Queen......Queen Rachel. My oh Thy Lady dances with hooves.

09 Sep 2009 9:00 PM

I completely agree with NONONHEINOUS's analysis.

09 Sep 2009 9:29 PM

I am a great fan of horseracing and of Rachel. However, I am also a big fan of Zenyatta. The sad thing is that we probably won't know what Zenyatta is capable of because her camp is too concerned with her retiring undefeated. To them, I say, "Come on! Let's see what she can do! Grow some stones and enter her where she the Classic..stop messing with the girls and take on the best." Us racing fans dont want to have to guess what she might have been capable of. Be a true sportsman/sportswoman and let this athlete take on the competition she should be facing and give her the chance to ascend to the highest level she can. If you can't do that you are denying us fans but ultimately even Zenyatta more a chance to be all she can be.

09 Sep 2009 9:36 PM
Sioux D

Thank you, Steve, for this splendid account...containing quotes & anecdotes not previously published (I've read & watched everything I could find on her, all over the web)...the bits & pieces you have deftly woven together here really make one feel the intense emotion of the whole event...the moods & reactions of people associated with her...the beauty & wonderment that is this incredible filly, Rachel Alexandra!

09 Sep 2009 9:54 PM

Since Affirmed I have been waiting to see a Triple Crown.  For several years now I have had seasons tickets at Belmont Park on the finish line because I want to be there when it happens.  It has been my Holy Grail.  Along the way I have watched some amazing performances and there are horses that will always hold a special place in my heart. Tiznow winning the 2001 Breeders Cup being the most dramatic and inspiring. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would experience the greatness we all witnessed this year in Rachal Alexandra.  Saturday I got my Triple Crown.  

09 Sep 2009 10:09 PM

That was AWESOME Steve!  Thanks!  A great piece of writing and so nice to get the feel of being there for those of us who weren't. I also loved the "inside information" from the connections and stuff - I always wish we could get more info on tv but it's always just the basics.  When the race is over - there is still so much more I want to see and hear, like interviews, but we usually don't get it.  I have been waiting to see an "all time great" horse come along again and I think she is going to be it!  She is amazing so far and I can't wait to see what's next!  BUT, What's with all these people who keep downgrading her because she hasn't won at 1 1/4 or more yet (she hasn't "lost" at those distances yet either...)? That is generally a measure of greatness I see applied to colts - but a filly not getting her due because of that....?  

09 Sep 2009 10:31 PM

Superb stuff Steve...lovely piece if journalism.

After the second replay on Saturday, I told the guy sitting next to me "boy he must have hit the horse some 16 times"..I may have started counting late, if 21 is indeed the number.

Borel is reported to have said before and reiterated after the race, "she is so competitive, she wont let another horse pass her"

Then let that happen...let her competitiveness pull her through.

why hit her so many times, if she is indeed all heart, a minor reminder should be sufficient.

Maybe the owner and Borel will have a talk over this and we will see a more reasonable amount of "urging" next time.

09 Sep 2009 10:40 PM
John T.

No matter what some of the bloggers might think excessive use

of the whip does indeed hurt the horse,that is why there is a major

crackdown on the use of the whip in

the U.K.right now.As of Sept 1 a more softer cushion type whip was

introduced to racing at Woodbine and hopefully it will be something

that worldwide racing will be taking a look at.

09 Sep 2009 10:48 PM
Craig Duncan

I think that racing legend John Nerud and Asst. Trainer Scott Blasi said it best; "They won't be comparing Rachel Alexandra to anyone anymore, they will be comparing everyone else to Rachel Alexandra from now on"

09 Sep 2009 10:54 PM
Martha from Corydon,IN

Ditto for all the kudos given to Rachel Alexandra and Her Court. We are so fortunate to witness horse racing history 2009! I l(= ve horses!!

09 Sep 2009 11:46 PM


I appreciate the fact that you were rooting for a different horse in the race.  I like Macho Again too.  

However, all you have to do is watch the race before the Woodward to see how the track was playing. (It had me VERY concerned)  It was not a speed favoring track by that point in the day.  Pyro came from out of the clouds to win a race that the fractions didn't "seem" all that fast for the distance.  Rachel ran that first quarter while running 3 wide around the turn so she would not be pinned down on the rail.  She also had 3 or 4 horses breathing down her neck for the first half mile.  She had to be used early to get position to keep from getting boxed in... so, do you think Spectacular Bid lost the Belmont because he was really the 3rd best horse in the race?  Is Lawyer Ron the best horse that ever ran 1-1/8th miles at Saratoga because he ran the fastest time there?  The answer to those 2 questions is no.  What matters is HOW and WHEN they use their speed.  Are they out there on their own or being pushed, sitting off the pace on the outside or boxed in on the rail, or laying back waiting to make a big run?  The fractions may not impress you, but the fact that every horse that has tried to run with Rachel early finishes in the back of the pack by at least 15 to 30 lengths (with the exception of Big Drama who she beat by about 6 or 7).  Look where all the pace pressers finished in this race and in the Haskell and in the Preakness.  Those horses gave their all to keep up with her and they couldn't do it.  No hard closer has been able to pass her even AFTER she was pushed by all the other horses in the race!  Rachel Alexandra is nothing short of Phenominal!

10 Sep 2009 1:13 AM

Thank you for your comments about the fact that the "classic distance" for fillies in this country IS 1 1/8 mile.  Well stated.

I think that the same people whining that she isn't yet "great" are the same ones that, once Rachel wins at a mile and a quarter, are going to find something else to harp on her about.

Perhaps they'll have to go back to the "she hasn't beaten anything" thread.  Or how about the "she hasn't set as many track records as Ruffian" one.  

Or maybe it will be something entirely different!  How about this:

She hasn't won in a green saddle cloth over a fast track under a sunny sky with temps over 85 degrees while carrying 135 lbs and being whipped less than 4 times.  And by at least 7 lengths.  In world record time.  And a yellow bridle. With her mane in corn rows.

There will always be THOSE kind of detractors!  The world is their cup and it's always, always half full.  

10 Sep 2009 1:46 AM

I meant to say: "thier cup is always half EMPTY."

Like my brain at this hour.

10 Sep 2009 1:47 AM
SC Bob

Rachel is a superior racehorse, but Zenyatta would have run past all of them in the stretch on Saturday.  Just watch tape of the Apple Blossom from a year ago, that is what would have happened.  I hope the two of them get to race against each other because then it will be finally settled.

No offense, but the males that Rachel is beating are above average race horses and nothing more.  She should beat them!

10 Sep 2009 2:21 AM

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


10 Sep 2009 3:36 AM


My hat is off to RA & I'm in awe of Zenyatta -both very exciting to watch win time & again. I don't know the distances of the races you mentioned but do agree with you that there are many fillies to be admired over the ages that have also beaten the boys in top notch races. A very interesting filly/mare you might like to look up is Sunline & yes she beat the boys in everything from 7 to 10 furlongs becoming the richest mare in history =D

10 Sep 2009 6:48 AM

Jerry Bailey said they should be banned from racing. I agree. (I do dressage, i know they can be a useful tool, but I also know a great dressage rider simply carries one, they don't use them during a competition ;-))

Plus, the NUMBER ONE thing that folks I talk to say turns them off is whipping...

The popper whip is a good step, but you can still overuse it on a tired animal who could take a misstep or breakdown.

You don't whip an animal already giving you all they have. (even at the lowest claiming rank) Calvin was already getting everything.

10 Sep 2009 6:56 AM

I don't know how many fillies have been able of beaten older male foes in events as full of tradition as the Woodward. I am part of a group of thoroughbred racing fans from Venezuela and surely it has been a privilege for us to watch this extraordinary horse to accomplish such a feat.

Ave Rachel Alexandra!

10 Sep 2009 7:07 AM
Bill P

Rachel is a gorgeous and brilliant horse!!! And I want her to stay that way.

Some commentary on the race etc, etc:

1)I would say the only time Rachel "might" have lost the Woodward is IF Macho Again did not brush Bullsbay ever so slightly - It clearly cut Machos momentum and a chance at the win.

2) I would never run this magnificent filly over 1 1/8, ever!!! Here's why, injury occurs when ANY horse is very very tired - the same way the sport of boxing no longer permits 15 rounds of boxing, injury significantly rises when very tired. 3) The use of the whip by Calving was plain bad. Fire him Mr. Jackson. You use a whip to gain the attention of the animal. You whip ONCE and  wait for a response.  If no response you whip ONCE more - if NO RESPONSE - You STOP!!!

Observe the "whipping" Calvin gave this magnificant creature ( I lost count).  There was no reaction by Rachel because she was traveling at her maximum speed... but he kept at it!!! If Ruffians jockey (J.Vasquez) had whipped Ruffian similarly - he would have been DOA because Frank Whitely would have killed him before he returned to the paddock. I know Calvin was under pressure to win but that is unforgiveable!

I rest my case.  

3) Has Rachel ever run beyond 1 3/16 (Preakness)?  If so, with

what result.  She should have a very easy schedule next year and retire shortly after the 2010 Breeders Cup 'Ladies' Classic. No need to beat up on the boys anymore! What a gift she is

10 Sep 2009 8:47 AM

Great write up Steve.

I haven't heard much said about the eight pound weight allowance (filly, age).  No doubt that without at least 6 of those pounds, there is a different winner.  Be that as it may, it was still fair.  One might be interested to see if, after she is freshened and returns as an older mare that she is able to also carry some weight. I think that Zenyatta has had to carry 129 or more pounds giving major weight to her rivals still winning, but laboring to do it.  Would be interesting to see if RA can do the same.

A question about weight while its on my mind. I seem to recall that a jockey's weight does NOT include the weight of his/her protective vest. In the 'old days' the jocks didn't have that so in effect their load was lighter.  Anyone know by how much (i.e. how much this equipment is?) It might be a factor in the equation in comparisons between generations.




10 Sep 2009 10:01 AM

SC Bob, aren't you glad we live in a country where you can voice your opinion no matter how wrong it is?

10 Sep 2009 10:26 AM

I will not put Zenyatta down but she doesn't get to decide her races. Her connections have not permitted her to show her greatness beyond the older mare group. What a shame, as we will never know if she could beat the best horses (older AND Rachel) running today. I suspect she could win in the Classic sans Rachel and she should have the chance to try. But Rachel has proven all she needs to as a 3 year old and should rest now. I hope she isn't broken by the whipping, thinking she failed and was being punished. Your article made me relive the day (I was there screaming my lungs to exhaustion, not even able to hear my own voice). I feel blessed to have seen her give herself so completely to her sport, to US!

10 Sep 2009 10:43 AM
Johnny B

Why doesn't the racing media ever mention the filly 5 pound weight allowance

She is a champion but on equal terms she does not defeat the older male horses.

10 Sep 2009 10:43 AM

Rachel is simply amazing and for those of you who throw in that Ruffian would have beaten her and Goldikova is better and Zenyatta would have passed her in the Woodward, if that makes you feel good, then good for you.  I love Rchel because she is a once in a lifetime horse.  She is thrilling and exciting and she will not be passed.  This does not diminish Zenyatta, Goldikova or Ruffian.  Ruffian was one of a kind and one of our "Legends" and has her own place.  Goldikova is a grass miler, apples to oranges.  Zenyatta is Zenyatta.  She has her own place in history as well.  There is no need to try to diminish what Rachel has done to protect your favorite.  Not necessary.  They have all secured their place in racing history.

10 Sep 2009 11:17 AM
Larry Zap

Rachel Alexandra has earned her place in thoroughbred history...Calvin Borel isn't givin enough credit for his judgement in the Woodward & Preakness stakes...Calvin was smart enough to take the race from the boys realizing that he can keep Rachel in a more secure comfort zone...Rachel has such a high cruising speed due to her physique & biomechanics, but her racing mind makes her so special...i applaud this great team of super filly Rachel Alexandra & her partner Calvin Borel...

I found Bullsbay at Keeneland september 2005 for my good buddy trainer Eric Kruljac...i was convinced the Bull with his Whitney move and improving would beat the three year old filly...he made his move and she repelled him...i do want a rematch in the Met Mile...i believe that Bullsbay is designed to be a one turn miler on a big track like Belmont Park...maybe the Stephen Forster and so on...i think it's interesting that they both won at Churchill Downs last November a day apart and then won races apart on Kentucky Oaks day...then they met...would love a rivalry with the old guy Bullsbay & the yong hottie Rachel Alexandra...don't laugh...Bullsbay is that thought...if they ever breed Rachel Alexandra to Bullsbay...foals name...Raching Bull.

10 Sep 2009 11:26 AM
Mary in VT

Just a few points on Calvin's use of the whip in the Woodward and the Haskell ...

If I understand what I saw in the Haskell, RA started to look at the crowd just after making the turn into the top of the stretch. That crowd was letting forth such a roar that it distracted her. It may not have bothered the other entries, but it bothered her. I shouldn't say 'bother' because it may only have been 'interest.' Calvin just did enough to keep her mind on business.

That roar increased ten fold during the Woodward. It was deafening. Calvin needed to keep her mind on business no matter what the crowd did because he knew there was two strong late closers hot on her heels. Don't dismiss the fact that he already knew she could be distracted by the roar of a crowd going in to the Woodward. I find it somewhat ironic that a filly our of a Roar mare is distracted by the roar of a crowd. But hey, if you watch Zenyatta's races, Mike Smith can frequently be seen asking the crowd to keep it down by putting a finger to his lips as her fans raise a pre-race ruckus for her.

Add to that the fact that Rachel had never been worked over like those street fightin' older boys worked her over in what boiled down to tag team event. Calvin had to communicate something to her that he never had to communicate before - I need all ya got this time, honey - every last ounce - so pay attention - give it to me.

In my opinion he called it just right. He wasn't hurting that horse. He was helping her. Calvin Borel would take a bullet for that horse. I am grateful to him. I think Jess Jackson ought to put that man in his will.

I show dogs and we actually train them to accept and dismiss the hootin' and hollerin' that can accompany a hotly contested Group or Best in Show by playing tapes of the biggest dog show commotion we can find at home for them. I hope Rachel's trainer will do something like that for her because that roar is only going to escalate for that filly of his.

Someone said they thought Jackson looked mad in the winner's circle. If so, my guess is that it wasn't directed at Calvin, but rather at the dirty race that was just inflicted on his filly. I'm still steaming mad about it. If I understood what I was watching, three horses were not in it to win it, but to run Rachel Alexandra off her feet early on. I understand about coupled entries helping each other. I don't like it, but I understand it is legal. But it looked to me like neither of the coupled entries was running to win. Why were they *both* taken out of their game? What about the third horse that did so? In my opinion, anybody who bet on any of the three was defrauded because those three horses appeared to have no intention of trying to win, but rather ran with the soul intention of knocking RA off her game, after which they appeared to be eased. I believe that is against the rules for good reason. Racing doesn't need this kind of dirt.

Beautiful day here in VT. Hope everyone else is enjoying something like this.

10 Sep 2009 12:44 PM
Steve Haskin

In regard to the weight, people shouldnt be so hung up over over the 8 pounds. The scale of weights in this country was designed to compensate for age and sex differentials and bring the horses together on a level playing field. The 8 pounds is not as important as people seem to think because she's supposed to get 8 pounhds to make her even with older males. In actuality, she was carrying equal weight, just as she was in the Preakness despite the 126-121 difference. If she was carrying actual equal weights in the Woodward, then in reality she'd be giving the boys 8 pounds.

10 Sep 2009 12:44 PM
Linda in Texas

to cgc:

I looked forward to reading the blogs and perhaps learning something. There is so much to learn from this blog and others. You made mention in one of the first posts "that Rachel should perhaps get her own page" and seemed aggitated that her name even came up on this blog. May i direct your attention to the Dual Headline of Mr. Haskin's article, clearly it states: 'Countdown To the Cup etc. AND Rachel Rocks The Spa.' So her name is more than welcome in my opinion for obvious reasons. Sometimes we use any way we can to talk about what is most important to us at the time. How about i not talk about the great filly and mention sadly, i might add, that as most of us were relishing Rachel's win that GONE WEST was going thru extreme pain and a surgery and had to be put down Monday, Labor Day evening. Reading about the gentleman horse at Mill Farm was so interesting. He sired over 1,000 foals, of which multiple Stakes and Grade Winners were produced, AND all together they made over $77 million dollars. I know he was treated with all the love and kindness in the world that the Chandler's could give him and i thank them for their devotion to him. Like i said previously, it is so sad to lose horses so suddenly to health issues and injuries no matter their age. He was a handsome fella for sure and the picture of him in his paddock was so nice, he was prancing for the photographer in a 'take a picture of me' sort of way. May he R.I.P. And no, cgc, Gone West wasn't in the title of this blog. So i will end my 2 cents by saying, "RACHEL, YOU DONE YOUR DADDY PROUD." And Good Luck to those running in the Breeder's Cup.

10 Sep 2009 1:02 PM

Very beautiful article, Steve.  I felt as if I were at the race.  Like a Dick Francis novel.  

I love Rachel and Z.  I do NOT want them in the same race.  Hope RA gets a good rest now.

10 Sep 2009 1:04 PM
Linda in Texas

MARY IN VT, my other favorite state, you are so right on. Every word you wrote is exactly what the whip was all about and what the other horses were in it for and that truly was to deny Rachel. Just like a neighborhood gang of boys playing baseball with a girl up to bat. Throw the ball at her hard and she will duck and miss a hit. Well, Rachel didn't duck. Takes a lady to know what a lady is thinking !!!!! No discrimination intended guys. Just the way it is.

10 Sep 2009 1:12 PM
Old Dutch

I've never been a fan of giving weight to make things "equal". No matter how hard you try you can't make it equal. Example; If they want equal then why then don't they give weight to the smaller horse who isn't as muscular as the one he lines up next to carrying the same weight? It's not "equal" if one horse is bigger and stronger than another but they are asked to carry the same load. Why make an adjustment for the sex or age of the animal when the one getting the break may just as well be bigger and stronger to begin with? In reality the 8#'s we are talking about could easily have been an additional 8#'s of advantage one horse already had by being bigger and stronger than their oponents in the first place. If you want "equal" why not a weight allowance based on post position or anything else you can come up with? It's not the answer. They are completely leaving out other factors and playing it off as making the race "equal". All they are doing is skewing the components of the race a different way.

10 Sep 2009 1:37 PM

Mary in VT,

Any sport is about defeating your opponent within the rules of the game. Quit sounding so bitter. In baseball they throw a curve to a fastball hitter to get him off his game, that's not dirty. In football they run or pass based on the opponents strength or weakness in a formation, that's not dirty. In boxing they go to the body to "soften up" an opponent just like they went at RA, that's not dirty. In basketball they foul the worst freethrow shooter on the court in an attempt to get back in the game, that's not dirty. Watch a track meet sometime (if ya really wanna get bored) where they send out a "rabbit" to wear out an opponent in a distance race so another can go by him for the win, that's not dirty. Every sport utilizes something to attack an opponent and wear them down or weaken them. Why not revel in the fact that RA won despite her opponents best efforts within the rules to defeat her. That's where the "real story" lies.

10 Sep 2009 1:51 PM

What an amazing animal and an amazing race.  There is no doubt she is among the most special animals to hit the track.  And at a time when owners have made an art of crafting campaigns that duck the competition (or retiring their good ones early, before they have proven themselves), Jess Jackson deserves our thanks for reminding us how this sport used to be run.

I am a bit surprised, though, that in all the press about this great 3 year old filly, there has been no mention of the last one who might be compared to RA (i.e. a three year old filly beating older horses).

Over 70 years ago, in October 1938, Jacola (who was 2 year old champion the prior year, running second to colts in the Pimlico Futurity), pulled off an amazing achievement.  She beat older males 3 times that month, each a stakes race. Included in the streak was a win over the great Seabiscuit in track record time.  In his next race, Seabiscuit beat War Admiral in their legendary match race.

This is not to compare Jacola to RA, but Jacola's achievement is memorable and somewhat comparable and should not be forgotten.

10 Sep 2009 1:52 PM


You are a sweetheart!  I'm so sorry you and your church group couldn't go to see Rachel at Saratoga.  What a great memory that would have been for you but you do have a group you can share all the news of this marvelous filly at church.  She is truly one of God's great creatures.  God bless you!

10 Sep 2009 2:22 PM
Bill Daly

David S: Thanks for the information about Jacola.  Never heard of her, but that's a name we should be acquainted with for sure.  What an amazing feat! It just goes to show you that in order to have a true appreciation and perspective of this - or any other - sport you need to be very old or very well read.  Of course, one could be both.

10 Sep 2009 4:03 PM
Susan Watkins Hot Springs, Arkansas

The only words I can say are:

Amen Steve, are the best!!!!thanks

10 Sep 2009 4:05 PM

So today is Thursday night....

Rachel was scheduled to back to the track on Wednesday for a little exercise...

Does anybody know if that happened or not.. if so.. how did she look...?

10 Sep 2009 4:35 PM

The comment about Jacola is really interesting.  I don't know a thing about that filly but I sure want to find out now.  She beat Seabiscuit just before he beat War Admiral in the Great Match Race!!  That's a wonderful story.  I love it when someone shares about a great horse. Thank you.

10 Sep 2009 4:56 PM

Lets put in perspective she ran a great woodward,she beat a game macho again, as far as her place in history? its yet to be seen, just let her keep making her deposits to the bank of greatness, the gavel on her career will fall when all is said and done, she is definately the best filly or mare in 20 plus years, but right now is not the time to judge her with the likes of holy bull spectacular bid affirmed seatle slew or the great secretariat.

10 Sep 2009 4:57 PM

Concerning Jacola(thnaks DavidS):

Imagine how those crying over the weight Rachel received in the Woodward would have reacted to Jacola's win over Seabiscuit in the 38' Laurel Stakes.

Seabiscuit carried 126 lbs, Jacola carried 102 lbs.  Jacola won by 2.5 lengths.

Jacola was receiving more than just the 8 lbs concession Rachel received as a 3 year old filly running against older males.  Even by scale, Jacola was receiving 16 lbs from the Biscuit.  So, amazing performances by both Jacola and Seabiscuit.

10 Sep 2009 5:22 PM


I think some of the people calling Rachel "one of the best ever" or "the best since Bid" are placing her accomplishments in the context that she is just a 3 year old filly.  I don't think all these people actually think Rachel would be able to defeat Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Holy Bull, Cigar, Skip Away, Ghostzapper, Easy Goer, Sunday Silence, or Tiznow in a mythical race.  I for one would probably make Rachel the longest shot in such a race. However, I would probably make Ruffian, Go For Wand, Busher, Gallorette, and Personal Ensign the longest shot as well.

If Ruffian or Personal Ensign are considered great, and they are, then Rachel most certainly deserves to be labelled great.  In my opinion, Rachel has had the greatest season ever by a 3 year old filly, rivalled only by the accomplishments of Busher, Twilight Tear, Beldame, and the brilliance of Ruffian.  In terms of the greatest females of any age, I certainly place Rachel up in the top 5 or 7.  However, given that the Bloodhorse ranked their top female, Ruffian, only #35 in the top 100, even if Rachel has surpassed Ruffian, it would probably make her something like the 30th greatest overall horse.  I know some feel the Bloodhorse list discounted the females, but does anyone REALLY think the second highest ranked female on the list, Busher(#40), could beat Discovery(#37), Gallant Man(#36), Easy Goer(#34), Alydar(#27), Seabiscuit(#25), etc?

10 Sep 2009 5:41 PM

Old Dutch: Any weight break RA was giving was made up in the fact that these were 4,5 and 6 year old males. Rachel is 3 and a filly. There is no way in horsey world that Rachel is as physically developed as these older males. She is just faster and possibly has more heart. That is what is so spectacular about Alexandra the great!

10 Sep 2009 5:49 PM
s lee

mmmmm not to take too much away from Jacola, who was a member of Sir Gallahad's family and thus related to Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox, and, I think, a half sister to Johnstown, and much later in life the dam of Phalanx who won, among other races, the Wood, the Belmont and the Jockey Gold Cup.

And in that race at Laurel against Seabiscuit she had to set a track record at the mile to beat him (1:37 and change, I think), but 2 things -

first, Tom Smith wanted Seabiscuit to have a tuneup before the match race with War Admiral.  "Biscuit" was notorious for needing to be raced into shape and rarely ran well the first race after shipping long distances and/or off long breaks.

and second, I think Seabiscuit carried something like 25 pounds more than Jacola.

Yes, she beat him by several lengths, and yes, she set a record doing it, and I bet she paid good money to do it!

10 Sep 2009 6:08 PM

Steve, that was not only a wonderful article to read, it was so moving a memory for me to recall Rachel's Woodward that by the time I heard you read that blog post about Chip Woolley on "At the Races" I was bawling like a baby.  God, I love this sport.  It's very difficult to express how much I needed to see a race like this.  Like many, I've never had a Triple Crown winner in my lifetime, but I'll always get to say I saw Rachel Alexandra.

It made me laugh when Steve Asmussen described trying to hug Rachel (like we all wanted to), and her response was even funnier.  After Rachel Alexandra won that race, we were all saps together.  Quite happily so, at that.  

10 Sep 2009 6:23 PM

Rachel is a beautiful,wonderful great race horse. History will show how good she is. She should not be compared to any other horse and say she is not as great as. You cannot because the horses of old were the best in their times. She is now. We are living her. I'm at the age when I could of seen Secretariat but never got to because of work and living in Georgia never getting to travel hardly any.Of course there has been alot of good horses since Big Red but he was something good and pure at a time when we needed him. A big problem that has hurt Rachel is no t.v. coverage. It's a shame as in this day and time alot of people need a boost because of the hard times but because of RA and the good horses of today I look forward to the computer everyday to see what is happening with all of them.Alot of them are works in progress. Rachel's work is done for now. She will be well rewarded for all her labor. Thanks Steve for another great article. I enjoy you so much and everyone else that writes I learn so much from all.

10 Sep 2009 8:15 PM
Paula Higgins

Brilliant, beautiful writing Steve. You brought the whole day to life with your pen. Karen2, you have to stand in line, LOL. Rachel Alexandra is breathtaking and one for the ages. If we are real lucky, she will still want to run next year.

Yes, we should all be thanking Mr. Jackson and not criticizing him. Same with Steve Asmussen. They have done everything right. Calvin Borel knows how to ride her. I looked at the tapes again and he was hitting the saddle area, not her so much. I don't believe he would deliberately really hurt her.

10 Sep 2009 9:36 PM
Ed R

Leave Calvin alone. He didn't (nor since 8/16/09 has any NY jock at the Spa meet) use a traditional crop. Borel used a cushion crop. Please read an excerpt below from an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Instead of stiff leather, the new whips have a cushion made of softer material, such as woven fabric or supple leather that makes a “pop” noise when it hits the horse. It's not loud enough to distract other horses on the track, jockeys said.

“Instead of running from the sting, they're running from the sound,” said Darrell Haire, regional manager for the Jockeys' Guild.  

I'm all for equine safety and some of these remarks about Borel are misguided by misinformed readers.

Oh yeah, fantastic article Steve. Rachel has surpassed the best filly/mare I've seen and that was HOF'er Silverbulletday. If only Rags could have stuck around for a few more races...

10 Sep 2009 10:50 PM

As usual with your fantastic articles, Steve, I keep coming back to read the newer comments, to continue my learning and enjoyment of the whole experience.  May I just say again, thank you for the article, thank you for pointing out that the classic distance for females is  1 1/8 miles, not l 1/4 (I didn't know that), thank you to all the posters who present their own photos, videos and recollections of races past.  Also, much thanks to Lil Darlin for the conversation between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta - that really cracked me up!!  So many of you are much more knowledgeable than I am about historic races, but I am grateful to be learning from all of you.  Thanks!

10 Sep 2009 11:01 PM
John T.

No disrespect to Mr.Nerud,because

I am just a little David and he is a Goliath when it comes to knowing

about horses,but yes in my heart of hearts I believe that Ruffian was a better filly than Rachel Alexandra.

10 Sep 2009 11:14 PM

from a saratogian who has watched some of the best horses race at saratoga.i thought John Nerud's comments were right on!he should know he had Dr.Fager,who i thought was the greatest horse i ever saw race. Rachel is sooo special.

10 Sep 2009 11:22 PM

JK: Its good to know there are other "saps" out there besides me. I share your love for this sport. It's not just a love, like a love for football, or is a deep love that runs through your veins. It is the connections and the feelings we have for these amazing animals and what they give us. There is nothing else like it. I will be "sappy" with you any day of the week.

10 Sep 2009 11:47 PM

What a wonderful description of a great race. Thanks so much Steve.

I actually had tears in my eyes by the end of the race and I was just watching it on TVG.

11 Sep 2009 12:06 AM

Excellent writing as always Steve. It never dawned on me before but I think you are right, 1 1/8 is the new classic distance for fillies and mares. What a shame though because for rachel to be considered an all time great (compared to the boys) she needs to win at the classic 1 1/4 distance. With regards to fillies and mares still put Ruffian on top as the best all time. Rachel would surely be in the top 5. Isn't it interesting, most of America awarded Rachel the HOTY honors on September 7th. To my recollection I can't remember a horse winning that award with so much racing left. Almost 4 months of racing left, wow. Like I said if Summer Bird should win the JCGC and the Breeders Classic then it is still up in the air. America wanted a hero (heroine) and they got one. This whole scenario reminds me a little of Secretariat back in 1973. America needed a triple crown winner and also a hero and Secretariat did not disappoint.

It is what it is, who am I to rain on anyone's parade..............

11 Sep 2009 1:08 AM

Check out this new blog, love rachel and love the blogs on bloodhorse also.  The WoodWard Weekend 2009 Part II

11 Sep 2009 2:05 AM


11 Sep 2009 3:01 AM
Old Dutch

Karen 2,

You really need to read what I said about weight before commenting like you did. I never mentioned RA, I was stating my opinion about weight allowances in general. Iv'e noticed that some here (not so much as in another column) see what they want to see when they read a post just so they can argue with other bloggers. I hope you aren't one of those "draynay's". Once again I was stating my opinion about weight allowances in general. I will add that I believe if you think you belong in the race then carry the same weight. It's a myth that you can make things equal by making weight allowances.

11 Sep 2009 7:47 AM
Bill Daly

You know, years from now we'll look back at this time in racing history and still marvel at the name Rachel Alexandra!  What a moment.

11 Sep 2009 9:28 AM


Actually, the situation with Rachel and the Horse of the Year is very similar to Holy Bull in 1994.  Jimmy Croll had announced going into that year's Woodward that it would be the Bull's last race of the year, and given the lead Bull had for pro-tem HoY, most felt that if he were to win he would clinch Horse of the Year. After Bull did, in fact, romp by over 5, almost everyone had conceded Bull HoY.  As the BC Classic approached, some were trying to make a case for Preakness/Belmont winner Tabasco Cat, but the movement for TCat was weak and even though he ran a strong 2nd in the Classic, Bull was voted HoY by an overwhelming margin.

In 2001, Point Given had pretty much sewn up HoY after the Travers, in August.  At the time, there really didn't even appear to be another horse in contention for the award. Ultimately, there wasn't, because even though Tiznow repeated in the BC Classic, Point Given did win HoY.

Charismatic won Horse of the Year in 1999 without racing after the Belmont, having suffered an injury during the race.  At the time of the Belmont, few had conceded the HoY to Charismatic, but in the end no horse was able to string together enough victories to knock Charismatic off.

Going back further, Criminal Type won the Horse of the Year in 1990 even though his last race came in the Woodward, which he actually lost, running 6th.  Most believed Criminal Type had a secure grip on HoY even after the loss, and this was proven true becuase he won the award even though the Derby winner, Unbridled, won the Classic. Perhaps Go For Wand could have won the award had she not so tragically broken down in the Distaff.  

In 1982, Conquistador Cielo won Horse of the Year without having raced beyond the Travers Stakes on August 21st, a race he lost, and in 1985 Spend A Buck won HoY without having raced beyond the August 17th Monmouth(Iselin) Handicap.  Few, perhaps, would have believed at the time that the two horses would be awarded North America's top honor, but their accomplishments held up.

11 Sep 2009 11:03 AM
hanky f

I saw Racheal run earlier in the year at the Fair Grounds and commented then, that I thought she was a monster.I have followed racing for over 50 years, and I do put her in the class with Kelso, Forego, Secretariat, and of course Ruffian. They are the great race horses of the last 50 years. In comparing Rachel to Ruffian, I will say this. I think Rachel may be limited to a mile and a quarter, maybe a mile and 3/16ths. Ruffian won at a mile and a half. Take nothing away from Rachel, she has had an amazing campaign, and has won over many different surfaces. It could be another 25-30 years before we see anything like her again.

11 Sep 2009 11:27 AM

Mary in Vermont:  So you think that the three other horses ran a "dirty" race? What the heck were they supposed to do, move over and STOP, and let her pass? And you think that "those three horses" didnt want to win? You've got to be kidding! With all the blood, sweat and tears, that goes into making a great race horse, not to mention the COST, I assure you that the connections of "those horses" would have loved to win!   I think you need to stick with your DOG SHOWS. And brush up on what horse racing is all about!

11 Sep 2009 11:45 AM

And this is why I love racing: for those rare moments, those rare equine athletes, that become as famous as Presidents and leave human-kind shrouded in awe and the mystery of their greatness.

They make the world feel right; feel balanced. Every horse is a jewel, but the few, the proud, wear the crown.

Thank you Steve, for setting this great scene. It adds immeasurably to our experience of this event.  

11 Sep 2009 12:24 PM

I truy wish posters would stop  comparing RA to the great horses of the 70's and earlier. There truly is no comparison. Please keep the comparisons to present day.

11 Sep 2009 1:49 PM

Thanks Gun Bow I was not aware of the information you provided. I think it is stii too early to give her HOTY honors. If Summer Bird wins the Breeders Cup Classic and the JCGC I still think he would deserve the award. Those 4 grade 1's would be more prestigious then Rachel's wins. It probably won't matter, people will still vote for Rachel because of her historical wins in the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward Stakes. She is a great filly and racing needs her.

11 Sep 2009 2:20 PM

Thanks, GunBow and others who provided additional info on Jacola.  GunBow, you really do an amazing job of pulling up loads of fascinating info.  I truly believe that people who love horseracing love the sport in a different way than people say they love other sports.  It is deeper in your heart and involves depths of emotion no other sport can touch.  This amazing feeling is totally and completely because of the horses.  These Horses elevate everything to a level of magnificence and emotional response no other sports fan ever experiences.  All these beautifully written comments expressing the love we all feel for the horses makes me sad for the large percentage who don't know, don't experience all of the adjectives that everyone has written here.  How sad for them that they don't know Rachel Alexandra the Great.

11 Sep 2009 2:22 PM

Old Dutch: my intentions were not to "argue" with another blogger, but to express a difference in opinion with the blog you wrote. I did read the entire comment and perhaps was a little quick to think that you were talking about RA when maybe you weren't but this is a blog about her. So I hope you will accept my apology.  I have never liked filly's getting a weight break but in this case don't feel she really got one considering her age. That was my only point. So I will agree with you that it is does not necessarily create an equal race. And no, I am nothing like Draynay....

11 Sep 2009 2:49 PM

Just to set the record straight. The Woodward was run at Belmont until 2006. The fractions set by Rachel at Saratoga were indeed fast for that track.

11 Sep 2009 3:41 PM
Will W

It seems as if there is a good deal of sentiment to deliver Calvin Borel to the woodshed or even worse for his alleged abuse of RA in the Woodward. If Calvin Borel was using a cushioned crop instead of a traditional crop in the Woodward, all this furor about his abuse of the whip falls by the wayside. ( Is blogger Ed R correct in this assertion, Steve ? ) Even with a traditional crop that relies on a sting rather than the new crop's use of a popping sound to stimulate a horse, there is not likely to be a problem if the jockey knows how and when to use it properly - so Steve Haskins and the quoted big time race rider, Mike Smith, have maintained in this blog. If it's not employed with correct technique and application, then you see what Steve said he saw when examining Congaree after the BC Classic. However, others in this blog with animal training experience have said that, even if employed with a soft and kind hand, a traditional crop's use can render a horse unfit and unsound or that voice commands are enough to motivate an animal with the needed inner resources without hitting it. The latter comment though was made in regard to training police dogs and hitting a 125-50 lbs. German Shepard may have a much more pronounced and deleterious effect than hitting a 1000 lbs. + race horse. Because of his post position and the fear of being boxed in along the rail by the speed, Calvin had to come out of the gate aggressively and use RA early. He knew he had gone fast, had then cooly tried to slow it down the second quarter, even tried to give RA a slight breather on the final turn, for he knew he had the two closers, the 1-2 duo from the Whitney, to face in the stretch. He let Da' Tara go to the lead while he fanned Past the Point and Cool Coal Man wide doing what was needed to protect the speed from boxing RA in on the rail. If Borel had not been under the necessity to use RA early, the repeated use of the whip would not have been needed. That was not the way the race set up, and Borel was predisposed by what he knew he had to face in the stretch from the closers - not to mention from the pressure of the high drama and precedent setting nature of the race - to go to the whip vigorously. Like spurs, whips have been used on horses to control their behavior since time immemorial and always will be. It is the technique and proper application of the whip that should be the concern and, if a softer crop that relies on sound rather than sting, can achieve the same effect all the better as it would end the controversy and silence PETA. Track stewards can and do suspend a jockey for abuses of the whip so the use of the device in racing is being supervised. It's not hard to visualize  running through Borel's mind what he said to Carl Naftzger to explain the loss after Curlin turned courageous and came back on Street Sense in the 2007 Preakness: "he was looking around at the crowd and pulled himself up just a little bit" on the lead in the final strides. Couple that with an earlier blogger's comments that RA had looked around at the crowd entering the stretch in the Haskell, then you have a fair understanding of Calvin's mindset when he went to the whip - he wanted his horse focused on the task of facing the two closers in the stretch, a challenge Borel felt would require all she had left having just run the three speed horses into the ground - horses that had almost foiled Curlin in the Woodward and Big Brown in the Haskell and had denied Big Brown the Triple Crown. What Jockey would not have been predisposed to use the whip under these adrenaline-popping, pressure-packed conditions ? RA showed no deleterious effects from the whip in the Woodward. She certainly did no shying away or veering out as did Scrappy T when Ramon Dominguez went to left hand whipping in the 2005 Preakness, colliding with and bringing his competitor, Afleet Alex, to his knees. RA seemed to respond to the whip as she repelled Bullsbay's challenge in early stretch, pulling away from the closer. The whip and RA's own refusal to let another horse that eyeballs her to pass - a behavior Borel himself said RA would display under challenge - seem to be the reason she repelled Macho Again. Furthermore, if she was badly abused by Borel in the stretch, would she have then rebroke after the finish and gone off another 5 lengths in front of Macho Again. Calvin was not at fault. He rode a superb race with post position dictating just the strategy and tacticsbhe needed to employ to win the Woodward with an inside draw and three speed horses, one on the rail and two outside him, and two closers to contend with. That's what Calvin was paid to do on a horse he's said is far and away the best horse he's ever ridden. RA is a professional thoroughbred race horse - not a pet - and was treated accordingly. If RA had drawn an outside post, the whole race could have been run differently as she has proved she can be rated. The three speed horses would have dueled each other into the ground and Rachel, rated in mid-pack, would have had plenty left to repel the two closers when she took the lead. The way Borel was forced to ride in the Woodward  would have given the closer Zenyatta possibly the only scenario under which she could have beaten Rachel, but her connections preferred to remain on the West Coast and hope RA was beaten to win HOTY honors. Would they had been the sportsmen Jackson showed himself to be. Rachel will get 10 furlongs - and likely  12 furlongs as did Rags to Riches against Curlin if she is used on the grass - and will be ridden differently in races of that distance as a versatile horse that can be rated and is no War Emblem or Dr. Faber. It's a shame the racing public will almost certainly not be able to see her do that in the Jockey Gold Cup.  If she can be rated rather than be forced into an early speed duel by an inside post with speed outside her, this iron filly should handle the JCG without compromising her 2010 campaign as a 4 year old. After all, RA is not going to Dubai in the spring. Train her up to that race and, if she gets a bad post position that prevents her being rated, Jackson and Asmussen can always scratch her rather than let her, after a long campaign, be abused by an over-taxing race scenario. A victory at this classic distance against older males would end all further discussion - what little if any's left of it - about HOTY laurels for a horse that is skipping the Breeder's Cup. As for thoroughbred horse racing itself, stirring stretch duels with jockeys furiously whipping and driving their horses is the exciting drama that has always constituted the sport . As long as jockeys are trained and instructed on the proper use and application of the whip and are supervised by racing stewards and state racing commissions that seems preferable to PETA-like suggestions to not use whips at all that seem divorced from the reality and nature of  thoroughbred horse racing itself.

11 Sep 2009 4:04 PM
My Juliet

   Just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed all the comments on here about Rachel.               Zarkava, what a heart you have for them,"every horse is a jewel, but the few, the proud, wear the crown"- I love that.        Ezevans, it was so touching to read, that Saturday you got your Triple Crown.              

   I wanted to wish all who live in the great United States, Happy Patriot's day. Home of the Free, Because of the Brave...NYPD, FDNY, never forgotten...

11 Sep 2009 4:08 PM
Bob Z

The Breeders Cup just upped the winning purse in the Classic by 1,000,000 if both Zenyatta and Rachel are in the starting gate...

Total purse to the winner would be  3.7 million.

11 Sep 2009 4:52 PM
Betty S

Ed R.---I so hope you are correct about the type of whip.  I've always been a CB fan and I so hope that you are correct and Rachel was really okay.  Its like I wanted her to win SO much but not  at the price of her having to be hurt.  That part is unstandable because we can all see that she gives all she can (and more).

11 Sep 2009 4:53 PM

The sporting thing to do (like in the old days) would be for Z and RA to travel to Beldame...Then RA and Z go to BC Classic (against the boys) and if they have split decision after that, an invitational (with Goldikova and Zarkava)December 19th at The Fair Grounds televised during halftime of Dallas/Saint game. Mile and 3/16s on dirt...I don't care, pick your own surface and distance.  Big winner-takes-all purse.  Call it the Ruffian Distaff Challenge.  One can only dream of such a thing.

11 Sep 2009 4:58 PM

Deacon, TerriV:

Thanks for the kind words.

11 Sep 2009 5:33 PM


Great PR move by the Breeders Cup to offer an additional $1million for the Classic. They know Rachel is extremely unlikely to run in any race on Breeders Cup day(s) and is most likely done for the year while Zenyatta has to be considered more likely for the Distaff than the Classic. Yet, by offering the money, the Breeders Cup makes it look like it is doing "all that it can" to get a Zenyatta-Rachel matchup.

Alydar: I agree. I've always felt the most sporting thing would be if there was one Rachel-Zenyatta race on natural dirt back East followed by either the Breeders Cup Distaff or Classic.  The only problem is that Rachel has clearly been pressed and asked for more during her 8 race season than Zenyatta has during her 3 races.  Zenyatta has remained perfect, carried 129 lbs, and overcome some unfavorable pace setups(very slow early pace), but her year to date has been rather tame, and has been designed to get her to peak for her most demanding races in October and November. On the other hand, Rachel has been agressively handled, and has pursued one of the more ambitious campaigns ever by a 3 year old filly.  No one can really fault Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen if they decide that Rachel has given enough and that it is time for an extended rest. Just for the record, though, I feel if Rachel is healthy, why not keep running.  

11 Sep 2009 5:44 PM
Ed R

Betty S-

I just Googled pictures from Rachel's last 4 starts and in the Preakness and Woodward Borel used the cushion prop. In the Mothergoose and Haskell Calvin used a regular prop. The pictures don't lie.

11 Sep 2009 6:02 PM

If Jess Jackson doesn't like running on synthetic surfaces, he can try wearing different shoes.

If I remember correctly, Curlin worked sensationly over the surface before the BC. He was just a tired horse at the end of the year.

11 Sep 2009 7:59 PM
Betty S

Thanks, Ed.  I needed to hear this.

Its really appreciated.  Girls like her don't come around too often.  

11 Sep 2009 8:05 PM

Thank you Will for your post. In my opinion you are spot on. Another interesting note that was brought up on the other blog was the fact that Macho Again was taking the whip just like RA but not a word has been said about that.

12 Sep 2009 9:03 AM

BobZ, your right about Rachel suposed to have a track run and nothing has occured.  It was stated by trainer she was eating and ok but is she really ok?

12 Sep 2009 1:28 PM
Mary in VT

Annette - don't lose your cool because I mentioned dog shows. My comment simply doesn't justify concluding that dog shows are the only thing I have made a lifelong study of.

The concept of a 'spoiler' is well known in sport. Why? Because people are people no matter how they choose to entertain themselves. A spoiler is a competitor who knows that although they might not be bringing the winning game to the day's sport, they do bring an ability to spoil someone else's day. Some enjoy spoiling it for someone else nearly to the same degree they enjoy winning themselves, depending on who the someone else is. The usual spoiler will happily spend all the same resources as when they feel they have a legit shot at the win. And they will happily recount the day they spoiled it for so-and-so just as long and heartily as they will recount their legit victories.

Personally, I find it ugly. I just don't need or want or admire that killer instinct. I always hope the best will show up and show their hearts out. Only then does a win over them mean what I want it to mean.

Perhaps you can explain why Da'Tara backed out of contention so abruptly, yet was not withdrawn from the race due to any apparent real concern for him because he did cross over the finish line. Then I want to hear for it the other half of the 1 entry. Follow with your explanation of the #7 horse's trip. Compare how they ran in the Woodward with their normal running styles.

According to an analysis I heard on tv, all three pressed hard a whole lot earlier than is their normal running style and were then eased. The analysis was backed up with references to their PPs. My guess is that is not how Da'Tara won the Belmont. <g> I would think that even a first time race goer could see it with Da'Tara who backed up out of contention rather dramatically. The easing of the other two was much more subtle, but I do agree that they were also eased.

As heaven would have it, instead of knocking Rachel off her game, they exposed her true greatness as she left guts, and heart, and glory all over that track.

12 Sep 2009 4:35 PM

Excellent article Steve. Written with so much emotion, I felt like I was watching the race again.  

Rachel is so special; she has the heart and determination of a true champion. She has given racing fans such an exciting year and she now deserves a rest.

I hope we will see her race in 2004. She is like fine wine and will only get better with age.

12 Sep 2009 4:38 PM


How would you rank RA's year in the history of racing?

Who would be in your top ten racing seasons?  

12 Sep 2009 11:37 PM

Yesterday we got to go to DE Park for my birthday and what a day. I got to see Bold Union run, got extremely close to winning a bet, and the owners of the racing farm i used to work at had a horse running. If anyone wants to read about it you can go to my blog site

It was such a fantastic day at the track and even topped last year when I went and saw Adriano win the Kent. If you do go over to it, i hope you enjoy it. Thank you.

13 Sep 2009 9:07 AM

Steve did a good job of capturing the excitment and energy of Rachel's run in the Woodward.  It was one of the best moments I have experienced at the race track and I still get excited watching the replay.  

As Tom Durkin said, "Rachel Alexandra raises the rafters here at the Spa."  What a great filly and a great day for horse racing. I am so happy I decided to see her for that historic run and I can't wait to see her next year!

13 Sep 2009 9:46 AM

i think Ra won despite a not so clever ride by Calvin. he seems to either ride a great race or not so good. that she won is a testament to ability not rider. mike smith also has erred in riding mine that bird.

i think Calvin goes to the whip too much very rarely do fillys run their best from that musch punishment.

She may be the greatest since ruffian .I hope Jackson sticks to his plan.he knows that shwe has had a tough year. better to rest and refresh now then start out new campaign. To beat older horses had to be a very physically draining beat them with the very crisp first fraction is amazing but stillit is time to rest her.

no match race for her and zenyatta is best for the game.

13 Sep 2009 2:22 PM
Saratoga AJ


Heard on my local Capital OTB channel (Albany/Saratoga area)"Down the Stretch" show with local handicappers/turf writers Mark Cusano and Mike Veitch that they spoke with Jess Jackson this week and he has tempered his remarks concerning Rachel Alexandra's future.

IT IS NO LONGER ETCHED IN STONE THAT SHE WILL RUN AS A 4 YR OLD. It is NOT certain. Reason? Jess is 79 and if you remember his first reason for buying Rachel in May was to "breed her to Curlin". Now he wants to be around to see their offspring on the track. One more year of of her racing pushes that back another year. Even if she were bred to Curlin this year, their foal would not run until 2012...when Jackson is 82.

As much as most of us all want to see her run as a bigger, stronger and dare I say faster 4 yr old mare, I can also understand his reasoning.


13 Sep 2009 2:54 PM
Tim G

Karen, Rachel was hit over 20 times, Macho 11 at most, Robby was waving the whip at his shoulder but not making contact, then when he switched the stick to the left it wasn't even clear that he hit him twice then, so maybe 9 times?

AJ, I think I mentioned this a while back on the other blog.

That's been the rumor since mid Saratoga as most were hearing.

13 Sep 2009 9:02 PM

I was out on the west coast last week on vacation visiting all my family out there, On Wednesday I made the trip from Los Angeles to San Diego to catch the last day of Del Mar.  I took my wife, my 4 year old son, and my 85 year old grandfather, who was the real reason I made a trip down there.  Yes grandpappy has had quite a life, one especially thats been decorated by his love of horse racing, aeronautics, and his family.  He is an old school man, a very proud man, a man stubborn on his principles.  I admire him a lot though.  He´s been through a depression, 3 Major Wars, He´s survived a shot on his head, and if anyone who has had the pleasure to talk to him would not notice it, as he is still in command of all his senses, and his memory is in tact.  He tells me stories of horses who ran at Tanforan and Caliente,  and he recites them with such passion you would think he was talking about Secretariat or Seabiscuit. Its through him that a deep love exists for the horse in my family.  Through him my father was smitten, then me, and now my children, especially my 4 year old son.  So there I was at Del Mar, running after my 4 year old so he wouldnt get lost in the crowd, then having to turn around and going after my 85 year old grandfather so he wouldnt get lost from me.  Its like I was seeing life come full circle.  My Grandfather and my son hit it off incredibly, both of them get just as excited watching horses at the paddock and talking to the jockeys.  Even more funnier is that both of them are pretty good handicappers, way better than me or maybe even some pros out there.  Although my grandfather like every handicapper lives and dies by the DRF, I have to say I was impressed with my kid who takes after his mother in picking horses at the paddock, he picked out for me two longshots, El Gato Malo in the 5th race and Sky Morni in the 6th.   El Gato Malo I remember being a good horse last year running pretty good against the likes of Colonel John, but Sky Morni was a shocker that paid $67 for the win.  Like my wife told me after, he´s got his mothers eyes, knows a good horse when he sees one.  All in all it was a fun day, we came out winners, without expecting it, because in this game you cant expect to win money everytime or most times.  Going to the racetrack, Its just fun. The food is great, The atmosphere is fun, you get to be close to the stars, take pictures with them, most of them are really nice, I have to give a shout out to my man Ramon Dominguez who is a hell of a nice guy, he was real cool to my kid.  Which is something I cant say a lot about in other sports.  Now my kid he loved his day at the track.  My grandfather, he was in his element.  He loves the track.  We had a box to sit, but he would rather spend his time running back and forth from the paddock to the betting windows to the grandstand and going to do it all over again race after race.  Quite the energetic type, very different from the man I saw at his home the previous night.  He was basically a kid again.  Happy as can be, and that made me very happy, because if I´m lucky enough to get to be 85 years old, and still be able to do the things he does, I want to be a happy man just like him, full of life.  To me last wednesday, is a day I will always cherish. It was a special day, just like everyday at the racetrack is. And as long as theres people like my grandfather and my 4 year old kid who love this wonderful sport, I am a believer now that Horse Racing will always be alive.

14 Sep 2009 1:07 AM

As so many others have stated, Steve--what an outstanding article. I was there and you described it perfectly. I've printed it out and saved it as a souvenir of an unforgettable day.

But I, too, am concerned--no word yet on her since the race. Is she OK?

14 Sep 2009 12:54 PM

Emilio, that is just so cool!  Thank you for sharing the story of your day with your family and the horses.  That is what it's really all about.

14 Sep 2009 1:34 PM
Susan E.

To mary who wrote  0n 9/12/09: "...instead of knocking Rachel off her game, they exposed her true greatness as she left guts, and heart, and glory all over that track."

Well said Mary.  True champions(whether they win or lose a race) all have two things in common - heart and courage.

Mary in VT 12 Sep 2009 4:35 PM

14 Sep 2009 2:48 PM
Susan E.

STeve - An incredicble race, an incredible horse, and - same for your writing.  

Have you heard anything on Rachel's condition?  I've heard whispers that all is not well and I am so worried.

14 Sep 2009 3:31 PM
s lee

Somebody pointed this out to me over the weekend, as an argument that Rachel has had enough for one year - winning times -

Mother Goose 1:46.33

Haskell 1:47.1

Woodward 1:48.29

Yes, there's different tracks and different conditions and different weights and different strategies - but it's an interesting point.

14 Sep 2009 4:26 PM

Dont blame Jess Jackson at all, I too would want to see a foal of Rachel's and Curlin's.  yes sir lets have a baby soon....yes sir ....that baby will be one tank...

14 Sep 2009 4:52 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Jane and Susan. The last I heard she was fine, just not running again this year. I havent heard anything official about next year.

14 Sep 2009 4:56 PM
Steve Haskin

Aleesa, I'm not big on rankings, but it has to be regarded as one of the greatest campaigns by any filly in history.

I dont know if you means seasons by a filly or anyone. Either way, thats a hard one. Some great filly seasons off the top of my head are Ruffian, Dark Mirage, Gallant Bloom, All Along, Desert Vixen, Lady's Secret, Go for Wand, Personal Ensign, Zenyatta, Serena's Song, and Davona Dale

14 Sep 2009 5:13 PM

This was my first chance to read your roundup of the race, Steve.

I've spent the last week trying to convince people  - people with deep biases - that Rachel Alexandra is one for the history books. I finally decided I have better things to do, because I've been singing the same tune since before the Oaks, and all she's done is surpass my own high expectations every time she runs.

I think horseracing fans will be reading your recap of the Woodward 100 years from now, it's certainly the perfect way for me to end my defense of Rachel, to hear it said of her, in a manner equal to her, that she resides amongst Champions, is the fitting tribute that she deserves.

Thanks for capturing it perfectly, Steve.

14 Sep 2009 5:28 PM

I am a bit peeved when I read that ESPN would probably be showing Z's next race and yet they did not show Rachael's.  Go figure.

14 Sep 2009 7:42 PM
Betty S

yes, if anyone knows anything about her condition, kindly let all of us adoring fans know.  Thank you again.

14 Sep 2009 7:46 PM
northern dancer

gunbow- ranking horses which have never faced one another either directly or even by six degrees of separation based on subjective criteria and conjecture lacks any credibility. it's just opinion and just like snowflakes no two are exactly the same As for making RA the longest odds in your elite field- that is what a lot of people did to Mine that Bird in the KD. you just never know

15 Sep 2009 4:52 PM
Matthew W

ESPN is carrying the Breeders Cup--Zenyatta is a Breeders Cup Champion, (probably) going in the Classic--Indeed, Zenyatta will be the marque horse in the Breeders Cup, along with Sea The Stars if he goes--this is in answer to the poster who said "go figure", as to why they were gonna televise her next race---Cuz it figures! Believe me, if Rachel were going in the Cup they would be all over her story!

15 Sep 2009 10:26 PM
Matthew W

Steve it's not THEIR fault the Breeders Cup was there two years in a row--If it weren't for the advent of synthetic/plastic tracks--EVERYBODY would know Zenyatta's a great mare--after all, they "promissed" us the new rubber tracks would be more consistent--those tracks are HARDLY consistent/and to get the $$ from far back/uaually dead last/devoid of gate get the $$ EVERY time.....vs all comers.....I just think they're going the 1 1/4 on Sat.....Sea The Stars/Gio Ponti/Einstein/Zenyatta/The Birds.... would make the last 1/3 of the racing year the CAPPER, of one of the most memorable years in American Turfdom!

15 Sep 2009 10:55 PM

Hi all.

S Lee- thanks for mentioning Dark Mirage and Allez France.  Two of my favorites.  Allez France was rated pounds better than Dahlia when they raced in Europe, and we know what Dahlia did over here.  And if she wasn't such a head case her accomplishments would have been even greater.

Steve-thanks for the great article.  I want to address your comments about the Arc and european campaigns in general.  We don't have a race here in the US as testing as the Arc.  And you don't win an Arc unless your horse is fresh.  Longchamp in the fall is as testing as it gets.  And that long stretch is all uphill.  No horse could have been fresher than Alleged when he won his second Arc with no prep race.  Zarkava was amazing last year, and the way that Goldikova humbled our horses in the Breeder's Cup should show that, because Zarkava humbled her and any other horse who ran against her. European tracks in general are much more testing and difficult than American tracks.  They undulate, are uphill and downhill, etc.  You need to give your horse a break if you want them around for the big fall races, otherwise they are over the top by the time the Arc is run.  A european horse is much leaner also than their American counterpart.  So their campaigns have to be different.  So even though it may seem like their season is sparse, it really isn't for the playing field on which they are competing.  

As for the mile and an eighth being the classic distance for fillies- it's just sad.  A mile and a quarter should be the yardstick as the classic distance in the US as it has always been.  In Europe it's a mile and a half, but that's there where horses can still run a route of ground consistantly.  I know I've mentioned Buckpasser before, but his three year old season had him running from seven furlongs to two miles.  And this was a horse that Braulio Baeza said was the fastest horse he ever rode.  Even faster than Dr Fager.  He also said he didn't think that Buckpasser ever gave him more than 60% of what he had.  He set a world record for a mile, and beat older horses at two miles.  I'm not saying that we need to measure any horse by that because very few would measure up.  But his three year old campaign was one of the greats of all time, bar none.  And he seems to be a forgotten legend, so I would like to bring him up again because I feel he deserves his due.  He was also an amazing broodmare sire.

Just one more comment- when Lady's Secret won HOY, she was not the best horse in the country.  She was dominant in her division.  Precisionist soundly beat her at a mile and an eighth.  And Turkoman beat Precisionist.  So HOY is not always about the best horse running.  RA has dominated her division, and she beat older horses in the Woodward.  She will get HOY no matter how good Zenyatta is because people don't seem to believe in Zenyatta.  Her campaign has been designed to keep her healthy.  She's a huge filly, and they want to make sure she stays sound and healthy.  Her trainer doesn't duck anybody, but he doesn't have to chase after anybody either.

Thanks for reading.   Let's support racing and revel in the glory of both these horses.  And lets start breeding stamina back into our breed.  The advet of Synthetic tracks means there will be more turf blood in pedigrees, and hopefull that will mean more stamina.

16 Sep 2009 10:30 AM


Enjoyed reading your very excellent comments.

No horse should be crowned a champion based on performances in 9 furlong races (including distaff).  This years Kentucky Derby illustrates this in spades.  All the brilliant prep race winners struggled in the final furlong or were unsound and couldn't get to the starting gate.  The thoroughbred racehorse is most tested at 10 furlongs and beyond and that is why I am such a huge fan of Aidan O'Brien and his great champion, Yeats.

17 Sep 2009 12:46 AM
Linda in Texas

EmilioP: i enjoyed your post so much. You exude many things, but the love of your family comes thru brightest and the joy it gave you to see your granddad and son so happy was delightful. Never lose your love of the track, the horses, and just having a great day at the races either.

Your words said it all. And the reason for the season that day was HORSES. People who can't, don't or won't spend a day at the races have no clue what they are missing. If they didn't know the joy they were missing before your post, they sure know now. Thanks  

17 Sep 2009 10:08 PM


Excellent comments.  You are correct that the HoY does not always go to the "best" horse.  As you mentioned, Precisionist clearly proved he was better than Lady's Secret in 1986.  In 2002, I don't think Azeri was faster than Street Cry, Left Bank, or Medalgia d' Oro. And in 1997, Favorite Trick would have been beaten 10-15 lengths had he run against Skip Away, Formal Gold, Gentlemen, Siphon, Will's Way, Silver Charm, Free House, or Touch Gold.  

The reason Lady's Secret, Azeri, and Favorite trick were named HoY is that they were the most accomplished horses, and dominated their respective divisions more than any other horse. No matter happens from here out, no horse will be able to match Rachel's seasonal accomplishments, or her dominance in her division(3 year old filly).  Not only was Rachel dominant in her division, she has transcended her division by beating 3 year old males in the Preakness and Haskell and older males in the Woodward.  The fact that Rachel won the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward is nothing extraordinary in itself; had Summer Bird won all 3 races, he would be considered the leading contender for the 3 year old male Eclipse, but he wouldn't be hailed as one of the greatest horses of all time.  What makes Rachel's accomplishment in sweeping those 3 races historic is that she transcended her division doing so, becoming the only 3 year old filly in North America over the last 36 years(since the grading system was installed) to win 3 gr.1 races against males in a single season, and the first 3 year old filly to defeat older males in a gr. 1 route race on dirt.

18 Sep 2009 10:58 AM
Abbie Knowles

Your article is matchless as ever Steve and a marvelous tribute to a wonderful filly.

The posts on this blogsite are tremendous and make for very interesting reading.  Have just read them all.

Do not agree that the whip does not hurt a horse - of course it does - but perhaps it looked worse than it was in this case.  If it was indeed the cushioned whip Mike Smith and Garrett Gomez recommended then it would not have been so bad.  But it did look dreadful and that can, and in this case did, get racing a bad press.  I stand by my comment that Rachel DID NOT need hitting like that because she was giving her all anyway.

Very much hope Rachel does not race again this year.  She has done enough and deserves a break.

It would be marvellous to see  Rachel race as a mature horse in 2010, but she has achieved so much anyway and it would be totally understandable if Mr Jackson wanted to breed her to Curlin and hopefully see her foals race.  That would be something to look forward to in itself.

Rachel has done so much for the popularity of horse racing and may God bless her in whatever they decide to do.  If she races may He keep her safe and running like she did this year. If she is bred to Curlin in 2010 may God grant her a long and successful career as a broodmare just like my all time favourite racemare/broodmare Dahlia had!  Dahlia not only trounced the boys (and girl - it is true Allez France beat her but only in France - Dahlia preferred to travel rather than run on homesoil and liked having the boys to thrash!  There was no weight allowance then either!) at 3, 4, 5 and 6 but bred lots of Grade/Group 1,2 and 3 winners and lived until she was 30!  Hope the same is true for Rachel!  Especially as a lot of top racemares do not do well as broodmares which is a shame.  May God grant Rachel many great foals!

I too love Yeats and have a high regard for Aidan O'Brien.

If Sea the Stars runs in the B C Classic then will be cheering for him and Zenyatta as I adore them both.  Sea the Stars has done just as well in the UK/Ireland as Rachel has in the US make no mistake about that!

I too miss Stardom Bound and it is a great shame that she was bought by her present connections as we have been denied seeing her for so long!

Don't forget Careless Jewel!  She is a terrific filly too!

God Bless you all

Best wishes


18 Sep 2009 7:10 PM

This may be off subject, but does anyone know how I Want Revenge is doing? Or is he retired? I haven't heard much at all about him over the summer.

18 Sep 2009 10:40 PM


I believe Dahlia did receive the sex and age allowances in her races at age 3.  When she was 3, she won the King George + Queen Elizabeth carrying 116 lbs, while the older males Rheingold and Our Mirage were burdoned with 133 lbs.  In the Arc that year, both Dahlia and Allez France carried 119 lbs while the winner, Rheingold, carried 132 lbs.  In her DC International win later that year, Dahlia carried 118 lbs while the runner up and 3rd place horses, Big Spruce and Scottish Rifle, carried 127 lbs.  

At 4, Dahlia did carry more substantial weight. During a 3 race gr.1 win streak over older males, Dahlia carried 129, and 130 twice. It should be noted, however, that in the first of those races, the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud when she carried 129 lbs, the runnerup, On My Way, carried 134 lbs, and the 3rd place horse, Direct Flight, carried 136 lbs.  Later that year, Dahlia won both the Man O' War and Canadian International, but carried 123 lbs in both compared to the older males that carried 126 lbs.

Whether the races were weight for age/sex(like the Arc in which all 3 year old fillies carry the same weight, all 3 year old males carry the same weight, all older females carry the same weight, and all older males carry the same weight), or handicaps(including those gr.1 wins Dahlia carried 130 lbs), I believe Dahlia was receiving weight based upon age and sex. Thus, I believe that even when she carried imposts of 130 lbs at age 4, the sex allowance had been applied, meaning she was carrying 134-136 lbs on scale(if she had been a male she would have carried 134-136 lbs). However, I am not 100% sure what the conditions of all Dahlia's races were. However, in general, European female horses receive a similar allowance based on sex as those females in the US received.  For example, Zarkava carried 12 or 13 lbs less than runner-up Youmzain in last year's Arc.  Rachel did not receive some special consideration in her races vs. males; the tradition of giving females a weight allowance is a long and common practice in both the US and Europe.

19 Sep 2009 3:23 AM
Abbie Knowles

Thanks for the interesting information Gunbow.  I cannot remember the exact details. We are talking about 1973, 74, 75 and 76 after all!  But whichever way you look at it Dahlia's achievements both on and off the track were tremendous!

Hope Rachel does as well as a broodmare but that is by no means certain.  Many top mares like Allez France, Winning Colours and Genuine Risk sadly produced little of great note as broodmares!

God Bless

Best Wishes


19 Sep 2009 1:48 PM

gunbow- to win the woodword is also extraordinary(rare) for a 3yr old colt

19 Sep 2009 6:40 PM
John T.

I found your research into the record of fillies in major races in Europe very interesting.One of the main reasons why so many top class 3 year old fillies over the years no longer particapate in the King George is because the major race for that age group at that time of year is the Irish Oaks and it is run only one week before the

King George.Gone are the days when a trainer like Maurice Zilber would run a top class 3 year old filly in both like he did with Dahlia in 1973.Because both races

are run in July connections are more likely to keep the filly in her own age group whereas a race like the Arc being run in the first week in October is a whole different story.

19 Sep 2009 7:10 PM

I personally hope that Zenyatta and Rachel don't race each other. 2 winners who never quit could both end up dead or injured. Remember Flanders? She beat Serena's Song to remain undefeated, but did it by injuring herself. As to who is the greatest. I have to go with Robert Sievier, about comparisons between Sceptre and Pretty Polly "They were both too good to be compared."

19 Sep 2009 8:20 PM

Gun Bow- very true about the weight allowances for Allez France and Dahlia.  But Allez France was exceptional in France- but a real whack job and notoriously bad shipper.  She was only beaten a nose or a neck in the Arc by Rheingold and she was a 3yr old filly.  And she thrashed the boys as a two year old in the Grand Criterium on Arc day.  And her Arc win as a 4yr old was gutsy as she decided to make her run at the false straight instead of the stretch.  Her jockey thought she had pulled his shoulders out of their sockets.  He had a huge hold on her, but that's how strong and headstrong she was.

Abbie- so right about broodmares.  Dahlia was so superior to Allez France in the breeding shed.  You just never know.  Kudos to bothe of their race careers and to Dahlia'g great broodmare success.

20 Sep 2009 12:19 PM
Mary in VT

Don't know about you guys, but I am having withdrawal symptoms from passing the 2 week mark with no fresh news of how Rachel Alexandra is doing following her gutty effort against older males in the Woodward. It's not that I need her to race again this year or next year or would be disappointed if they called it a day. I just need to know if she is ok.

Up until the Woodward she always seemed to be racing well within herself leaving you wondering what she could do if she were ever pressed. Still, the Woodward was not the race I wanted to see. There was something ugly about the way the race unfolded in that she appeared to run a gauntlet of older males in which each in turn unleashed their best in successive volleys whose accumulative effect looked like it could wear down a freight train, much less a flesh and blood 3 yr. old filly.

And though she revealed yet another thrilling measure of her greatness, that she will lay her very life down if need be, as she was led away from the winner's circle she looked the most completely spent and drained race horse I have ever seen. I didn't realize the price that older boys would exact from her. I'm sure no one did. Apparently there is a very good reason why the feat had never been previously accomplished. It is simply more than flesh and blood can do. Until Rachel.

I believe Steve when he says he was shaking after that race. I was standing at the rail at the finish line with my daughter and granddaughter. Everybody in our vicinity was left shaking and holding each other up after the spectacle that horse delivered. In fact, I am still trying to process what I saw. It seems like racing fans and horse lovers spend our lives hoping to see just one horse that lives up to our dreams, and when she runs her heart out right in front of us we find that our bodies are almost too frail to take it. I feel like I will never be the same after witnessing the heart, and guts, and glory that horse laid down on the track that day.

So please, Mr. Jackson, if you are out there, have mercy on Rachel's multitude of adoring fans. Let us know how she is doing.

21 Sep 2009 10:04 AM

Thx aleesa4 and Gun Bow.  Sorry I'm so late to comment and say that.  I do believe a horse should prove themselves at a mile and a quarter in this country, but it is difficult when for so long the US breeding industry has been fueled by breeding more speed and less stamina.  More breeders are breeding for sales and we need to get back to the homebreds and owners breeding to race the classic distances.  I do believe we have started to turn that around and AP Indy has been a stamina savior here in the US.  But with the advent of polytrack, at least we are getting more stamina injected back because of the turf sires.  So it will eventually swing back and we will not be seeing speed pedigreed horses struggling to get their final furlong.

And I believe Mr Haskin said that Zenyatta only runs the last three eighths of the race (please correct me if I am wrong!).  I remember when I saw Buckpasser (again his name) set the world record for a mile, and Impressive set those amazing fractions.  And I realized that eventually, well before a horse makes their move, they have to start running at least as fast as the leaders or else they would continue to drop further and further behind.  I'm not saying they are at top speed, but they are running harder than people think.  I don't feel that a front runner is expending more energy than a stretch runner.  They are making their optimum runs at different times.  But if you want to stay in contact with the field, you have to run as fast as the field.  I don't think Zenyatta has ever given us her top speed.  And I think Del Mar is far from her favorite track.  But, it's just my opinion.  

And Mr O'Brien is one of the great trainers of all time and he has done an exemplary job with Yeats.

Thanks again for reading!  

21 Sep 2009 5:07 PM
Susan E.

Hi Everyone.  1) Does anyone know how I can buy the T-shirt that says "Rachel Alexandra - Run Like a Girl"?  Would love to have one. 2) FYI - in case anyone missed it there was a 2 page spread on Rachel in Sports Illustrated (the 9/14/09 issue I think) - she should have been on the cover!  :) 3) Also FYI - Vogue magazine has a truly breathtaking full page photo of her - just RA against a white backdrop - I think the April or May issue - stunning.

21 Sep 2009 7:44 PM
Matthew W

Steve I just read your column (todays)...I am getting goosebumps over the possibles in the Classic---Sea The Stars and friends make for a whole different experience--That is the best think about synthetics--they do attract more of the good Euros/hopefully the GREAT Euros, like Goldikova/Sea The Stars! The Derby Winner...Belmont/Travers Winner, Colonel John, Macho Again,Rail Trip, Einstein, Richards Kid (the NOW horse, whom I like very much) Zenyatta (prob), Sea the Stars (maybe)....wish we had the Preakness winner but thats way too much to ask of her....although it IS nine weeks off...and what about Gio Ponti? Keep our fingers crossed, it's the year of the filly...charmed at that!

21 Sep 2009 9:10 PM
Andy O'Donnell

Wonderful filly  but is she as good as Rags to Riches? Hard to judge.

22 Sep 2009 8:46 AM

Lester Piggott rated Allez France,Dahlia and Park Top as the best fillies he ever rode.

22 Sep 2009 9:06 AM

GunBow, 3 year-old Busher still outdoes her, no grading system at that time, but major races, up to 10 F, turf and dirt, 2x colts, 2x older males. ;-) Against high quality older males, too.

The only top tier filly I could find that beat the older males at 10 F.

22 Sep 2009 9:52 AM

Rags to Riches ?  Took on the boys once and than was never able to win another race.

22 Sep 2009 1:31 PM

Rags to Riches defeated Curlin and then suffered a career ending injury.....She proved how good she was against one of the best horses of the decade.....Enough said!!!!!!

22 Sep 2009 3:49 PM


I totally agree with your opinion regarding come-from-behinders.

22 Sep 2009 3:56 PM
My Juliet

 Susan E., Thanks for mentioning Rachel in SI, I'll look for the article, wondered if they'd feature her. I agree she should have made the cover but unfor can't compete with other sports(unless a 50-1 shot wins the Derby I guess) What RA did was as exciting, or more so, to a lot of fans of horseracing but unfor not to others, and it shows how important the KY Derby is. BTW, she was in Aug Vogue, in case anyone looks for the article. Very cool for a Racehorse to make that magazine, though she is a beauty :)

22 Sep 2009 4:58 PM

Susan you can go to and get the shirts. They are awesome. Also some cool hats.

22 Sep 2009 7:58 PM

Thanks to Steve Haskin for a well-written, insightful and colorful article.  Kudos to everyone that recognizes the greatness of this fabulous filly.  Clunkers to those that insist on trying to tear her down.  In particular; Amy Rooney - your comment was utterly tasteless.  Ghostzapper; most of RA's wins have been at distances over a mile - so why refer to her as a miler?  arliss - you and others seem determined that Rachel not be considered "great" unless she runs and wins at 1-1/4 mile.  Who has decreed that a horse has to win at 1-1/4 mile to be great?  And why do you (and others) assume Zenyatta would roll over Rachel at that distance?  Do you not realize that Rachel has run and won at a longer distance than Z (the Preakness at 1 3/16th).  She has also run and won more races at 1 1/8th mile.  I think the great majority of Zenyatta's races have been at 1 1/16 mile. There have been many opportunities for her to run at a longer distance and to face tougher competition.  Do you think her connections believe she may have distance limitations?  I don't mean to take anything away from Zenyatta.  Any unbeaten horse has to be held in great esteem, but I am really puzzled by the comments of those who state that Zenyatta's races "prove" she can win at 1-1/4 mile but Rachel can't.

23 Sep 2009 12:26 AM

Thx Lazmannick.  and thx andy for the quote from Lester Piggott.  All three of those fillies were amazons.

23 Sep 2009 8:51 AM
Mary in VT

Ack. Hated Rachel's' picture in Vogue. Just hated it. I thought she looked sleepy like she was roused too soon from a good nap, ragged off, and stood up in a 'let's be quick about it' manner. I'll bet you she rolled her eyes back in her head and delivered a toothy yawn either seconds before or seconds after that picture was snapped. The one page article was a fluffy piece that wasn't worth the price of admission either.

Obviously, it was no fault of Rachel's. The type of photographer that does these fashion mag shoots is used to shooting bored heroine addicts that look good in clothes. Anything other than 'bored princess' would look wrong to them.

Case in point - three of my bench champion Borzois did a 2 full day shoot for a big spring ad campaign for Polo Ralph Lauren furniture and household furnishings. The full page ads appeared in many top magazines including In Flight (inside cover), Architectural Digest, Vogue, W, and more. It sounded like fun, but I was so disappointed with their photo selection I never even framed any of the ads for the house. Same thing. Same exact thing. In every picture they used, the dogs looked bored out of their brains, and to my eye, obscured their furnishings when they could have looked like bright jewels natural to the lifestyle they were trying to sell. Why bother?

My advice to collectors - don't waste your money on the Vogue picture of Rachel. Yes, it's nice to say she was honored by the inclusion, but go for one of Barbara Livingston's wonderful photos that captures Rachel Alexandra snorting fire.

23 Sep 2009 12:08 PM
Susan E.

1) FYI - Here's a nice quote I found in SI Interactive - quote is from Robby Albarado, the jockey who rode Macho Again in the Woodward:

"..."I never thought I had her," he said. "The only thing I was hoping for was that she'd tire. Champions show different dimensions. She's in a league of her own. Older horses, her own age, it doesn't matter. No matter what they throw at her, she'll beat them."

2) Thanks to Karen2 for the info on the T-shirts.

3) Has anyone heard how Da'Tara is doing?  (If I am remembering correctly he did not finish the Woodward-praying he is OK."

23 Sep 2009 3:31 PM


I know this may not be popular but I'd like to inject some reality into this discussion of RA's Woodward win.  She's a very nice horse who has come up against some average fields in high profile races.  There was nothing in this years Preakness who will be considered more than a nice horse- certainly nothing that would make you say this filly was one of the greatest ever because she won.  If Seattle Slew's triple crown win was being slighted because they said he ran against weak fields, what would this year's Preakness be ranked?  She is the superior three year old this year.  Period.  But this is not a stellar three year old crop.  So we need to keep perspective.

Now, as far as Woodwards go, this was the year for a filly to run and win.  What would have happened if an Invasor ran, or a Curlin, or a Lawyer Ron, naming three relatively recent horses who could have  easily beaten RA?  Is there anybody in this year's field that can even run up to their level, let alone going back to the era when the Woodward and Jockey Gold Cup were important races to win for a championship season?  We need a horse like RA in order to keep racing going.  And it's great to see all the excitement and the discussion.  But to bandy about a word like "great" and a phrase like "one for the ages" just insults horses who truly ran against great horses, Exceller for example.  He only had to run against Seattle Slew and Affirmed. On the other blog, there was the fantasy field for fillies and mares, and there were some amazing animals on there who were being completely ignored.  Do people really think horses of the caliber of Susan's Girl and Shuvee would have no chance against RA?  And do you really think that RA would be able to outrun Bayakoa for the lead?   And that people think that Regret would not be able to beat RA?  At least people were talking about Gallorette and Busher.  RA won the Preakness because the field wasn't strong.  She won the Woodward because it wasn't strong.  And because she is a very good animal.  I just think we need to keep everything in perspective.  There are years where there are top class horses in all the fields, and then there are off years.

As for why people think Zenyatta can get a mile and a quarter better than RA is because Zenyatta is never pushed in her races nor is she ever whipped and she gains momentum with every stride through the stretch.  It's a visual impression.  She may very well not be able to get a mile and a quarter, but she gives the impression that no distance would be too much for her.  

Thanks for reading

23 Sep 2009 4:33 PM

footlick- RA beat 4-yr-old curlin's time in the woodward by a sec so I don't think that she would have had any problem with him of course you can't logically compare horses from different years which have never raced together it's kinda like who would win Batman or Superman (or RA or Z)

23 Sep 2009 7:39 PM
J.B. Hayes

Let’s try to convince Mr. Jackson to take Rachel Alexandra to the Japan Cup Dirt.   The early portion of the season in the U.S. is geared more toward the three year olds, so she can have a nice long break after that race.  She can then begin her campaign toward the Breeder’s Cup in 2010.  

23 Sep 2009 9:44 PM
Matthew W

Steve, I just read the Sept 12th issue of The Blood Horse, and the letter from Elizabeth C. Payne struck a chord in me about the whole "Rachel Experience"....I quote her:..."This rare, beautiful, dignified athlete should not have to endure such treatment to prove she is capable of it."....Question: If Rachel were not bought by Jess, and were to never have faced off with males, would she be great?.....I mean, she'd be the same horse, right? Only cruising by twenty--But the same GREAT horse, right?...That picture, in the winners circle, all the (standing) fans....a tired, wet, head down filly, who was forced to prove what I already knew, and Jess, both arms raised, fists squeezing as if HE did it--He bought her and made her prove it, to the tune of rubber legging into eternity---Was Rachel great before the Woodward?....Was she AS great?....If Jess doesn't buy her, was Rachel AS great?...

23 Sep 2009 10:44 PM

RA- I've learned that you can't compare times of different years.  I've also learned that you can't even compare Beyers of different years because pace or lack thereof seems to compromise some Beyers. You can compare the class of the competition.  And since it is my opinion that Curlin totally outclassed anything that RA has run against I would have to disagree that she wouldn't have had any problem with him.  And I think Hard Spun would have given her fits.  But that's what makes horse racing.

J.B.Hayes- I would love to see her go to the Japan Cup Dirt.  It doesn't seem to be a choice that Mr Jackson would make though.  But it would be a challenge and it would add to her glory if she won or even acquitted herself well.

24 Sep 2009 12:04 AM

Mary in VT:

Thanks for sharing your personal memories. Had I been at Saratoga, I have no doubt I would have been shaking as well.  After the 2001 breeders Cup Classic, I literally could not feel my legs and could barely walk!

24 Sep 2009 5:44 AM


Busher ran against males 3 times more than Rachel did, yet won only 1 more race(Busher beat males 4 times, Rachel 3).  I actually think the males Rachel has beaten this year are better than the males Busher beat.  Rachel defeated the Derby winner, the Belmont-Travers winner, the Whitney winner, the Stephen Foster-New Orleans Cap winner, the Santa Anita Derby winner, the Blue Grass winner, the Secretariat winner, last year's Belmont winner, and a number of grade 2 winners(Musket Man, Munnings, Big Drama, Duke of Mischief, Papa Clem, Asiatic Boy, It's a Bird).  The best male Busher defeated was Armed,a horse that eventually earned Horse of the Year honors in 1947, but who, when he faced Busher in the 45' Washington Park Cap, had won only one stakes race(the Sheridan).  

24 Sep 2009 6:00 AM


In an earlier thread on Jason's blog, I went horse by horse to show that the horses Rachel beat in the Woodward were just as good as the Woodward fields Curlin(08'), Lawyer Ron(07'), Premium Tap(06'), Saint Liam(05'), Mineshaft(03'), Lido Palace(02'), Lemon Drop Kid(00'), and River Keen(99') beat. You replace those winners with Rachel, and I believe Rachel wins those Woodwards.  If you doubt me, go and look up the horses than ran 2nd and 3rd in those runnings of the Woodward and tell me how they are better than Macho Again and Bullsbay.

24 Sep 2009 6:12 AM

Any word on Rachel Steve?  I have not read anything about her since the day after the race...?

24 Sep 2009 9:11 AM

As others have mentioned please comment on her whereabouts and her health.  I hope to see her run next year but most important is that she is okay and enjoying her life. A little crazy to be so concerned about a horse I have not been able to see in person, but there's something vulnerable about her and she is loved.

24 Sep 2009 11:12 AM

Hey Gun Bow-

I have to go to work, so I can't look up your post until I get home around 9pm my time.  But I didn't say that their fields were better, I said that the horses I mentioned were better than what RA ran against.  I think she could have beaten Lemon Drop Kid, and probably Lido Palace and River Keen, but IMHO she could not have beaten the winners that you have mentioned.  And with the exception of Ghostzapper- who was a phenomenon, all of those were very good horses, but again IMHO, none of them will go down as one of the greats nor one for the ages.  I just feel she has dominated horses that she outclasses, but they aren't of the highest class.  It's not her fault.

Also Summer Guest ran in the Woodward as a 3yr old filly at a mile and a half I believe.  She finished second but was disqualified to third.  The horse who won was Key to the Mint.  Don't know the rest of the field yet, but KTTM was a very good horse.


24 Sep 2009 11:31 AM

Hi Ya Steve:  what was Rachel Alexandra's time in the Wordward, I think its Byers speed or something like that???

24 Sep 2009 7:08 PM
Mary in VT


You were at the keyboard bright and early this morning!

Thank you for your thoughts. And I enjoy the historical perspective you deliver so well. You make a case for your point of view by letting history speak for itself.

24 Sep 2009 10:54 PM

footlick  RA demolished a horse- past the point that curlin barely beat to win the woodward last year so in my opinion she would have no problem with curlin  but that's my whole point all this who would beat who  is nothing but conjecture with no possibility of validation or resolve and so is totally meaningless  btw  my moneys on superman

24 Sep 2009 11:54 PM


Rachel demolished a horse that ran a once in a lifetime race against Curlin.....Your logic that this would make her more than competitive aainst Curlin is out of line......If this particular horse ran the kind of race he ran against Curlin consistently all the time you might make some sense, but in this case it makes no sense.

25 Sep 2009 11:45 AM
Steve Haskin

1:48 1/5. 109 Beyer.

25 Sep 2009 4:21 PM

laz- not only did she demolish a horse that curlin barely beat but she also ran the race more than a sec faster so in my opinion - in response to footlick's statement that curlin would easily beat her-  she is at the very least competitive with him Now to say that my logic is faulty is illogical - these are all just opinions here about a FANASTY race that can never have any resolution and so my opinion can never be proved to have any less validity than yours  We just have to agree to disagree  Remember that racetracks make their money from hundreds of people's erroneous opinions everyday and in horseracing there is no such thing as a sure thing

25 Sep 2009 7:17 PM

Thanks Lazmannick for commenting before I could.  There is no logic in comparisons like that.  Using that same logic would mean a horse that beat Onion is better than Secretariat because Onion beat Secretariat.  

RA- I don't know of another way to tell if a horse is great or "one for the ages" other than comparing them to other greats or "ones for the ages".  I was introduced to racing in the 60's.  People were always bringing up comparisons between horses of different years and different eras.  How can you judge the greatness of a horse if you are only working in their own time capsule.  Zarkava must truly be one for the ages then, because not only did she win from one mile to one mile and a half, beat older fillies and mares, beat older colts and horses, she beat them easily.  Soumillon never ever pushed her to do more, because he knew he didn't have to.

She didn't break particularly well, lagged behind the field, and won as she pleased in every race she ran.  She weaved her way through traffic in a huge field in the Arc, and still won as she pleased, and again with a quirky break that should have put her at a disadvantage.  She defeated Goldikova twice, and Goldikova never had a chance against her.  All Goldikova did when she stopped trying to beat Zarkava was beat the top European milers and dominated our Breeder's Cup.

But, she was European and she ran a European campaign.  That can't possibly compare to RA.  And Europeans, while thinking Zarkava was a very good filly and a dominating runner, they were not calling her one for the ages.  They know she ranks with some of the best fillies and mares, but they also know that others rank higher and then there are colts and horses that rank higher.  But her fields were very high class.  Her Arc field was much better on the whole than the Woodward field that RA ran against.  But it was just a solid fields as Arcs go.  If it was considered a stellar field, Zarkava's reputation would be huge.  Just my opinion.

Gun Bow-

I found your post.  The thing that intruiged me more were the beyers that some of those horses reeled off before those Woodwards.  Though there were some weak fields then too, I don't know whether I misjudged horses like Lemon Drop Kid and Lido Palace, Albert the Great, Behrens, etc or that the Beyer numbers are inflated.  If they are not, there were quite a few of them who consistantly ran faster numbers than RA, and definately faster than what RA was running against.  But then that would mean I would be comparing horses of different years-lol.  I guess that will be my cross to bear.

Thanks again for reading

25 Sep 2009 11:57 PM

oops! i mistyped fantasy in my last post- always proofread your work children!  

Footlick - you can only judge the greatness of a horse in its own time capsule  How else can it prove itself? Everything else is just opinion and assumption(and there are hundreds of those )-   not FACT  If you believe that curlin would beat her easily - you are entitled to do so but you might be wrong.  If i believe that she could deal with curlin i also am entitled to do so but i might also be wrong (unlikely) Even if there is a consensus of belief it doesn't make it true People used to believe that the world was flat, based on the data they had and the value they placed on that data, until they were shown otherwise However there can be no resolution to this As i said before it is all meaningless and there really is no point in discussing it further

26 Sep 2009 6:19 PM

That's fine with me RA- you believe what you know and I will believe what I know.  I deal with facts whether they are past or present, but if you don't think I do, that's fine with me.  I'm not here to get antagonistic or to sway anyone.  I just want to state my opinion.  Just as you want to state yours.  You believe that it is unlikely that you are wrong, I believe that I am right in my assessments.  

26 Sep 2009 7:02 PM
Mary in VT

I saw Curlin's Woodward. Stood right there at the finish line right next to the winner's circle. Have pics of the start, and the finish, and in the winner's circle.

I think the winning margin was more indicative of Robby Albarado's timing of the race than it was a valid comparison between Past The Point and Curlin. Sometimes people forget that the horse is told when to make it's move. Top Jockey's like Albarado have a great sense of timing, but they aren't computers. Just like Mike Smith on Zenyatta in the Hirsch, Albarado might have misjudged the competition by a fraction or two, if he would have preferred to win by a larger margin that is.

The point is, it is a huge mistake to focus just on the finish of that race or judge Curlin just by the winning margin in that race. If you want to see what Curlin did, find the youtube video and watch him explode around the far turn and into the stretch. Yikes! I'll never forget it as long as I live. He looked like one of those ultra high speed locomotives streaking by flesh and blood horses. THAT was Curlin.

Now that I am thinking about it, Curlin got sandwiched and carried out wide into the clubhouse turn. I can't remember how long he ran well out from the rail, but you have to factor that into the equation as well. Every past performance lists when a horse runs wide because quite obviously they are running a longer race which naturally effects what they have left at the end. Add how many feet he lost on the first turn to the winning margin and I think you will like it much better.

27 Sep 2009 12:09 AM


Your'e still caught up in the moment with Rachel's accomplishments......Without a doubt she had a sensational year and I will be the first one (after Draynay of course) to admit it.....However, would she ever defeat Curlin?.....It's possible under the proper conditions, but remember, she never raced against a horse with Curlin's class......If you want to keep on talking about time, of course time is important, but it is not the most imortant comparison tool.....If it was then why do claimers set track records that G-1 horses can't beat?....I'm willing to bet that if they raced ten times, Curlin would probably win all ten.

27 Sep 2009 3:16 PM
Ann in Lexington

To quote:

3 year-old Busher still outdoes her, no grading system at that time, but major races, up to 10 F, turf and dirt, 2x colts, 2x older males. ;-)

Sorry, no turf racing at most tracks in the East in the 1940s. All her wins were on dirt, although the names of some of her races have since been given to turf races.

27 Sep 2009 7:50 PM
Susan E.

Cardiganjack - Yes, I am concerned too - as far as I can tell no one has heard anything verifiable about RA since the Woodward.  I've gone on several other boards plus Blood Horse, etc. - as of last Friday I had not seen any comments about RA's current health and soundness.  I "heard" that the week after the Woodward she was supposed to get a good exercise - but didn't show.  Steve - do you know anything?  The silence is deafening out there!

Also, cardiganjack - I agree with you completely -"... there is something compelling and vulnerable about her and she is loved." the sense of vulnerablility is a worry for me..can't put my finger on it, just a feeling.  What has ultimately impressed me about her is her display of heart and GUTS - to dig down and find more when she has alredady given everything.

28 Sep 2009 9:04 PM

laz -  i'll take that bet- when is the first race?   exactly my point

20 Oct 2009 8:37 PM

Rachel beat a grade 2 (TWO) Macho Again while getting 8 pounds and being whip 21 times at the stretch.

No she is no super filly or that hype fillies for the ages. She is a good filly who ran good races not great against good horses not great.

IMO, she has shown her limitation.  

25 Oct 2009 3:24 PM

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