Retire Rachel? Why?

It didn’t take long for the “Retire Rachel” cries to be heard. I can’t really criticize those who believe Rachel’s reputation has suffered, and feel each race compromises her legacy. If you are of the opinion that every defeat to lesser opponents dims Rachel’s remarkable accomplishments last year, it shows more than anything you are a fan and admirer of the filly and want her to bow out gracefully now before her farewell to the racetrack descends to a whimper.

There are glaring facts that indicate Rachel will not be up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic test, facing the likes of Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road, and Lookin At Lucky. If Life At Ten was able to soften her up to the extent where she could not come home her final quarter quicker than :27 1/5, she will not want any part of a bruiser like Quality Road breathing down her neck. It's perfectly reasonable to knock the final quarter, but if you, it's only fair to also knock the :26 3/5 final quarter in the Travers, the :13 3/5 final eighth in the King's Bishop, and the :13 1/5 final eighth in the Ballerina. And the last two were even more glaring in a way coming in grade I sprints.

But if you think Rachel’s fire has lessened or been extinguished, let’s not forget she ran Life At Ten, a towering, powerhouse of a filly who was coming off six straight wins, including the 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap, into the ground, leaving her 10 1/4 lengths in her wake. Yes, it did take its toll, but let’s not think the spirit and the fight no longer are there.

Another glaring fact is that Queen Martha, the filly who gave Rachel a run for her money in the Lady’s Secret, came back and was beaten more than 16 lengths in Sunday’s Molly Pitcher at 7-2. If you want to look at that through a half-full glass, perhaps that effort gutted Queen Martha, the way Macho Again and Bullsbay fell apart after testing Rachel last year, as did Zardana this year. And certainly Life At Ten looked gutted at the end of the Personal Ensign.

Now, if you feel the Classic’s distance is beyond Rachel’s scope, there is nothing wrong with her connections admitting that and pointing for the Distaff (now known as the Ladies Classic). It is not a reflection of her ability and should not be considered lowering herself to a level not worthy of a defending Horse of the Year. There have been many great fillies who did not and could not win at 1 1/4 miles. And most of those who did won the Alabama, a race Rachel would have laughed her way through had she not been busy beating up on colts in the Woodward Stakes.

If they do decide to continue on the road to the Classic, remember, getting beat in that race didn’t lessen Azeri’s legacy and didn’t prevent her from being inducted into the Hall of Fame. And Azeri finished a well-beaten fifth to top-class horses such as Ghostzapper, Roses in May, and Pleasantly Perfect.

On July 2, I wrote the following in this blog:

“Ok, so let’s assume Rachel wins the Lady’s Secret impressively and runs a more professional race and looks as dominant as she did last year. Does that mean she’s back to where she was last year or even close to it? Of course not. One wouldn’t think that is the purpose of running in the Lady’s Secret. It would be to get another impressive victory in her and smooth out the rough edges.

“So, what would be the next step after the Lady’s Secret? That depends on which Breeders’ Cup race they are pointing for. Let’s assume it is the Classic. Again, this is all speculation, but here is a possible scenario to reach that goal.

“Whether Rachel ran in the Ruffian or waited for another race to make her 2010 grade I debut, there is a fairly good possibility she is going to get beat somewhere along the way because of all the catching up she’s had to do. Somewhere she is going to have to make a big jump in class. The Ruffian isn’t that spot, not under handicap conditions and having lost two of her last three starts. The Personal Ensign conceivably could be that spot. First off, she would have five weeks to that race instead of four had she run in the Ruffian. Second, although it would be a difficult task stretching out to 1 1/4 miles, the race would at least provide a strong foundation and get a 10-furlong race into her, which she would need in the Classic, having never been that far. So, even if she finished second and ran a big race, similar to the race Azeri ran in the 2004 Personal Ensign, when she set fast fractions and couldn’t hold off Storm Flag Flying, it would help move her forward from a toughness and fitness standpoint.

“With the Personal Ensign under her belt she can head to the Beldame over the same track and distance as the Mother Goose, where she turned in one of the most brilliant performances of her career. Only then would we see the real Rachel Alexandra emerge, and only then could we expect to see a performance like we saw on so many occasions last year. 

“With Rachel taking so long to come back to anything even resembling her old self, Horse of the Year shouldn’t even be in the thought process. It’s all about getting ready for the Breeders’ Cup and letting the championships sort themselves out.”

So, before we get ready to send Rachel out to pasture, let’s see how she runs in the Beldame over what promises to be classy competitive field. Then a decision can be made which Breeders’ Cup race they decide on. If she gets beat again, then perhaps we can start preparing for her retirement.

But until then, let’s not be in such a rush to send the reigning Queen to exile. So, she’s not the Rachel of last year. Perhaps no one ever will be the Rachel of last year. Let’s remember that Rachel did not go into last year with such a grueling, ambitious campaign behind her. She did not go into last year having to remain dormant for five months without a workout. She did not go into last year having whatever problem that caused her to be inactive for so long. She did not go into last year having been subjected to one of the most gut-wrenching efforts by any filly in the history of the sport. And she did not go into last year having to be rushed back before she was ready to meet an undefeated superstar before she was even close to being ready. The hasty attempt to get her back to that competitive a level failed and her connections have been playing catch-up ever since. Who knows what kind of campaign Rachel would have had if she had debuted in the La Troienne on April 30 instead being rushed into a concocted race on March 13.

Between the experimenting trying to get her to rate and with her perhaps not being mentally and even physically ready to compete that early in the year Rachel simply has not been able to move forward off her other-worldly 2009 campaign or even maintain it. But that doesn’t mean the fire to compete isn’t burning inside her. She demonstrated that fire in the opening mile of the Personal Ensign.

Rachel vs. Zenyatta has all but faded into a distant Pollyanna wish that could now only become a reality in the Classic.

But their first meeting should have been in a filly race, where all the focus would have been on them, and not in a race of the magnitude of the Classic, where they would be only part of a larger picture. But if that’s the only avenue remaining, then let’s embrace it, because it will surely bring this year’s Breeders’ Cup into national focus.

As a side note, Rachel’s defeats, for whatever reasons, should make us all appreciate the magnitude of what Zenyatta has been able to accomplish by going undefeated in 18 starts. As we've seen. there are so many ways to lose a race. On the other hand, Rachel’s overall career should not be measured against such an amazing feat. She made her own magic last year and that will never be diminished by her defeats this year.

So, the bottom line is, Rachel’s defeat in the Personal Ensign, although extremely disappointing, should in the long run be looked upon as just that – a defeat, and not as an indication that she no longer should be competing. If she shows any physical or mental signs coming out of the Personal Ensign that she has had enough, then by all means retire her. But if she is sound and that passion is still evident, there is no reason not to put the sword in her hand again and see if she can recapture the glory of last year – at her distance. And then take it from there. Rachel deserves the chance to hear the grandstand rock one last time, and her devoted fans should be given the chance to send her off with all the fanfare she deserves.


Leave a Comment:


Well said Steve. I am a huge Zenyatta fan but RA is a great horse too. I think the 1 1/4 is just to far of a distance for her but would love to see her in the Ladies Classic at 1 1/8 with Blind Luck, LAT, Evening Jewel, etc. That will still be an awesome race and it would be great for her to retire on that whatever the outcome.

30 Aug 2010 8:38 PM

Beautiful writing, Steve!!!  Well said and straight to the point.  It was such a shock to see Rachel Alexandra not win yesterday, but it was clear that she was tiring at the distance, but that doesn't mean she is finished or is no longer a wonderful race filly.  For those who choose to disrespect her now because she has not compiled the same wins as she did last year, they  must simply forget that what she did last year was unbelievable and it took its toll.  I prefer to appreciate what she gave us last year and continue to have hope that she will get back to her best form, if she still has the desire and the fire you describe.   Consider me one of those silly ones who has never had a burning desire to see Rachel and Zenyatta race - I love them both and would not want either one to lose to the other, and just because RA lost this one, let's not throw her on the muck heap.   Thank you for putting it so much better than I expressed - you are the best.




30 Aug 2010 8:40 PM
Spicer Willits

Great column,Steve. And, what the heck, Native Dancer never raced Tom Fool in 1953, and the world didn't end.

30 Aug 2010 8:42 PM
Mary in Vermont

Always enjoy seeing Rachel ... no matter what the outcome. She is and always will be the filly that delivered the most exciting 3 YO filly season I have ever seen ... or dared dream of. Three generations of my family were there at the finish line to see Rachel, as well as family friends. Yes, of course, we would have liked to have seen her win. She did put away a gorgeous mare in the form of Life At Ten whom Rachel left for dead in the stretch. Persistently was the beneficiary of a speed duel. Ok. Good for Persistently.

My read on the race was that Rachel lost enough ground when she floated Life At Ten way wide around the first turn to put Rachel in the winner's circle, though the same ground would not have put Life At Ten in the winner's circle. If that was a deliberate maneuver by Calvin Borel to foil his main opponent, then his judgment lost the race for Rachel instead. Good of her connections not to point that out. If not a deliberate maneuver, then I wonder how could the horse that has cornered so well for the master of saving ground on the rail not be prevented from from going so wide all the way around the first turn. I do not say that she would have commanded the race and distance in her usual fashion, but I do think she would have won and that is enough for her first try at the distance. So again, I question Borel's ride. Hmmm. But nor do I think they should take the King of Churchill Downs off the horse when the Breeder's Cup will be held there in a few months.

But ... there just might be a second and more important factor at play. I don't think anybody in this world loves and admires Rachel more than I, but no, it did not look like the same Rachel to me. More precisely, she did not act like the same Rachel we saw last year. I don't think it has anything to do with her being bigger and heavier, or lacking the ability she had last year because the proportions are the same. Just reading her attitude going into the Woodward last year, and in every subsequent race, my gut is that we are looking at a filly who just doesn't wanna do it anymore.

Looking back, a break after the Haskell might have left her able to come back with the same desire to vanquish her foes with joy. Oh, I enjoyed her Woodward, but she didn't. Or so my heart tells me. Was her throwing Calvin in the Woodward post parade Rachel Alexandra trying to tell everyone as eloquently as she knows how that enough was enough already? Is the reason that no 3 YO filly had ever previously defeated males in three Gr 1 route races in any given calendar year that it really is too much to ask of them at the age? If she thought enough was enough before her grueling Woodward Stakes win over tough older males, what did she think after she laid down all but her very life in that race? Hmmmm.

Was the reigning Horse of the Year racing like a green 2 YO old in her first two come back races this year screaming as loud as she could that she didn't want to lay her life down anymore? When she looked over at the fillies that passed her near the wire in those two races was she saying "You go for it honey. Been there. Done that. And no matter what I did it was never enough for them."  When Calvin called on her in the stretch in yesterday's Personal Ensign, I don't think she was spent and didn't have it to give. I think the answer was "No. I remember what you did to me here. No matter how many times you hit me, this is all you get. Take it, or leave it." I even think she was well aware in yesterday's post parade that she had returned to the scene of the crime. She did not look happy or eager to run to me. I thought she looked worried. A deer in the lights. The one thing my heart needed to see was a happy Rachel Alexandra. She would go obediently around the track, but she was not gonna shatter her legs like matchsticks for anybody. Smart horse. Maybe she will perk up at some other track that doesn't hold the same memories.

Anthropomorphism? Maybe. I dunno.    

I do not fault her connections in any way. After all, they were in uncharted waters with their equine sensation that took us where no 3 YO filly has ever taken us before. Same thing this year; uncharted waters bringing a 3 YO back from such a year. Who knew what that sort of year would do to her? She seemed to be handling it physically. But what about mentally? Besides, if anybody is to blame, everybody is to blame .. and everybody is us ... or at least those of us who were always screaming for more. That would be me. Front and center.

Ain't hindsight beautiful?

30 Aug 2010 8:42 PM

Steve,  you are so good at putting events in perspective -- Rachael's accomplishments last year are unprecedented; no filly has ever done what she did- her historical year cannot be diminished by anything that happens this year.

Her connections, in their zeal to race their filly against the best, brought her back too soon.  I commend them for their desire to race their horse against the best -- the Personal Ensign was a great race because the competition was so good -  Life At Ten is a very, very good horse.  This kind of race is what horse racing is all about -- much more meaningful than a field such as the Lady's Secret, etc.

30 Aug 2010 8:43 PM
Barbara W

Thank you for another insightful column. I am a hopelessly over-the-moon Zenyatta fan as well as a fan of Life at Ten. But I have to admit to feeling terribly sorry for Rachel in her latest venture.

It was clear she was running her heart out, and when I saw Calvin whipping her, I knew people would howl about it. I remember her former trainer commenting that  she might not win a race, but she would die trying.

From what I have seen, she does not seem to enjoy what she is doing. I will be very surprised if she doesn't make a great broodmare.

It is no disgrace to not regain 3-year-old form at 4 (witness MTB's troubles, but that's a whole other topic). If they run her in the Breeders Cup, I desperately hope it is in the Ladies' Classic.

30 Aug 2010 8:44 PM

Steve....excellent points.  I agree in that she is just not as dominate going further than 1 1/8 miles.  I have another wish for her though.  Its a pipe dream I know, but I would love to see her run on the turf.  I can see her running in the B.C. Mile and winning it.  Like I said...just a dream.  

She is not ready for retirement.  She will have 1 more race before the Breeders Cup, then onto CHurchill where you know she loves the track.  Maybe after the Breeders cup, since both mares will be at the same track, Churchill can put on a 1 1/8 mile race that Rachel and Zenyatta can run in.  Probably won't happen, but this sport is all about dreams. Both mares are probably done and headed for the breeding shed after the B.C.  As long as both are healthy and sound, I don't care what else happens then.

30 Aug 2010 8:46 PM

Steve, So true,  RA defeats makes a person appreciate what Zenyatta has accomplished in her career as to date.  18 straight races arent an easy task,  Rachel is living proof of that.  Yes, people fault Moss and Sherriffs, but they havent seen defeat so far,  they can anytime to, but at 18 and hasnt lost, thats pretty unbelievable.

I firmly believe Zenyata will win all 20 races,  and I believe she will break that glass ceiling in the end.      

Steve, If/when Zenyatta achieves that goal by this year's end,  I know you will be the first to write a beautifully written article in her honor.....

30 Aug 2010 8:50 PM
Joanne Kraft

Rachel accomplished unbelievable victories as a 3 year old and that is the fact. She is not diminished by finishing second in any of this years races.  Let's simply be thankful for last year and that she is healthy this year.  We still love her.  

30 Aug 2010 8:50 PM

Why is her right hind leg wrapped in the new photos of her? I was at Saratoga by the finish line yesterday, as they were walking her back to the barn her groom pointed out her rear heels to Steve. Did she just have a rundown burn?

30 Aug 2010 8:52 PM

I agree with you, but I think she needs a jockey change.  I was very disappointed in Calvin's ride and tactics.  She should have been rated, and certainly not whipped the way she was.  Let Mike Smith or Joel Rosario ride her/

30 Aug 2010 8:52 PM

I agree with you that Rachel deserves another chance to show what a great horse she is. She just went too fast too early, and got tired. I believe she would win the Ladies Classic. She doesn't need to beat Zenyatta to prove that she is a champion. They are 2 different horses, with different talents and strengths.

30 Aug 2010 9:00 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Exactly. Excellent article that says it all. Rachel will tell them what to do with her, and I hope they listen. The Classic doesn't make sense, the Beldame and The Ladies' Classic, or training up to Thr Ladies' Classic both make sense to me if she shows in the next few weeks that she still wants to run, which I believe that she probably will. I still would retire her after The Ladies' Classic unless she insists on racing. She's given a lot mentally and physically to the sport. I'd like to see her go out on a winning note, although either way, she can still hold her head high as a great champion.

30 Aug 2010 9:06 PM
Gary at Rough Creek


Rachel's internal fractions yesterday in the PE were similar if not better than those in some of her most acclaimed victories last year, like The KY Oaks where she earned a 108 Beyer going 9 furlongs in 1:48.87.  She's just not a 10 furlong horse, crawling home in 27 and change.  She ran 1:12.02 for the first 6 furlongs yesterday.  This is slower by 0.03 seconds than what she ran in the M Washington last year, very close to what she ran in he KY Oaks, and slightly faster than she ran in the Fantasy,  the Fairgrounds Oaks, The Goldenrod, etc., etc.

In other words, it was well within her comfort zone, and faster than some of her best efforts of last year.

So please...could you all stop promulgating this myth that this year's Rachel is nowhere near last year's Rachel.  First it was that her times were okay, but she looked uncomfortable...she was rank...she held her head off to the side.   Her times are not appreciably different than last year, especially considering the times when she carried more weight than her rivals.  It's just that this year, her opposition is better and her rivals are getting weight breaks and she's not.

And she's not a 10 furlong horse.

I wrote on another blog that I expect her to be retired soon because she has nothing else to prove...that is, nothing that she can reasonably be expected to successfully prove.  Winning the Distaff - not a given by the way - is small potatoes compared to the goals and hype from earlier in the year.   It would be a step down after beating all those colts last year.  HOTY again?  No way.  Champion Older Filly or Mare?  Zenyatta has already done more than Rachel could accomplish this year.  Two years of Rachel beating out undefeated Zenyatta would go over like a lead balloon...and just be unfair and wrong headed.

So what rational goals remain for team Rachel?  I'd say getting her ready to be a great broodmare.  Trying to tackle the expected BCC field, at 10 furlongs, at close to equal weights, would be cruel to her and brazenly risky to her health if you ask me.   She's got nothing more to prove but plenty to lose with more time at the track.    

Now, if she's beating the stall walls down and wanting to race, that's a different story.  That's not what it sounds and looks like though.

30 Aug 2010 9:08 PM

I hope RA doesn't retire. Where will she run next? A non-graded one turn race? Please run her in the Filly Classic! Didn't Unrivalled Belle beat her on RA's home track? Oh yeah she did. I was there and saw it with my own eyes. Everybody whines about Zenyatta not traveling to face RA, now everyone knows why. It would be a waist of time. Now we all know why RA never traveled to face Zenyatta, again it would have been a waiste of Zenyatta's time. The RA Kool-Aid bottle is now empty.

30 Aug 2010 9:09 PM

NO. I think it is time for Rachel fans to face a reality. I am a Rachel fan and I have known all along she IS NOT a 1 1/4 mile horse.  I say Beldame and Ladies Classic. That would be a fitting end to Rachel's career. She will win. She wants to run. She might be one of the best at 1 1/8 miles. She is just not cut out to go the extra 1/8th, evidenced by the 27 second final quarter against relatively slow (for her) front end fractions.

She is a great horse. Her 2009 campaign was amazing. She just is a 1 1/4 horse.

30 Aug 2010 9:10 PM

Steve, I love the way you hang in there with Rachel!!  I am one of those fans who have hung on, hoping/believing all season that she would find her way back to her old, and perhaps even a better racing form.  Watching her yesterday, and hearing that she was blowing so hard after a 93 Beyer, made me realize that her 3 year old campaign was definitely enough for her legacy to live on and for our memories never to be diluted.  For me, she doesn't need to continue to "try".  She's done more than enough to cement a huge amount of enduring admiration and great stories. Do you really think she has that competitive spirit, still?  If she were to continue I'd rather see her connections say the hell with the classic/traditional distances.  Give her a mile and let her take her head and run for pure joy and see what happens.  I'd hate to promote retirement if she has a big win in her, but finally, after the PE, I'm thinking she's working too hard for too little.  Let her run in the grass and be a horse.  She's done enough.

30 Aug 2010 9:10 PM

I agree with you Mr Haskins.  While I admittedly always felt that RA was a little overrated, I do not think that Rachel's performances this year were that awful. She ran a great mile and 1/8 race was the final 1/8 of a mile that was a problem.  It just clarifies that the Ladies Classic or the Dirt Mile are more suited to her style of running. There is no shame in that and she could realistically win either race.  I do not think she needs to win the Classic nor do I think it is the best place for her. You are going to have to be in the 2 minute range to win the Classic.  She would have to shave 4 seconds off her Personal Ensign final time in the next 8 weeks. I would stick to what she does best.

30 Aug 2010 9:10 PM

A great article as usual, Steve. But, I'm afraid I'm one of those who think Rachel is ready to head to the breeding barn. She just isnt happy. You can tell by looking at her. She has given us more than we have the right to ask of her, and I think the call of nature is screaming at her. Let her go out the champ we know she is :)

30 Aug 2010 9:11 PM

Yes I believe every defeat by lesser tarnishes her legacy.  I'd like to see her go out in a Blaze of Glory not staggering to the wire in defeat...

30 Aug 2010 9:12 PM

first of all to be off for five months means injury    next they ran her into the ground last year took away her heart   mares are much different not like the colts and geldings  however one of the best of our generation even if it was only one year  like her or not cherish the gift from the horse gods   they give its up to us after that

30 Aug 2010 9:20 PM
Sammi P

First off, I'm a huge Zenyatta fan. But I enjoy watching Rachel run too. That said, Rachel is too good a filly just to retire now. I do think 1 1/4 is too far for her, but 1 1/8 is not. A win in the Ladies Classic isnt anything to laugh at. I think that is what they should aim for right now. I don't even care about a Rachel vs Zenyatta match up anymore, because Rachel isnt the Rachel of lat year. I hope she can finish the year on a high note (meaning a win, weither it is the Ladies Classic or listed stakes) and retire happy and sound, or come back as a force in the filly/mare division next year.

30 Aug 2010 9:20 PM

I really feel for Rachel right now. I believe the great ones know if they win or lose. As I have always believed Jess for the sole purpase to get HOTY without going to the BC he toasted Rachel last  and as a result she is just not the same this year. Jess did'nt even have the class to show up to cheer on his champion. And I agree with you Steve, there is nothing wrong with putting her in the Distaff which is a distance that is more suited for her.

30 Aug 2010 9:21 PM

"But their first meeting should have been in a filly race, where all the focus would have been on them, and not in a race of the magnitude of the Classic, where they would be only part of a larger picture. But if that’s the only avenue remaining, then let’s embrace it, because it will surely bring this year’s Breeders’ Cup into national focus." In just those few short statements, I think you've once again summed it up. Everyone wants to see these great fillies race together, and you're 100% right when you say it should be a filly race. Once again, Mr. Haskin, bravo, BRAVO.

30 Aug 2010 9:21 PM

What's strange is that Rachel Alexandra hasn't gone totally off form like so often happens with a champion filly in her following season.  She teases you with decent efforts that for most horses would be exceptional efforts, but for her, are just mediocre.  The decision would be a lot easier if she wound up fifth, but second in a Grade I isn't exactly a disgrace.

30 Aug 2010 9:22 PM


I agree that a defeat in the PE that was by no means a lacklustre effort should not mean retirement for Rachel Alexandra.  If she comes out of it in good shape the connections should still keep their options open in terms of the BCC or Distaff (Ladies Classic).  I believe that she stays the 10 furlongs distance depending on how the race sets up.  Looking at how Life At Ten folded up the lane also suggests that the track was playing deep on Sunday because that filly has also run fast fractions in the recent past and won over 10 furlongs.  Rachel's best races have been with her stalking or leading comfortably and making her move on the far turn but that "killer" move has been missing this year.  Hopefully the PE will have put some further conditioning into her which trainer Steve Asmussen will be able to ascertain in the weeks ahead.  

As you also suggest, the euphoric Zen-Rachel match-up is dead but don't you think that it is appropriate to lament and mourn over what might have been, in terms of taking the sport to another level of glorious thrill and excitement?  And who do you think bears the brunt of responsibility for killing it? Please comment on this issue.  

30 Aug 2010 9:22 PM

To me it looks like Rachel has already lost that passion to win. It's very hard to hold our champions to such a high standard. When they lose a race we are all shocked, but Zen is definately not the norm. She is very rare indeed.

I thought Rachel ran a very good second in the PE. I don't think she's her best at 10F. If she comes out of the PE in good order and trains well there are other BC races besides the Classic for her. They could even consider the Dirt Mile. The point is though is that Rachel, to me, does not look like a horse that likes her job very much. She doesn't have that sparkle in her eye anymore and maybe it's time for something new.

Whatever they do I truly hope it is what is best for the horse and no one else.

30 Aug 2010 9:23 PM

Steve, You sound sympathetic to Rachel's plight & that's understandable. But I detect a modicum of excuse making for her performances (or lack thereof) this year. The rush by her connections to prepare Rachel for conquest over Zenyatta in April was totally of their own making. Now the catch-up syndrome is taking its toll. Perhaps her connections are misreading her & she has been hustled into a routine in 2010 that isn't realistic. We don't know - she isn't talking. But her actions are speaking louder than words. Forget about the Classic & go for the Ladies Classic. Yes, she'll be remembered for her outstanding accomplishments in 2009, but the resulting footnote of a loss in the BC Classic will resonate for generations.

BTW, I take exception with the treatment Rachel received at the hands of Borel in the race's concluding moments. It appeared a little over the top & hard to watch.

30 Aug 2010 9:26 PM

And Steve, wasn't yesterday's Personal Ensign almost a carbon-copy of the 04' renewal when Azeri was caught by a Phipps colorbearer after setting demanding fractions?  Although, I should note that Azeri's 6 furlong split was 1:09 and 3, making the pace yesterday appear more reasonable.

I'm still holding out a little hope that Rachel might run a huge race in the Beldame, but it does now appear that she'll never quite return to her form of last year.  As you detail Steve, the beginning of the year did not go smoothly, but she's had 5 months since the New Orleans experiment to get her legs back and it just hasn't happened.  Yes, she still has her amazing heart, and yes she is still very good, but she's not great anymore and she was certainly great last year.

Again, nothing happening this year takes away from her 2009, a season that must be ranked as one of the very best ever by a 3 year old filly.  There'a reason why so few female racehorses, particularly 3 year old fillies, have been asked to do what Rachel did last year.

30 Aug 2010 9:32 PM
Mel G.

Great column as always Steve and good to see you over at Carolina BBQ yesterday.  

People need to read the book "Women of the Year" available from Eclipse Press. The fillies and mares cameod didn't necessarily race at their peak every year they raced, but they each had at least one stellar season that vaunted them to earn Horse of the Year. Rachel's brilliance last year earned her Horse of the Year and that cannot be diminished.

30 Aug 2010 9:35 PM

Steve -GREAT ARTICLE! I think people need to be reminded that Rachel isn't getting blown away by some 10 lengths in her races she's lost her last three races by a 1/2 length and 1 length she's never been worst then second.Their horses not robots even hall of fame golfers and tennis pros and etc. lose in their careers so stop being so hard on this filly!

30 Aug 2010 9:45 PM

I agree Steve.  She is probably not a 10f horse, but she sure ran Life at Ten off her feet.  She still looked to me like she wanted to race.  I still want her to race.

If one looks back at the horses running in the Triple Crown races last year, how many of them are competing at the top level today? How many are retired?

The fact is, it's damn hard to have a horse run like Rachel did at the level she did, and bring it all back the next year.  Very few fillies put together a championship year like Rachel did, and still remain as competitive the next year.  I just think it takes a little out of them.  Heck, not that many colts can come back after a season like Rachel did and compete at the same level, and we expect a filly to do it?  Perhaps unrealistic.

Do I think she's the same filly as last year?  No, I don't.  Does that mean she's ready for the breeding shed?  Absolutely not. She is giving weight this year, and there have been some fillies who have put in career best numbers against her in order to win.

How much of a toll does that put on THOSE fillies?  Some of them may never run as well again.

I love Rachel, I thought she ran a great race for 9 furlongs and I hope she remains racing for the balance of the year.  

30 Aug 2010 9:48 PM

Steve! First, thank you for the comment regarding Rachel competing in the Ladies' Classic. I saw a story online this morning that said if Rachel ran in the Ladies' Classic, it was beneath her, especially if Zenyatta went on to run in the Classic. What?!?!? Hey, I'm as huge a Zenyatta fan as they come, but I'm now starting to wonder if this is about Rachel Alexandra having a "bad" year or if Rachel is being compared too much to Zenyatta. If she can compete in the Ladies' Classic, why not? I said this on another message board: in the three races this year that Rachel's come in second, she has been daylight ahead of the horses which finished third (again, thanks for mentioning that regarding the Personal Ensign). She also didn't disgrace herself by losing by less than a length in each of those races. I mean, haven't other Horses Of The Year come back to not win every race? Are people saying retire her because she was Horse Of The Year and isn't undefeated this year? Yes, it's disappointing, but man, she isn't finishing up the track for God's sake. I've read where Steve Assmusen said she was blowing hard after the race, but that she seems to have come back fine otherwise, ie - she's eating well, etc. I don't know why she's not winning like she did last year. My feeling is that they campaigned her so hard, then took off for so long that now we're not seeing the same Rachel. We'll see what they decide to do with her next, but I do not think she should be retired after two wins and three seconds this year.

30 Aug 2010 9:50 PM

Mary in VT:

There were many handiappers and insiders who predicted that Rachel would not be the same after the Preakness, citing Rags to Riches, Winning Colors, and Genuine Risk.  Yet, Rachel returned to win the Mother Goose by 20 and then the Haskell.  After the Haskell, many thought the performance would surely knock her out, yet Rachel came back to win that memorable Woodward.

Why did so many experts think that eventually these efforts would catch up with Rachel?  Because they had never seen a 3 year old filly do something like this for 50 years.  All conventional wisdom suggested that eventually these efforts would have an effect.

When Rachel kept on passing every test, however, I think it did spoil some journalist and fans. Some even criticized Jess Jackson for not continuing on with Rachel through the Jockey Club Gold Cup and BC Classic.  And many of these same people criticized Jess Jackson for running Rachel in the Fleur de Lis and not the Stephen Foster this year and have been critical of Zenyatta's connection for not running her against males, back East on dirt.

In my opinion, Rachel and Zenyatta spoiled us last year.  They made fillies and mares winning the biggest open races look almost normal, or even expected.  But folks, there was nothing normal about what Rachel and Zenyatta did last year.  There's a reason why a female had never won the Woodward or BC Classic before last year.  And if Zenyatta goes on to win the Classic again this year, make no mistake, repeating in the Classic would represent the greatest accomplishment by a female thoroughbred in modern history.  

30 Aug 2010 9:51 PM
Bob Z

Let's assume for a second that this weekends race was at a 1 1/8 miles...

In the PE Rachel did the 3/4s in 112:00...  that was with the distance at 1 1/4 miles...  So what would that time be if the race was at 1 1/8?   Probably closer to 1:10..  She ran the Haskell in 1:09

Had she run in a race at a faster 3/4 time than in the PE ... I would think that Life at Ten would have tired in the same way or even sooner...  

Rachel goes on to win because Persistently is further back at a 1:10 pace for the 3/4s... and with the race being 1 1/8 Persistently never gets close to Rachel...

And the headline reads... "The Queen is back!" and everybody is happy in anticipation of her trying the 1 1/4 miles in November at the Classic ...

Rachel wins the Beldame on October 2nd at 1 1/8 miles and the stage is set for the Zenyatta showdown...

Her distance limitation of 1 1/4 would only have become apparent in the Classic....

So the only difference is we now know in August instead of learning it in November....

I was saying all last year that Rachel wasn't going to Santa Anita not because of the synthetic track but more because of the 1 1/4 in the Classic... and that fact that they thought that they had the HOY locked up with her Woodward win...

It certainly wasn't because they had a tired horse (although she was) ... they were saying all along that she wasn't going to Santa Anita because of the track as far back as June of last year...

And once you say you don't like the synthetic track you can't have it both ways... If you don't like it at 1 1/4 miles you can't like it at 1 1/8 miles in the Ladies Classic...

But I still think that that whole decision was predicated on them knowing that Rachel was not going to be the same horse at 1 1/4 miles...

I could be wrong...

30 Aug 2010 9:53 PM

First off I'm not really sure how you can call Rachel "Queen", not holding anything against Rachel, she is great, but she is  not Zenyatta.

Next point, Rachel I believe would be better suited for the Ladys Classic. The distance is too much for her. I watched the race and she just hit the wall in that final quarter from the top of the stretch. The pace wasn't too fast, she's just better suited at a different distance.Should she be retired? That's not up to me to decide, however, if she's tired let her be.

30 Aug 2010 9:55 PM
Sharon M

Steve, again thanks so much for your insight. I absolutely don't think she should be retired!  Yes, she has not been up to the level of racing this year as she did last year.  I have not seen her speed figure for the PE but she has posted over 100 Beyer speed figures for every race she has run in this year!  I have also seen most of her works this Summer and she does not look like a horse ready to retire. The disappointment is acute right now but this loss isn't any more significant than the losses of any other of the great champions through the years.  It's easy for some to forget in the heat of competition that these beautiful creatures are animals not machines to be programed to perform on command.  Regardless she will always be one of my personal all time favorites.

30 Aug 2010 9:58 PM

I just want to see her beautiful babies carry on her legacy. If they run her into the ground, you'll see another statue, at another race track, dedicated to another horse who met a tragic, fateful end.

30 Aug 2010 10:04 PM
Paula Higgins

The voice of reason, as always Steve.

My regard for Rachel is even greater after that race. She is not a 10F horse and yet she almost did it. She ran her heart out all the way. If that had been just a slightly shorter race, she would have won. I blame her connections for testing the waters with a race that was too long for her, and they had to be blind not to see it. I know why they did it, to see if she was BCC material this year. But it has been abundantly clear that she has not been in good form until recently. They should have stayed in her comfort zone until the BCC and given her a chance to build on her legacy. Their over reach was the price she paid.

I would run her in a dirt race, against fillys,at a shorter distance, IF she bounces back. People said she looked really tired after the race. I agree with seatariat that the great ones know whether they win or lose, and she is certainly one of the great ones.

I love Zenyatta but I have become a major fan of Rachel's too. This is one gutsy horse.

30 Aug 2010 10:08 PM

I agree 100% with this article.  Rachel's loss does not diminish any of her accomplishments.  She is a great horse and always will be. Let's all remember these are animals that we all ask alot of and she does put her life on the line everytime she steps foot on the track.  She ran like a champion in the Personal Ensign and still is a champion!!

30 Aug 2010 10:10 PM
The Phantom

I said last year RA couldn't get a mile and a quarter, Jessie knew it that's why he avoided putting her in the Belmont,Travers,Jockey Gold Cup and of course dodging the BC.Great filly up to 8 furlongs against mostly inferior competition beyond that forget about it.They had a year to get her ready for 10 furlongs [a pipe dream] but it showed she doesn't have the ability to go far.The HOY was a popularity contest and the way Jackson avoided the best comp and tougher foes got him the prize.Retire her or go for nothing past 8 furlongs that's her speciality.Zen would gobble her up beyond 8 furlongs.The myth has been shattered

30 Aug 2010 10:15 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

While no one knows what Jess Jackson has planned for Rachel Alexandra, the fans can only hope that she will be put into races that she fits in. The Personal Ensign was a heartbreaking race for me to watch. Slow fractions with Rachel Alexandra and Life At Ten setting the pace, just like Rachel Alexandra likes it. But then that last 1/8th of a mile there was nothing left from the 2009 HOY. Persistently, who is bred to run at least 1 1/4 miles, was able to get to the wire first with more left in the tank. Rachel Alexandra was clearly on empty and it was her class that got her there second. I only had brief glimpses of Rachel Alexandra after the race and she looked completely spent. She ran her heart out again but again was only the brides maid.

Rachel Alexandra is clearly not the same horse as she was last year. Does that diminish what she accomplished in 2009? Absolutely not! The incredible filly won all of her 8 starts, 3 against colts, and caught the heart of the nation. Does it make her less of a champion if she is better at a mile and not at the "classic" distance of a mile and 1/4? Not to her fans. But her fans also want to see the gallant filly run in races that she is suited to. Seeing this magnificent filly struggling to get to the wire under hard urging and then gasping for breath while being unsaddled is painful to watch.

Jess Jackson has high hopes for winning the BC Classic and salvaging another HOY. Even IF Rachel Alexandra can win the BC Classic I can't see how she could possibly get HOY this year. One spectacular win in a big race would be icing on a mediocre season. I'm not saying that a horse has to win every race they are entered to win HOY, but a 50-50 season with one G2 win and an ungraded win won't, or shouldn't, get the award. There are a few other well deserving horses for HOY in 2010.

Rachel Alexandra has matured a lot since last year. She is an impressive, big filly and I think she is smarter about her races this year. Maybe this is a rebuilding year for Rachel Alexandra. Maybe she is still trying to figure out how to make her body work like it did in her 3-yr old year now that she is older, bigger and more filled out. Hopefully Rachel Alexandra can be run where she can win next year. If only Grade 1 races are acceptable for her connections then maybe she can finally cash in that date certificate she has with Curlin.

30 Aug 2010 10:17 PM

sorry for the Rachel appologists, I just didn't expect Haskin to be one.  Further, after reading all the comments, I can't believe that no one remembers a few short years ago when Shug sent a horse to the Distaff who thumped the umthumpable Ashado and paid $63.00.  He knew who was entered in this race and he knew he had a filly who could run 10 panels.  Sorry.  By the way, Z ran her 10 panels last November.

30 Aug 2010 10:18 PM

I am a pace handicapper. What Zenyatta has accomplished against all odds is beyond belief. I've heard every criticism possible against her, all of which are of no merit in the context of what she's done. She is a wonder and my favorite since Affirmed.

That being said, there is no need to denigrate the accomplishments of any horse, especially a truely GREAT horse like Rachel.

30 Aug 2010 10:20 PM
cait MD

great article except am not sure why it was necessary to throw in Zenyatta - am so tired of the comparisons between 2 very different girls! if comparison is done, should it be not done as of this stage in their careers? 6 yr old - 4 yr old - enough said!

30 Aug 2010 10:27 PM

RA is the same horse, only the package has changed.  Last year, she was lighter, more nimble filly.  As a 4 year old, she has put on weight and looks a little stockier.   Considering that a mile & a quarter is not her distance, I think she ran a remarkable race.  She would have put away a very good mare in LAT and we would have been celebrating a champion if the race distance been in her favor.  As for Borel's ride, I disagree with earlier comments.  During several of her earlier races, RA has floated several turns & gone wide.  She has shown that tendency all year & that is a trainer's responsibilty to correct.   As for the use of the whip in the final 1/16th,  it appeared that Persistently was about to hang it up after she swept by LAT.  She definitely slowed & RA only needed to maintain that last few desperate strides.   I hope that RA is well & came out of her race in good shape.  As for a date with Zenyatta, I do not think RA can beat her at a mile and an 1/8, little long at the Classic distance.  When it comes to rating in a race, that does not appear to be RA's game.  However, as a stronger 4 year old mare with brilliant speed, I think she has the ability Sprint.  I think she would be very dangerous in any sprint no matter against which sex.

30 Aug 2010 10:28 PM
anita b

Hi Steve,

Great article. First, last year when RA went on "vacation" it was NOT to a farm for R&R. She stayed at the track--whoin heck vacations at work? I don't want to neither does a horse. I felt that a mile and a quarter was/is too far for her. But if she is sound, I would like to see her try a mile on the turf. She might like it--where Curlin was 2nd in his only start on turf.Let RA tells her handlers when she is ready again.

30 Aug 2010 10:28 PM

BRAVO Steve!!  But after reading some of these comments I have to ask, since when has coming in very NARROW seconds been BAD???  Had Rachel not been the 2009 HOY people would be singing her praises instead of yelling that she needs to go to the breeding shed.  Come on people!!  Give it a rest already!!

30 Aug 2010 10:29 PM

Thank you, Mr. Haskin.  Very well put.

30 Aug 2010 10:30 PM
Candace Serviss

Was at Saratoga yesterday..Rachel took my breath away and I love her more than ever..nothing can diminish her greatness in my eyes..

30 Aug 2010 10:33 PM

I disagree that she isn’t back to her level.  She is back to her level! Rachel had a nice year in 2009, but it was a bit over rated by her adoring fans. It’s just that last year, she beat a lot of sub-par / average horses; one of the weakest fields of 3YO’s to come around in some time.  Mine That Bird hasn’t won since the Derby and he almost beat her, one more jump and she loses the Preakness. The older horse’s she beat were moderate at best and haven’t shown anything since. To be considered great you must pass the test over time / years, not a few quarters. Let’s call her what she really is and or was, a very good filly, destined now to the breeding shed.  However, there are many fillies and mares in the past and one still running in the future that have a lot to say and have accomplished more greatness than Rachel…

30 Aug 2010 10:33 PM
Southern Chris

I couldn't agree more. I said in another BH post that RA is just a length and a couple of nostrils from being unbeaten this year. How that equates to horse not having the will to run anymore is beyond me?

30 Aug 2010 10:35 PM

Steve, great and insightful comments as usual.  I think your suggested approach for her is just about right.  Hearing that the Phipps filly is running back in the Beldame also gives her the opportunity to even the score.  For sure, the early pace tooks it toll; Im a big fan of Life at Ten, and look at what happened to her?  I think Rachel can win the Beldame and she has a great opportunity to win the Ladies Classic.  Additionally, I think that Zen is in very, very deep in the Classic..i dont think that she can replicate that current form on the dirt against males in a race of that significance...and so the day after the Breeders Cup, the current thinking on these two great fillies (RA vs Zen) may have a different slant.  Both very good at what they do best, but both beatable.

30 Aug 2010 10:36 PM

After reading these comments, it is easy to see why I win at the track so often.  You would think that people commenting on a horse racing blog would know a little something about horse racing.  RA cannot get 10 furlongs?  What does that say about Life at Ten, who was beaten more than 10 lengths?  Oh yea, she already won the Del'Cap at 10F.  Comparing fractions from this race to some race last year, on different surfaces, with different pace scenerios, really??  RA and Life at Ten went too fast and paid the price, end of story.  See you guys at the track and don't forget to bring your money!!

30 Aug 2010 10:37 PM

I love the article, except I fail to see how Rachel trying all comers compares to Zenyatta remaining undefeated with all but two or three races coming against soft competition. Rachel's feats make RACHEL great, not Zenyatta.

30 Aug 2010 10:48 PM
Linda / Maryland

Steve, I have a question. What does it mean to RATE? I had never heard that until lately.

ALSO, would you be willing to comment on Nicanor and Lentenor?

What do you think about their racing ability and the reason they are not winning?

30 Aug 2010 10:49 PM
Bill Smith

Thanks for the article and pointing out the fact running in the Ladies' Classic (Distaff) would not be a step down.After all some great females have won that race like Personal Ensign herself.

It would obviously be a big mistake for Rachel to run in the CLASSIC;even if she were to win her next few starts.

I have been a fan  of RA since she was a 2 year old and what she has accomplished so far can never be taken away from her.Afterall she won the Preakness and just like the Derby once you win one of those classics you are a champ no matter what people say!

As a side note,I still feel they should try Rachel on the turf.So many horse's have switched to the lawn and have found a whole new career where they excel even more.Hawkster and Prized come to mind.

Jess Jackson was so anxious to get Curlin on turf,he should let Rachel experiment with it too.You never know what good things could happen.

No matter what happens RA will always be one of the best if not the best filly ever!

30 Aug 2010 10:56 PM

  Too much time between races, and sending her too the front, both took there toll! Her dosage suggests a 1 1/4 Mi. isn't the prob., it also suggests she could go further. She is however, low in her GSV #. I still think she can beat ANY filly/mare going 1 1/8 Mi.!! Yes ANY, but not on the FRONT end, rate her, and don't wait more than 21 days. These spoiled trainers, and the way Gr.1's are spaced out, are rediculous. Horses lose fitness after 21 days, and all the works in the world are not the same as a race.

30 Aug 2010 10:57 PM

Great points in your blog.  Rachel was doing pretty well until the last furlong when she ran out of gas. She is still a very fine racehorse and I hope we see her next in the Beldame.

30 Aug 2010 10:58 PM

I felt last year that Calvin Borel ruined Rachel in the Woodward with his whip happiness.  I commented on several blogs that I felt this way and hoped that Rachel would come back OK, but that I did not expect it.  This year, to me, has confirmed it.  Rachel runs, but she does not seem to put out once Borel goes to the whip.  I feel for her, she gave her all and got the @#$%^ beat out of her for it, in the Personal Ensign she got a repeat.  Poor girl.  I do have a question, however.  Has she always run with her tongue hanging out like she did yesterday?  I don't remember seeing her do that before.

30 Aug 2010 11:00 PM

Thank you Steve for this wonderful article; you put tears in my eyes. I am from southern California, and a huge fan of Rachel's. I traveled the 3500 miles to watch her run at Saratoga in the Personal Ensign, and while disappointed she lost, I was so proud of her and so happy to see her in the flesh. This horse caught my eye in the Martha Washington last year, and following her ever since, she has left me in amazement. Her campaign last year was arguably the greatest campaign ever for a 3 year old filly, and certainly the most ambitious. To take on the boys 3 times in Grade I races and win speaks for itself. Unfortunately, it seems to have taken its toll on Rachel, and combined with other questionable things done with her this year, she has been vulnerable and does not look to run with that reckless abandon and acceleration that she had last year. However, these losses do not diminish what she has accomplished. 99.9% of horses lose. That is part of the game. And when you send a horse like Rachel through such an ambitious campaign, she is bound to feel the affects at some point. Many great horses did not finish their careers out on top, but Rachel still has two more races left if they choose to run her, and she could still go out on a winning note. Even if they were to retire her, in 30-40 years down the line, when you think of Rachel Alexandra, you will remember the great races she gave us, the 20 length romp in the Oaks, wheeling back in two weeks to beat the boys in the Preakness, winning the Haskel over 3 year old champion Summer Bird in near record time, and her gut-wrenching, courageous victory in the Woodward Stakes, where she set suicidal fractions only to repel each and every horse in that field. Rachel Alexandra gave us one of the all-time great campaigns for a horse, and not many 3 year old fillies have been rewarded with Horse of the Year honors. Regardless of what happens for the rest of her career, she is truly a horse for the ages, and it has been a pleasure to watch her perform.

30 Aug 2010 11:08 PM

Mr. Haskin,

You've done it again! I was hoping that you would write an article on the PE and that it would be fair and objective. As always, I was not disappointed.

Most of us are sad for Rachel right now. We don't like our champions placed in a race where the distance is problematic. We're also sad for Life at Ten who ran out of gas, in her second 1 1/4 miles race in a row.

Were you there, Mr. Haskin? If so, would you please comment on the condition of both RA and LAT after the race? I'm reading things I don't like and would really  appreciate your objective comment.

30 Aug 2010 11:09 PM

I love and respect Rachel, after all she's a magnificent filly who has thrilled us all.  I can't say the same for her connections and I'm not sure if they have done right by her.  I remember the comment you made Steve that at her last race (must have been the Lady's Secret) you noticed she had her tail tucked between her legs in the paddock.  To me that says she scared.  I just don't think she wants to run anymore.  She may be capable physically but mentally she looks unhappy and worried. Has something turned her off to racing?... whether it be her training, being whipped in races or what I'm not sure.  Some people believe that if a horse gets whipped a lot it remembers that and associates running with discomfort and fear.  But, that being said, she is a great champion and I'm so grateful that she has graced the track with her prowess and beauty.  

30 Aug 2010 11:12 PM
Karen in Indiana

There are great horses that are not Classic material, Goldikova being a current example. It's no slam on Rachel that it's not a good distance for her. And I would not knock her for her races this year. For whatever reason, she is not the same horse. Whether it's just that her body changed and it won't do what it did last year or the routine she's in now is not what she needs, she's only had bits and spurts of the fire and enthusiasm she had last year. She just does not look happy and does not look like she enjoys what she does anymore. Watching her in the post parade yesterday, if she was human, she acted like she'd be saying 'oh, not this again'. Compare that to last year's eagerness and something is just not right. I love Zenyatta, but I've always admired Rachel and it hurts seeing what they've been doing to her this year. They change her equipment, putting on equipment that can be used to try to force her to do what they want. They tried to change her running style, which she was NOT happy about. The only thing they've kept the same is Calvin and seeing how he's whipped her this year, he's the one thing they should change. Here is hoping she finishes the year out better than she started and gets the retirement she's earned.

30 Aug 2010 11:16 PM

Thank you, I totally agree with everything in this article. Come and Rachel we know you have it in you still!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

30 Aug 2010 11:17 PM

Let me start be saying this question I have is pure curiosity and is coming from a layman's point of view so please do not slam me for it, but I am curious.  What about a sprint race?  To me (again layman), her last few races remind me of Rachel of last year early on in the race with her high cruising speed, but after 7 or 8 furlongs she seems to lose some of her fluidity and then looks like she just wants the race to be over.  I know there are many physical changes that happen to horses at a young age and 4 is still very young, but how those changes affect their way of going which in turn may affect their stamina we may not really understand.  We all expect their stamina to increase, but what if for some the physical changes actually cause their stamina to decrease.  There have been multiple horse throughout the years that were brillant at 2 but not 3, or brillant at 3 but not 4.  Except for the obvious height and weight, we really don't know what is going on internally.  I know there are a lot of people who don't give the same accolades to sprint horses, but there are a lot of classic distance horses that could not win a sprint if their life depended on it.  It's not like her race was a disaster yesterday.  She held on to the very end even though it was certainly not easy for her.  But I watch her and think she could blow everbody out ot the water in a sprint.  Oh well, just a thought.  What do you think Mr Haskin?  And to those of you that think she is not the same horse as last year because she wants to be bred, unless she is sitting on her stall guard winking at all the boys walking by I doubt that is it.

30 Aug 2010 11:25 PM

Thank you, Steve, for this lovely article. I raced home from work & turned on my computer to see if she was well & what you thought of her performance. I thought that she ran like Rachel Alexandra for the 1 1/8 mile, putting away an excellent race mare while doing so. Seems to me that that 1/4 mile was the joker in the deck. She shone - raced comfortably on the lead & put it out there for Life At Ten to chew on. But when she hit that stretch she was gone. I was sad & a little confused as to why Calvin would "encourage" her as emphatically as he did if he knew that "she was in trouble". But, I'm not a jock & I can't say.

I pose a curiosity question to you as I have read conflicting assessments of this scenario. Do you think that going the 1 1/4 mile into the Beldame would soften her up or sharpen her up? I guess that it could be a horse - by - horse thing. But it seems to me that often, when a horse is run at a distance or on a surface that they dislike or cannot handle they come back with a pretty grand effort at their preferred distance/surface. What do you think of the idea that others are throwing at me that she will be "done in" for her next race now? I guess it all hangs on how she comes out of this one.

But thank you for sticking with her, staying in her corner, like I have. Her campaign last year gave me chills & was one of the most remarkable seasons that I have ever witnessed. I will always love her for her HEART, which she wore on her sleeve yesterday!

30 Aug 2010 11:28 PM

I am one of Rachel's biggest fans and will defend to any and all that her 2009 HOY award was well-deserved.  She had the most amazing season for a 3-year old filly ever.  While I hoped for more of the same this year, maybe it's just too much to ask.  Still, I look at the records of the two other fillies who were HOY at 3, and neither Busher or Twilight Tear won a single race at four.  Rachel has suceeded where they could not and has clearly shown that she deserves to be considered one of the greatest fillies in modern history.  Like her connections, I am disappointed Rachel did not win, but I'm not disappointed in Rachel.  I don't think she's lost the will to race and win.  Maybe she's not a 10-furlong horse or maybe she just had an "off day".  One thing for sure, Saratoga once again lived up to it's nickname of "Graveyard of Champions".

30 Aug 2010 11:31 PM

Does any one really thing that Jackson with his big ego is going to settle for the Distaff?  While Zenyatta is in the Classic getting all the glory and accolades.  I would be very surprised if that happens.  Nope I think he will retire her and why not.  Let her have some fun time in the pastures and than go make little Rachels.  She has done enough for him and for us.  Why continue on with this experment untill she breaks down.

30 Aug 2010 11:32 PM
mary glynn

I wish she could have pulled out the win and I hope that her connections will put her first and treat her with Respect. She just got out run but she showed heart and try. Calvin Borel's Comment that she just wasn't there when he called on her was sad. I am a horseracing fan, a rachel fan and a zenyatta fan. Those of us who truly admire these horses admire them in victory and defeat and it does not lessen my love for either of them.

30 Aug 2010 11:39 PM

Great column.  I love Rachel and I love Zenyatta.  What I don't like is the east coast clique.  They will not accept Zenyatta which is sad and not worthy of the two best mares.

30 Aug 2010 11:40 PM

Rachel has nothing to prove, she ran her heart out, she just tired at the end of the race. That fast pace and distance was alot for her. I wouldn't say she was staggering to the wire. She didn't lose by that much. Look at where Life at Ten was. None of this takes away from what she has already accomplished. You can see she still has the will to run. I don't know people are talking like she came in 5th or 6th or last.. She is still a great horse. Let her run at her comfortable distance. I am just happy she came through the race safe. I'd let her run 2 more races then retire her. No matter what they decide for her. She is still fav girl of all.. I Love Rachel Alexandra always have always will!

30 Aug 2010 11:46 PM
Diane J

Why do so many people think the Distaff is not worthy of Rachel? Many of the great mares/fillies of the past have won that race. In fact, except for last year when Rachel ran as much against the colts as fillies, it was practically a given the females took aim at the Distaff as opposed to the Classic.  I'm concerned the new mentality is a mare/filly cannot be considered great UNLESS she repeatedly runs against males and wins. I hope this is not the case, but it does worry me. Rachel tries her hardest every race and she deserves all the love and admiration the fans can give her.  

30 Aug 2010 11:48 PM

What's going on People? Can anyone NOT see that Rachel needs a new JOCKEY. Zenyatta is always last, saving energy for the backstretch! CMon- Calvin rode her HARD- give me a break-PLEASE put Mike Smith on her!!! She's awesome and they are destroying her Reputation!!!

30 Aug 2010 11:48 PM

Steve, I don't understand why when Borel said he knew she was done, did he hit her so much at the end of the race.  I've never seen him ride her like that.  Is that desperation or Rachel's connections actually taking over.  Why would a professional jock want to push such an expensive and classy filly like that when she appeared done.  She was tired.  She does not look happy or like she enjoys running like she did last year.  It seems like they are desperately trying to make her what she was last year.

Any other horse would be praised for running like she does even when she loses, but not Rachel.  You hear comments like "we are disappointed, but..."  I think it is sad that she cannot just run her race and her owners be content that they had such a great horse last year.  Are they going to run her in the ground before retiring her?  Sorry so long, just curious.

30 Aug 2010 11:51 PM
Race On

It is a shame that most of the people writing here are not Rachel's owners.  Even last year you could tell that she is not a 1 1/4  horse.  Had the Preakness been even 2 lengths longer, she would have been beaten.  She is a great one and I hope that her connections do not try to run her again at this distance.  Keep her at a mile to 1 1/8 and she will pick up the first place money.

30 Aug 2010 11:52 PM

I could be wrong, but I don't think Borel is riding her like he wants to.  I think he has some overpowering influencing going on behind the scenes.  It's kind of sad.

30 Aug 2010 11:54 PM

I been reading all of the comments, I agree with most of them. Zenyatta is by far the best filly we will see in decades, like Smith mention before. I dont want to take credit from Rachel, she is a great filly, but I still believe that Zen, should have won horse of the year last year. and of course this year as well. On the Jockey change, I like Borel, I think the change of trainer will be better suited for Rachel, She was doing so well, last year, and with the new training and decision making lately, hasnt been that great. But who Am I to say who is good or not. I just look at the facts.


31 Aug 2010 12:07 AM
Dr Smoke

If the race was 9 furlongs she wins, if it was 9 1/2 furlongs she wins so it really comes down to the reality that she is not a classic distance horse.  Mine that Bird had her measured if the Preakness goes another 1/16th and if the Woodward was 1 1/4 like it use to be, she loses that also.  

Lets also be real, while the Personal Ensign was a dramatic race what does it say when grade I horses cant do any better than what we saw yesterday for 10 furlongs.

What does this mean?  Simply that she is very nice miler.

Her owners are real sporting types and I like how they have not shied from a challenge, however to run her in the Classic would be a huge mistake,then again she does seem to have an affinity for Churchill...

31 Aug 2010 12:15 AM
Outlaw Enterprises


Another great article about one of the two great female horses that the gods have bestowed on us loyal racing fans.  I agree, the calls for RA to be retired are a little premature.

As a huge RA fan, I started worrying when I saw that she was entered in the Personal Ensign.  Memories started flashing up about a couple of the races last year when RA looked like she was running out of steam at the 1 1/8 point.  Luckily, in the races last year, this was the end of the race (Woodward) or only had another 110 yards to go (Preakness).

She just isnt a 1 1/4 horse.  Back her up to 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 and she will beat the pants off about any horse out there.  It is just too taxing for her to run that far.  Some horses can go 2 miles and others cant win unless the distance is less than a mile.  Jess should just stick with what we all know she can do and let her run.

She is already a HOTY.  The only thing she has left to prove is that she has the genetics to run a campaign like this and still go to the breeding shed safe and sound.

31 Aug 2010 12:37 AM

First of all, I love Rachel Alexandra... I agree with Mr Haskin's assessment: how could anyone top Rachel's 3yo campaign?.. even Rachel herself? Her 4yo campaign has been disappointing, but she set a standard for brilliance last year that would be hard for anyone to match. I personally think she needs a new trainer/rider. I like Assmussen and Borel, but the moxie just isn't there... I doubt that Jackson would change trainers this late in the game; but perhaps if she had a different rider with a different feel, that it would help instill some confidence in her? In the PE, I saw a horse running her heart out, even though she couldn't hold on for the distance... I think it would be cool to finish her career out in the Ladies' Classic at the distance that suits her best, and there's no dishonor in that...

31 Aug 2010 12:41 AM
The Bid

Interesting....Jockey Change for Rachel???? First time I have ever considered such a Proposition, but why not??? Gomez would be far more appropriate and he rides Jackson's 2yr. old HOPEFUL....So maybe a possibility. I STILL believe Rach can get The 1 1/4!!! Oddly enough,  heard Matt from TVG during the Post Parade refer to Rachel's ability to Rate and Then explode through the Turn and Finish...The fractions were unsustainable...They really were, and it seemed obvious the plan was to get to the lead early and drill Life at Ten to the ground...Mission Accomplished, but last time I checked there were other Fillies in the race that I really don't think Steve considered could run Her down...Well IT happened!!! Steve and Mr. Jackson finally seen Rachel's bottom, something even Calvin alluded to last year that he did not even think could happen. Well it did, but was it for the better or worse...Only the Connections can determine that, but it will be interesting in the coming weeks to see what they do. Jockey switch and tactical changes within the race and Rachel Just may be Primed for a Fabulous November Classic For The Ages...We Shall see!!!

31 Aug 2010 12:56 AM

She is the same Rachel as last year. Her times at CD is faster this year 2010 than 2009 or 2008 and she is carrying more weight. I don't get this angle at all. IMO, she can't hold her speed against really tough older horses unlike the soso horses of 2009.

31 Aug 2010 1:08 AM

Rachel is a lady, and ladies do not appreciate being hit.  Spare the rod, and just enjoy watching her run.  Borel seems very heavy-handed with her this year.  It's not helping, and may be part of the problem.  She is used to being treated like a queen. Then she gets in a race, tries her best, and is rewarded with a beating. No fair!  

31 Aug 2010 1:16 AM

Although Rachael Alexandra was defeated in the Personal Ensign, I felt she gave a solid and gutsy performance.  Her sire was not what I would have called a Classic distance horse, so it did not surprise me that she was unable to win at the 1 1/4 distance.  If her connections decide to retire her now, she will be remembered for her memorable 3 year old campaign, not her loss in the Personal Ensign.  No doubt, she will be elected into the Hall of Fame the first year she is eligible.  If Rachael is mentally and physically sound, I hope she will continue to race.  I am a huge Zenyatta fan, but I have been watching Rachael since she was a 2 year old.  I respect and appreciate her talent and hope we all have the opportunity to see her at least one more time before saying good-bye.  I know everyone would like to see her retire on a winning note to cap off a glorious career.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that she makes it to the Breeders Cup, and while the Classic may not be in her cards, the Ladies Classic would be the logical choice.  If her connections want to have her race against the boys one more time, then I think the BC Dirt Mile would be an interesting alternative.

31 Aug 2010 1:22 AM

There is no shame in these loses. I care for her health. I don't want her to run in the classic. If one more race then the distaff is fine. Will give us the last opportunity to see her. I don't want her to suffer some injury just to prove that she has got  more race in her. Its just not necessary. Retire !

31 Aug 2010 1:38 AM
Lost In The Fog


I always enjoy your columns, even when I disagree with you. This is one of those times.

What RA IS this year takes nothing away from what she WAS last year but that was then and this is now. Last year she was a beast, a freak, dusting the three-year-old competition and one lackluster field of older males. This year she has proven repeatedly that she is not a G1-caliber winning horse against older competition. She’s two for five with those two wins coming in a G2 and a non-graded stakes. It’s time to face reality and start addressing the obvious questions. She is NOT going to win the BC Ladies Classic against the likes of Blind Luck or Evening Jewel, she is NOT going to win the BC Classic against Zenyatta and the big boys and she is not likely to win a G1 race either before or after the BC. If you accept those assumptions (and I realize that there are those still living in the past who feel otherwise) then what is to be gained by continuing to race her? The mounting losses do nothing but tarnish her legacy and place in history. If she enters the Beldame and loses and then enters the BC Ladies Classic and loses she’ll complete the year with a two for seven record and a single graded stakes victory. What’s the point? That’s beneath her.

She’s given her all every time she's stepped onto the track. She’s worn out, the victim of an overly aggressive ego-driven 2009 campaign for HOY that had more to do with JJ and less to do with what was in her best interest. They ran her into the ground. You reap what you sow.  

It’s time to do the right thing and let her relax and enjoy life away from the track. It’s either that or continue to watch her flail away against horses she would have crushed last year while Calvin Borel continues to beat the holy hell out of her in the stretch. She deserves so much better than what her owner, trainer and jockey are doing to her.

31 Aug 2010 1:42 AM

steve with all due respect, the only thing gutted is rachels compettition when they face better horses.

31 Aug 2010 1:44 AM
Will W

Life at Ten blew away the competition in the Delaware Handicap at a mile and a quarter, but was run into the ground by Rachel. Johnny V said she was dead at the half mile pole and finished after the next quarter mile. Should we be discussing retiring her as well ??? Haven't heard a word about that. Rachel was "blowing extremely hard" after the race according to Asmussen, but was fine by Monday. So as many predicted Rachel did not like a 1 1/4, ran evenly, and did not accelerate in the stretch. She shortened her side and staggered home the last furlong, but it was a taxing race against a top mare for a horse not yet returned to form though improving.  So she isn't what she was last year, but she still can compete with the Blind Lucks, the Evening Jewels, and the Lifes at Ten and provide the racing public with intriguing match ups with these fillies. On to the Beldame and the Breeder's Cup Ladies Classic. As the racing world needs competition and more of it, I for one hope she returns at 5 though Jackson is almost certain to have her spooning with Curlin next year. Who cares about tarnished reputations ? Two wins and three seconds are not bad for a horse that was kept in the barn for 5 months, was never freshened, and was run into the ground last year in three tough races against males.

31 Aug 2010 1:45 AM
Jim C.


I love  your columns and books, but I have to quibble a little with you.  The implicit undertone of your column is that Rachel Alexandra, were she to run in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, would be the top choice.  I respectfully disagree.

With all due respect, Steve, based on her current form, she would be no match for Blind Luck or Evening Jewel.  Even at the 9 furlongs.  You want to see a horse "pick up the pieces" after a speed duel?  Well just place Life at Ten and Rachel Alexandra in the Ladies' Classic.  I would love to see Blind Luck have the opportunity to close into decent fractions for once.

While you have paid her due respect, discounting Blind Luck has seemed to be a theme of yours.  Leading up to the Alabama, you appeared on Steve Byk's radio show and were virtually proclaiming Devil May Care as a mortal lock.  You said you "respected" Blind Luck, but you were really hyping Devil May Care, along with Byk.  I have to admit, it was a bit insufferable listening to Byk and you that day.  What Byk and you failed to grasp is that while Devil May Care has great ability, she does not always fire.  Blind Luck always fires.  Even when she loses.

Steve, Rachel has never faced females as formidable as Blind Luck or Evening Jewel.  (And sorry, I am not buying all the hype regarding Life at Ten).  Simply put, the first topic of conversation regarding the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic is Blind Luck.  The second topic is Evening Jewel.  

31 Aug 2010 1:46 AM

I feel sorry for Rachel she ran her heart out. She is an outstanding racehorse. Jess Jackson did not show his face for the race and Calvin Borel beat the crap out of her. Does Calvin really think by hitting her so many times that would have helped her get the distance. The horse is a class act her connections however are not.

31 Aug 2010 1:51 AM
Pam S.

Steve, I so agree that Rachel deserves to go out a winner.  I think she should be greeting her fans at the BC, whether it's in the Ladies or the Dirt Mile, at the track where she ran her most other-worldly race.  

But none of us really knows what SHE wants.  No, she didn't look happy on Sunday, and maybe it would be better not to go on with her.  I guess we'll know in a week or so.

All I know is, I would much rather she hadn't run in the Woodward, just for HER sake.  Since last year, I have said that I believe that race was a turning point in her career; it was when the joy of running seemed to end for her.  

Rachel fans are fond of saying that we will never see another 3yo filly season like the one Rachel had.  That's probably true, and there's a reason -- it's just too hard on them.  I will always wonder how Rachel's career would have progressed had she not been sold.  Yes, I know, the original owner was criticized for not wanting to run in the Triple Crown races.  But the TC is only three races, there are lots more chances for a filly to test the males, and guess what, people HAVE been known to change their minds.  I will always feel that the Hal Wiggins program -- whatever it was, exactly -- was the better one for Rachel.

That's all water under the bridge now, but here's hoping a great champion can have one more moment in the sun.

31 Aug 2010 1:54 AM


How are sports like horse racing  expected to survive, with fair weather fans and unsporting participants?  Everyone is so afraid to race their healthy race horses it is rediculous.  No one wants to get beaten.  Hello?  Welcome to sports!  All great champions are defeated and the ability to bounce back and the mountain that they climb to do so is what sports is all about.  Horse racing in the modern era is to quick to crown a champion and retire them before they've been tested or even competed for that matter.  Thank goodness for sportsman like Mr. Jackson otherwise we wouldn't be on the emotional roller coaster that is called Rachel.  Mohammad Ali was defeated on a few occasions but he competed always and was never afraid to lay it on the line.  I think it makes him one of sports greatest champions.  Undefeated means nothing if the record holder has never stepped out of their comfort zone and challenged themselves.  Rachel did the unthinkable last year for a horse of any age, let alone, a three year old filly.  Has anyone ever witnessed such a feat?  On any kind of track she managed to win the Preakness, the Haskell, and the Woodward.  Now, after her lay off and playing catch up, she loses a couple of races and everyone says she ought to retire so as not to tarnish her greatness.  What?????  My father, who I've always considered to be a wise man once said, if you never stand up you never have to worry about falling on your butt.  I think his words apply to horse racing and come on,  Rachel is already great why not give her every opportunity to be even greater.  Given what she was able to accomplish last year, lets give her the benefit of the doubt and believe that when she enters the starting gate, anything is possible.

31 Aug 2010 1:54 AM

Yes, she did run Life At Ten into the ground.  I was mortified at how much distance Rachel got on Life At Ten.

Life At Ten is a great filly with impressive accomplishments.

Now, I have to say I couldn't stand watching Calvin whip Rachel over and over and over again.  He knew Rachel was spent!  That was abuse and nothing else.  I am so put off by Calvin; I thought he would do what was right and back-off.  

Whatever is next for Rachel, let it be in her best interest by I hope a caring owner, J.J.

31 Aug 2010 2:50 AM
John C.

Thanks, Steve, for a balanced and reasoned perspective regarding the great Rachel Alexandra.

It is upsetting to wade through some of the comments thereafter though.

Just a couple of principles to consider, readers:

The phrase "nothing left to prove" should never be part of anyone's lexicon. Only a dullard fails to see the myriad ways that a thoroughbred champion can be showcased. Did See The Stars have nothing left to prove? Haha! A certain filly and a certain mare could have given him a lot to prove on American soil (dirt) last year.

Barring injury, racing 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, or 2 times per year, no matter what the races, cannot and does not ruin a horse.

There is absolutely nothing in Rachel's competitive demeanor that shows she was the least bit affected by her spectacular and dominating victories last year. She does have a bigger and more massive body, accounting for any and all problems that she has encountered this year. Horses that are devastated by brutal campaigns do NOT gain 200 pounds and look like the most amazing and serene pictures of health, day after day.

The (recent) demand for perfection or death (by retirement) is misguided and puerile. If the impossible happens and Zenyatta loses some day, she should not be diminished in any way, shape, or form in any racing fan's mind; in fact, her losing would show that she overcame that real possibility for years. Only the pettiest person would not admire her as much for being 19 for 20 than for being "perfect".

There is a perverse desire to immediately throw great horses into the breeding shed. Get this into your heads once and for all: for many statistical and biological reasons, the greatest horses do not give birth to even greater horses. Do not expect ANY of Rachel or Zenyatta's offspring to even remotely hold a candle to them. For every great son or daughter of a great horse, there are hundreds if not thousands of mediocre or lesser offspring.

The main purpose of this sport is competition! This is thoroughbred racing, not walkover practice. Avoiding competition or diminishing competition should be shamed and heavily penalized when accolades and awards are deemed at the end of a year, and when "greatness" is bestowed historically. The sickening trend of avoiding competition until it is forced upon the owners by the "Super Bowl" Breeders' Cup has greatly diminished this sport, yet it has rekindled my love and appreciation for...harness racing. That's right. In harness racing, you can see the best horses in the sport face each other every TWO WEEKS and they race about 20 times per year. Good mares regularly race against colts too!

So many "fans" of the sport seem to applaud and even encourage the adulterated status quo that exists in racing today. There won't be much sport to encourage if their wishes continue to come true.

31 Aug 2010 3:10 AM

I sure would like to see her run in the Ladies Classic and the distance is perfect for her. However, the comments made after her defeat yesterday make me question if there will be an announcement soon about her retirement.

HOY sure looks murky to me. It'll be interesting to see who wins the Classic. If a long shot does, I am rooting for Zenyatta to finally get her championship.

31 Aug 2010 4:40 AM

Sammi,Jess is a class act , he has allowed us joy of watching his great ones such as Rachel and Curlin ,and he took chances.

If he was a no show ,it could be he was not physically up to it.

31 Aug 2010 5:00 AM

RA is running as fast this year as last year. She is just not good enough to win.

Last year in the Preakness she caught a field without speed and bottomed them out. Mine that Bird has turn out to be exactly what we thought then - a fluke. She used her speed and took advantage of a bad crop.

In the Woodward, RA caught a field that would be lucky to win a feature at Finger Lakes, and were the furthest from quality stakes horses. She should have won the Woodward.

When supposedly 'great' horses can't win anymore - they get retired. It's now that time.

RA has been 'over - hyped' for a year now. Unless they again drop her into Un-Graded races - she will never win again.

31 Aug 2010 5:51 AM

This is truly a great article;  Mr. Haskin brings up so many points and makes you remember why you had faith in Rachel Alexandra.  At first, I was like many of the others who, in the back of my mind, was thinking, "C'mon Mr. Jackson, she's tired.  Give her a break."  But this article made me remember that Rachel loves to run, and all her defeats this season have only been her placing SECOND!  I'm just stuck on comparing her to last year's Rachel Alexandra.  She's still a great racehorse and a great horse.  Run on, Rachel.  

31 Aug 2010 6:01 AM
passing thru

I don't, I find 2 wins in 5 starts to be a pretty disappointing campaign for a horse coming off such highs. Especially given that the two wins came against fairly weak competition. Sure there's no great shame in running second--but I don't think any of the horses she has lost to this year will be joining her in the Hall of Fame.  If I were Jackson I'd be thinking seriously of putting her to pasture.

Though I grant I might take one more shot in the Beldame. I'd sure as heck be taking Borel off though--I think one thing that's clear is that she no longer responds well when Borel decides to whip the crap out of her. I don't really think she's been the same since he beat her senseless to win the Haskell last year.

31 Aug 2010 6:14 AM

if she runs in the beldame, can anyone tell me who else she might face in that race

31 Aug 2010 6:48 AM

Great article, Steve, as usual.

I love RA, period.

When she took off with Life at Ten, in those blistering quarters, my heart sank. To keep that up for so long, did not seem possible, even for her. Yet, like many, I thought she had it, til Persistently geared up. We were all so focused on the front two horses.

Personally, I would love to see her retired to the breeding shed.

She has proved herself.

Being a novice in the racing world, it sure seems like these 3 yr olds, who have a great year, do not often repeat it later. Look at MTB, and Summer Bird got injured and retired.

Nothing can diminish Rachael's 2009 year; it certainly brought much joy to me, during a rough patch in my life. I pray the connections will do what is best for her, not them.

31 Aug 2010 7:04 AM

Thanks for putting it in perspective, Steve.  It's always a pleasure to read your articles.

31 Aug 2010 7:19 AM
Tara S

First off Steve, I just wanted to say what an amazing article! I love to read your work and this one did not dissapoint! Second, I just want to say that Rachel is an AMAZING filly and what she did for racing last year was just absouletly brilliant. I have always been a fan of hers from day one and knowing that people are becoming dissapointed in her breaks my heart. She has nothing left to prove to anyone, she did it all last year. Her losses this year do not dim what she accomplisehd last year, not at all. If she is ready to move on to greener pastures, then let her. If not, then put her in a race that she wants to run it. She has already beaten boys numerous times so I would agree with most of you on here and say run her against the ladies this year at her distance. RA is just an amazing horse and she, like all of the others, deserves to be happy and heatlhy and I wish her all the best for the rest of the year.

31 Aug 2010 7:28 AM
dr fager

Too bad horses seem to take on the identity of their owner, and not the other way around.  I have never had a horse of the scope of RA, so I don't know how I would handle it, but if I do, and I act like Jessie Jackson, somebody shoot me.  His ego has gotten in the way of aa very, very good filly.

31 Aug 2010 7:30 AM

If she wants to win she needs to learn to rate better. She's definitely not Ruffian and she isn't a closer like Zenyatta, who doesn't start rolling until the far turn; she's a free-wheeling filly who's two hundred pounds heavier and needs to learn not to burn off her rivals from the start. She would have won if the Personal Ensign was nine furlongs but she tired badly. And yet she kept going, kept slugging it out with the fast-closing Persistently because she's a champion and that's what champions do.

She still has a few good races left in her. Send her to the Beldame, see how she comes out of that one before taking her to Kentucky. After that winning loss she deserves another shot at the winner's circle and Grade 1 glory.

31 Aug 2010 7:43 AM

Amen Brother Steve!

31 Aug 2010 7:46 AM

Rachel needed to be turned out after last year.    If there was a problem - the farm is the place to fix it. If there wasn't? standing in a dark stall at the rainy Fairgrounds for 4 months, walking the shed?  great idea boys.

Follow that up by lack of conditioning and rushed spots.

Look at how she walked over for the Oaks and how tweaked she has been ever since.

They've blown this filly's mind.  Give her back to Hal.

31 Aug 2010 7:49 AM
Fran Loszynski

You're absolutely right Steve. I wrote the other day that maybe she is tired of the spotlight but she is not defeated, she lost a race, big deal. She won so many. What's wrong with us that are saying maybe it's her day- She is one of the most beautiful and talented racehorses around. If only to look at those eyes again.  So Rachel bring it on. Thank you Steve for kicking us in the head!

One note Steve, thank you for the great write up about Afleet Express. I'm still crying in happiness for everyone involved. They are the best group of racing people around. Their horses win because they want to for them. To Antony Beck and family: Your Dad was there with little Alex Scott on his shoulders cheering. I quote Joe Lerro: "AFLEET ALEX"!

31 Aug 2010 8:07 AM
LouAnn Cingel

An absolutely wonderful article-very well put.  I agree with everything said.  I am a Zenyatta fan but I love Rachel Alexandra and wish her the best.  Just hope that whatever or wherever she goes that her connections listen to her and follow her directives (in horse language of course)and do what is best for her.  Let Rachel doing the talking, she will demonstrate what is next on her agenda and what she is capable of doing.

Good Luck To her-there is noone like Rachel Alexandra!

Love & Blessings

LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

31 Aug 2010 8:25 AM
Kevin A Burke

Mr. Jackson is the personification of class. He has taken many unjust knocks do to the honesty he demands from the Thoroughbred World.His leadership and strength has aided many others who had not the resources to fight as he has.

Whatever the reasons for him not being at Saratoga on this past Sunday, a lack of class is not one of them. Not knowing him personally, but well knowing his public impeccable reputation, and his public love for the Thoroughbred Horse, only a very real issue could have forced his nonattendance. As all of us voice our prayers for Rachel's future for whatever form as outsiders we deem right, maybe we should say one for Mr. Jackson.

Rachel's pace/race numbers are there even in her losses this year. To say she is not the same horse as last year, I am not so sure that is correct. To say she has suffered poor racing luck, tactics, and distance limitations might be closer to the truth. Should she come out of this race in good form, I hope she races on. She has not won every race this year, but, she is not running dead last either. Her losses have not disgraced her, far from that, I believe they show she still has a future with many wins possible at the same top class level. Her dance card is not yet filled.        

31 Aug 2010 8:28 AM
AK in Texas

Rachel has nothing to prove, as she already established her enduring legacy in 2009 with her brilliant campaign. Rachel right now is a pawn running for men's egos.  Her team ran her into the ground last year for their own glory.  They got their HOY trophy, so what else do they need?  She looks tired. She was a joy to watch last year ... now she looks like she really didn't want to go to work today.  She is such a beautiful creature and clearly one with feelings ... to see her lumbering down the track, getting whipped repeatedly (even if it doesn't "hurt," it must be humiliating to her), is to see her spirit broken. Wish they would let her go on to the next phase of her career and pass on those magnificent genes.

And one would hope her connections would show a little more class ... acknowledging the horse that outran her on this "given Sunday" shouldn't be so difficult for them.  Persistently ran a heck of a race ... maybe the race of her career ... to outrun the great one, give her her due.  Borel hogging the limelight from the winner, and the comments from her owners and trainer underscore that it's all about them, not her.

31 Aug 2010 8:30 AM

I hope they don't retire Rachel unless there is a good reason to do so.  Losing a race, particular the ones Rachel has lost this year, is no disgrace at all.  Losing happens, and it rarely affects how people evaluate a horse decades later.  Rachel's a Champ.  The Horse of the Year title will always appear next to her name in every story where he name is mentioned.  That won't change.

As Steve wrote, and I have written many times myself on forums, every horse who beat her or tried to run with her has pretty much run very poorly since.  She's a tough nut to crack.

I wish people would stop their complaining about Jess Jackson.  If it weren't for him, we very well might not have seen Curlin race on turf or at Dubai or in the BC at Santa Anita, and we certainly wouldn't have seen a 3 year old filly do the things Rachel did last year.  Jackson wasn't at Monmouth either so I'm guessing there are good reasons why he's not making these trips ... reasons that are likely none of our business.  Enough already!

I'd like to see Rachel in the Distaff. Zenyatta ran in the Distaff at age 4.  If it was good enough for her and many other top fillies, it should be good enough for Rachel.  I'd rather we have the opportunity to cheer for both mares to win their respective races than to have to take sides.  Zenyatta has Older Mare wrapped up.  If she were to win the Classic this year, on a 'foreign' surface, against a field better suited to dirt than the field she faced last year, she'd likely win the gold Eclipse in a landslide.  Two great female Horses of the Year, back to back.  What could possibly be wrong with that scenario!  

31 Aug 2010 8:43 AM

While it is sad to see any good horse beaten, it is a fact of life that it will happen one day.  One has to hope that RA will be allowed to pass on her genetic potential in the breeding shed sooner rather than later and that we will not be faced with a "Ruffian" or "Eight Belles" disaster.

Perhaps she has passed her peak at the track, no star can stay on top forever.  We need to remember that she did shine and that she and others have done a great job of promoting the industry.

Let her start the next phase of her life and then we can enjoy seeing her babies come a long in a few years.

31 Aug 2010 8:47 AM

On factor, I think you missed (or maybe I haven't had my second cup of coffee yet) RA gives her all in every race. If I were her trainer (which I'm not) I'd worry that she'd be giving her all and take a bad step. The idea of this gives me chills. This is, not only the public's darling--including mine--

but worth a LOT in the breeding shed. Shouldn't that be taken into consideration?

I know their connections know a lot more than I do. I just hope they know when to quit--for RA's well-being.

Thanks for reading my concerns.


31 Aug 2010 9:01 AM

I am confused and I wonder if Rachel is too.  The trainer has spent a lot of time in the mornings getting Rachel to relax in her works and to rate. Then he sends her to the front in this race. Do you suppose she is mixed up on what they want?  She has become docile and is doing what they are teaching her.  I wonder if a few faster works would get her interested in winning again.  I don't mean, get her speed crazy, but just get her on her toes.  She is a great mare and Assmussen is a good trainer, but slow works aren'

t for every horse.

31 Aug 2010 9:02 AM

I am confused and I wonder if Rachel is too.  The trainer has spent a lot of time in the mornings getting Rachel to relax in her works and to rate. Then he sends her to the front in this race. Do you suppose she is mixed up on what they want?  She has become docile and is doing what they are teaching her.  I wonder if a few faster works would get her interested in winning again.  I don't mean, get her speed crazy, but just get her on her toes.  She is a great mare and Assmussen is a good trainer, but slow works aren'

t for every horse.

31 Aug 2010 9:02 AM

I could almost cry with relief after reading this article, Steve.  I knew after Rachel's defeat on Sunday the naysayers would be out in full glory yesterday but I did not expect so many, especially the horse writers who are supposed to know more than the rest of us, to be calling for Rachel's retirement.  I was so relieved to see the title of your article "why"? because that's exactly what I keep asking, too.  Why would your retire a horse 3/4 of the way through the year just because she came in second in a grade 1 race?  Isn't that what horse racing is about?  Competition?  Calvin Borel said it best on Sunday - if you can take the winning you have to take the losing, otherwise you shouldn't be in the business.  So, if that line of thinking prevails then I suppose Quality Road should be retired for finishing second to Blame.  Or maybe Goldikova should be retired because she lost her last race?  I guess Gio Ponti needs to retire right now because he's come in second several times this year.  My goodness, imagine what the public would have missed if John Henry had been retired early because he kept losing?  If Rachel were finishing dead last every time or way up the track, then ok, something is definitely wrong, but second?  I love Rachel dearly like so many of her legions of fans.  What she did last year was unprecedented; she set a bar for herself and others that truly, is probably not realistic.  Now we expect her to win all the time, every time and if she doesn't then well I guess it's time to send the old nag out behind the barn because she's done her due.  While I hate to see her lose, I also understand that she's a horse and mortal.  I personally thought she ran an amazing race on Sunday.  Everyone has been screaming for her to run the 1 1/4; well, now she has so we must deal with the consequences.  Finally, earlier in the year I heard bickering about the fact that Rachel had pulled out of the Apple Blossom and left fans high and dry who had bought tickets - well, those of you who are calling for her retirement now should respect the fact that there are those of us who love her and do not live close to the tracks where she has been running.  My husband and I have scrimped and saved in order to purchase tickets to the Breeder's Cup this year knowing Rachel would be there.  While I will enjoy seeing all the other horses our main goal is to see Rachel before she retires.  If she retires now just to save face (for some) then you are leaving alot of us heartbroken.  If Rachel is sick or hurt, then by all means please retire her!  But if she is healthy as she was on Sunday then there is no reason not to go forward and finish this year out.  Thank you, Mr. Haskin for allowing me the space to vent my feelings; while it won't matter to anyone else it made me feel alot better! Also, thank you for being a voice of reason.

31 Aug 2010 9:02 AM

Everybody loves Rachel! Calvin hit her way to much, it wasn't a good sight.

31 Aug 2010 9:09 AM

Excellent post - as always - Mr. Haskin! I am anxiously waiting to hear what Steve says about the post race Rachel AFTER she goes back to the track tomorrow (I believe that's still the plan). If RA goes to the Distaff (I'm having trouble getting away from that moniker), so what? Personal Ensign didn't challenge the Classic for the same reasons - distance. No one thought any the less of PE for that. If RA's not 100%, I'm sure that the connections will take appropriate steps. Let's face it, she's worth a FORTUNE as a broodmare no matter what she does on the track going forward.

31 Aug 2010 9:12 AM

Rachel was barely walking the last 16th. I think she was afraid she'd step on her tongue which was probably covered with dirt at the finish from dragging the track. I have to think that if she races between now and Churchill in November, she is a huge candidate for a bounce and a definite bet against. HOY is out. Even a decent showing against optional claimers, which - as Persistently proved - can be really classy runners, is not a given. More than anything she needs to spend time away from any track just frolicking in the fields eating grass and chasing birds. Yep, the girl needs a big time vacation. Give her that. Sunday was a really tough day at her office. Worry about her tomorrows after she's fat and happy again.

31 Aug 2010 9:13 AM
Steve Haskin

Annette, if you feel she's ready for the breeding farm, who would you breed her to in September?

31 Aug 2010 9:17 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I did add to the story overnight that if you do knock the :27 1/5 final quarter, and you have every right to if you want, it's only fair that you also knock the :26 3/5 final quarter in the Travers and even more so, the :13 3/5 final eighth by one of the fastest 3-year-olds in the country in the King's Bishop.

31 Aug 2010 9:18 AM

What do you get in a racehorse if you combine extraordinary talent,soundness and a HUGE heart? The answer is R.A. With every race horse there are physical issues that eventually take their toll and comprimise their performance. I believe that there are physical issues that are beginning to take a toll. If you read between the lines Steve Asmussen is saying as much. Trainers never give the full story. I'm not saying they are running an unsound horse, rather I'm saying the wear and tear is becoming a performance issue that would cause a lesser horse to end it's usefull life as a racehorse. She has now become a REALLY good racehorse and no longer is she the super horse that amazed us last year. If her connections can live with that then there is no reason to retire her.

31 Aug 2010 9:18 AM

Has Rachel been training on the Oklahoma track? I had a horse run down on it one time when the track was extra deep and wet. Maybe she got bruised prior to this race? Whatever, another possibility is she may be on steroids,  which don't do a lot for endurance, rather they fuel the fast twitch muscles. It doesn't seem reasonable that with her excellent breeding and racing record that 1 1/4 miles is too far.

31 Aug 2010 9:22 AM
Dustin Stones

In a soft field, Borel didn't have to get into a speed duel. Calvin's judgment is suspect.

The main point to be made re RA and Zenyatta is that the industry missed the opportunity to match up the mares when both were at their best.  Sure the respective owners have the last word.  So, how could their conflicting interests have been reconciled?  Easy.

(1)  You select a "neutral" racetrack which has a surface acceptable to both parties.  Believe me, it's there!

(2)  You get the establishment to pony up a magnificent purse, e.g. $5 to 10M.

(3)  You put the 2 owners and their appropriate connections in a conference room with a moderator and you don't let them out until:

(4)  They agree on stake race or match race (winner take all or otherwise);  distance;  and date.

  Remember, money always talks, everyone else walks.  Jackson may not need the money but that doesn't mean he doesn't like to make money.  And he's an industry advocate;  he knows how this race could have bolstered a sagging sport.

31 Aug 2010 9:23 AM

In my honest opinion,  I know some may disagree with me,  But with my observations of RA I think she could afford to lose a little weight.   I think had she not been carrying that extra 200 pds she put on, she may have been able to have gotten that extra length better.

Not being mean,  I just think she looks like alittle to heavy...

31 Aug 2010 9:33 AM
Steve Haskin

Collette, that is a very good point. There was criticism when she was being rated and now there is critcism when she wasn't. I think she ran the way she's supposed to run. She's a free-running horse. I also bleieve had she drawn outside Life At Ten, she would have been in control of strategy and it would have relieved enough of the pressure she faced from Life At Ten to have enough left to get her the victory.

Jim C., where did I say she would be the favorite. I believe she would be, but what are you basing your disagreement on?

31 Aug 2010 9:41 AM
Marc M

Steve, for once i disagree with you. This has ALWAYS been about her legacy ever since they decided to go for the Preakness. She has lost her turn of foot.. whether from weight or simply growing. The idea that somehow this sets her up to move forward belies the fact that she has shown NONE of the acceleration and ability to separate that carried her so far last year. That she may have been mishandled may be true.. but trying to get her to rate is a concept I personally have not seen. Her best two races last year were probably the Haskell and the Mother Goose and in both she was not on the early lead. All of these issues have some merit , but to ignore that she has slowed down is to be blind to the obvious. Perhaps , as fans, we simply wanted more, but it isn't just the distance that beat her Sunday.. she would have cantered home the last 1/16 if added to her Preakness effort had it been against the likes against which she ran Sunday.. and I am sorry, that was no suicidal pace of 109 and change that gave her a 27 second final quarter..she just isnt the same and that's OKAY but let's put the excuses to bed and stop having these expectations..she's a play-against now in most betting circumstances

31 Aug 2010 9:46 AM

You made the same points I have made to people these last few days. Rachel ran that other filly into the ground and was the best horse in that race hands down. The only sadness I had was watching her walk away with her head down in defeat. She honestly looked sad not walking into the winners circle. I would run her in the Distaff if she were mine. I feel she has nothing to prove against the boys, she did that last year. She may not be the same as last year and I dont care. What horse could be after what she accomplished last year? Nadia Comaneci wasnt the same after her perfect tens in Montreal because nature was nature and her body changed. I feel the same for Rachel. She is still the best filly I will ever see in my lifetime no matter what she does this year. I love the fact her connections brought her to Saratoga and I got to see her again after watching many races live last year. Cant say that for Zenyatta's connections, I probably wont get to see her in person unless I head to Churchill.

31 Aug 2010 9:49 AM

From what I have read on other blogs, and according to Andrew Beyers speed figures throuhout 2010,   RA has been back to her old "09" self,  thats what his figures have been showing,  I guess that means if that don't match her performance , then he must have been falsifying her figures.      Thats what I am reading elsewhere.

Funny how she only gets a 93 bsf when she has been training so well all summer and recieving the high bsf over 100.    Please read A.Beyers aricle on    He says for RA to run in the Ladies Classic would be a disgrace.  

31 Aug 2010 9:50 AM

I am a huge Rachel Alexandra fan and so very much appreciated your fine article on this wonderful filly.  Rachel A will go down in racing history as one of the greats!  As for her Personal Ensign, I think part of her problem was jockey error and, even though I am a Calvin fan, perhaps a jockey change might be good for Rachel.

31 Aug 2010 9:50 AM


I agree RA needs a new jock, and I was surprised with Brigmohan working her so much they hadn't put him on her, but some reason I don't think Mike Smith would jump on RA. Just my opinion.

31 Aug 2010 9:51 AM

Good article Steve, rushing her off to retirement now would reek of cowardice on behalf of her connections & damage her future legacy more than a tilt at the ladies classic ever could. As for would she have been better off staying with Hal? no doubt in my mind, these big money trainers with all the horses tend to turn them into part of the machine instead of letting them be the individual.

31 Aug 2010 9:56 AM
old timer

I agree with Spicer's "anthropomorphic" view. I am a lifelong horsewoman, owner and rider. I know horses and how to read their eyes and body language. Also agree her 2010 campaign has been unfortunately mismanaged, however good the intentions. But this is CLEAR: when Calvin goes to the whip like he did in the Woodward and the PE, she says "NO"! I was right about the ill-fated figure 8...

31 Aug 2010 9:58 AM
Sam Ludu

I have to agree with Stacy's comment about the unfortunate potential for tragedy if Rachel continues to run. The great ones like Rachel, like Go for Wand, give their all on the track. And then some. If something were to happen to Rachel in the Beldame, for example, surely a target if she were to run again, many of the same commentators who are saying she should continue to run would then condemn Jess Jackson for putting  her in an essentially meaningless race, a contest that does nothing for her legacy and serves as a prep for what? The BC Classic? Another 10-furlong race, against even tougher competition? The "Ladies Classic"? A tacit admission that she's not what she was?

Shug McGaughey in today's Saratogian said that Personal Ensign had a brilliant 4-year-old campaign because she did not have the kind of taxing 3-year-old season that Rachel did. Dinny Phipps and McGaughey understood the toll taken on Rachel and entered Persistently in the Personal Ensign, thinking they had a chance against a vulnerable champion, and their gambit paid off.

Rachel's perfect 2009 season got to the absolute bottom of her. Her Personal Ensign loss last Sunday was as draining as her Woodward victory last year, if not more so. She is bone-tired late in the season. She is not the same filly she was last year. There is no shame in admitting that. She is the 2009 Horse of the Year and no one can ever take that from her. But she should be retired now.

They are tempting fate if they continue to push her for no reason.

31 Aug 2010 9:58 AM
Bill Daly

Rachel gave it her best shot. Borel rode her just fine. She doesn't want a mile and a quarter and Saratoga is not kind to pace setters or pressers going that distance.  Besides General Assembly how many horses have wired the Travers? I don't know the history of the Personal Ensign, but I would wager not too many if any have wired the field. This race was set up for a closer without doubt. The fact that she was beaten by an undistinguished horse is not really that relevant.  For one thing the horse hss a distance pedigree on the bottom. It does amaze me that Smoke Glacken can appear anywheres in the pedigree of a horse that can win a stakes race at this distance.  Rachel will be back.  I think Steve's rationale is solid. I do not expect her, however, to be in the BCC. The Ladies Classic is her cup of tea at this point.

31 Aug 2010 10:00 AM

Steve, You comments about Zardana, Queen Martha, Bullsbay are BRILLIANT!  I got goosebumps when i read that paragraph.

31 Aug 2010 10:01 AM

I haven't seen her pull on Calvin like see did last year. Clavin seems to be shaking the reins at her, even out of the gate.

31 Aug 2010 10:04 AM

Love Rachel, Love Zenyatta. Am I the only one here who is eagerly awaiting Persistently's next outing?

She ran a very strong race to mow down Rachel.

31 Aug 2010 10:15 AM
Mike Relva


Somehow I can't equate RA's connections' placed in the same sentence with the term "class". They ran RA into the ground last year. Everytime they lose this year Asmussen says the same thing about trying to get her back to the way she was. How many more races will it take? If she's not back after racing five times then what?

31 Aug 2010 10:15 AM
Duncan Chambers

I too would love to see her in the BC Mile. Plenty of time to give it a trial run in a minor race before the BC.

31 Aug 2010 10:26 AM
Jen in NY

LOVE the article, Steve!  I just can't understand why people want this filly retired.  It makes NO sense to me!  She's a GOOD filly!  She ran LIGHTS OUT last year, and, after that gruelling campaign, she has not been less than SECOND this year!  How can you look at that and say "this filly needs to be retired!"?????  

OK, so she doesn't have the 18 wins of what?  She runs her HEART out every time!  I don't see a shell of a horse like what unfortunately happened to Stardom Bound...I still see a Warrior Queen in that heart of hers!  I LOVE to watch her run!  I WOULD like to see her RATE more though.  I disagree with the speed duel Calvin put on this weekend.  That horse was tiring herself out. for that long of a race, Rachel should have been held back a bit...then just let her GO in the stretch!  BUT, that's just my opinion.  ;-)  

I hope to see her in the Distaff this year!  I will be looking SO FORWARD to it!  

As for when she DOES go to the breeding shed, we all know she is going to Curlin.  I'd like to see her go to either Street Cry or Limehouse...

31 Aug 2010 10:28 AM

That was a great article Steve and you make many great points. I do think that after you watched her shorten strides in the final 1/16th that she should not be put in the BCC. That would be unfair to her and would be no way for her to end her career. She has no way of winning the BCC and should be pointed to the ladies classic if they want to continue with her. She is not the same horse as last year and those that want to say her times are simular are meaningless. RA would of beat that horse by 10 lengths last year. You cant even compare times at a track from day to day no less compare times in different years. That would be like saying that Zenyetta doesnt run fast times so she is not a super horse. Zenyetta runs her race and just runs all the competition into submission. Rachael ran LAT into submission and then had nothing left coming home. It is past time to stop any talk of RA meeting Zenyetta. Its not that Zenyetta would make RA look foolish. Zenyetta always just wins and hasnt made any horse look foolish. Its because RA has no chance winning the race and she might get hurt in the process.

31 Aug 2010 10:35 AM

Rachel had a spectacular 3 year old year.  I have never seen her set hoof on a race track where she didn't give 110%.  It's just that this year, that 110% equals about 95% of last year.  No, she does not carry that same acceleration we enjoyed last year.  But she always gives it her all.  I not only admire her for that, I fear for her because of it.  I still don't think putting her in a 10f, while daring, was wise.  It was a time when the connections were less concerned about the horse, and more concerned about the BCC.  So far, they have attempted to put her in races they thought she would win.  Suddenly they put her in a race that she most likely couldn't win.  I give Persistently credit for her win, but I do believe it was the distance that defeated Rachel.  I was happy for the Phipps, but broken-hearted for Rachel.

Watching Saratoga Saturday and Sunday, the strategy seemed in most races to be to jump out in front of the pack, take the lead, and go gate to wire.  For a lesser distance, it's the perfect strategy.  As far as the "whip", do we still need to remind folks its a "popper" not a regular whip, and Calvin put it away when Persistently got by.  This was simply not the right race for Rachel, neither is the BCC.  She needs races that favor her style.  I'm not a trainer, but it's only logical to place her in the RIGHT race.  Isn't that the trainer's job?

Retirement?  Why?  She's still a great race horse; she's never embarrassed herself or any other horse.  What's demeaning about the Ladies Classic?  It finally took Life is Sweet out from under Zen's shadow.  Give Rachel the right race and her own lead.  I'm thrilled every time I watch her run.  Same with Zen.  I love and respect them both.  Win or lose...they are the best thing to happen to horse racing in a very long time.  I think we need less criticism, and more appreciation.

31 Aug 2010 10:39 AM
Bob Z


OK, Princess, Duchess, Baroness, Countess,..... you pick it...

the point was that had the PE race been run at 1 1/8 miles Rachel most probably wins and everybody is saying that the <you pick the word>  is back to her old ways...

"First off I'm not really sure how you can call Rachel "Queen", not holding anything against Rachel, she is great, but she is  not Zenyatta.

31 Aug 2010 10:39 AM

You know, I have seen some excellent comments and observations here, you too, Steve!  

Now that I think about it, look at Rachel's best races where she was dominant, relaxed and just down right fast, and you'll see Rachel Alexandra ("The Great!") running races on Rachel's terms.  You don't see Calvin go to the stick.  What you see is Rachel knowing the track, the distance, how she feels and I think you see a horse with a great mind like Secretariat that knows how to run a race on their own.  Maybe Calvin needs to put the stick away and let her do her thing with the exception of holding her back a tad when needed.

Am I reaching on this one, folks???  Seriously, leave her be and let her run her own race!

31 Aug 2010 10:43 AM

I'm at a loss to understand the quibble made by Jim C. I don't believe this article even once disparaged either Evening Jewel or Blind Luck. Rather, I found it to be an interesting, well-conceived and presented discussion of the present condition of one horse - Rachel Alexandra and the Personal Ensign Stakes. It also, thoughtfully, considered future options for one horse - Rachel Alexandra.

Realistically, though (even though it isn't written in this article) it is safe to assume that RA would be the favorite (deservedly or not) should she be in condition to contest the Ladies' Classic just simply because of her huge fan base. However, all of this is simply conjecture at this juncture as we really don't know how Rachel has truly come out of this last race. It's easy to speculate without the anchor of facts.

31 Aug 2010 10:45 AM


Thank you for another wonderful blog.I love watching both Zenyatta and Rachel on TV. Both are special champions. I read all the comments from people who have seen either of these two horses at the track,especially the reports of how they looked in the paddock, after they raced,etc. What stands out to me most about Rachel's year is that Zenyatta is still a happy horse and Rachel is not. And that makes me sad. I just want Rachel happy again. I don't think she should be retired, but I do think her final races should be considered solely with Rachel's well-being in mind. To me, she has nothing left to prove.

31 Aug 2010 10:47 AM

Also, I'm frustrated by Rachel's no faster than last year comments.  Look at the Mother Goose as Steve mentioned and you'll see incredible fractions, a stakes record, which Ruffian has run in, and a horse who's pulling up before the wire.  I was dumbfounded after that race and I think that is where we saw Rachel peak.  After that, we saw her performance start to drop off and she STILL took it to the colts twice more after the Mother Goose!

So, Rachel naysayers, no, we're not seeing the same Rachel this year by any stretch.

31 Aug 2010 10:50 AM

I'm one of ones who believes Rachel should finish on the Personal Ensign. She gave her heart with what she was given (I don't think the whip 'hurt' her, of course, but I think it distracted her) or at least finish on the Beldame, a classy race but one for the distance she's best at. She's a quality runner, but she's not a classic distance runner. She needs to go to her "husband"-to-be Curlin :-D .

31 Aug 2010 10:51 AM
Toga Tiger

Yes, she did have a run down burn.

Not uncommon on a hard track like the Spa.

31 Aug 2010 10:53 AM

Steve, how about putting a little nasty streak in Rachel's progeny by breeding her to Dynaformer!  I'd like to see her with Pulpit as well or Elusive Quality.

31 Aug 2010 10:55 AM

Please name one filly Rachel beat last year that went on to do anything noteworthy?  Also name one filly she beat last year that had done anything noteworthy prior to racing against Rachel?  

Therein lies the  answer to her "problems" this year.  IMO she is the same horse, it's just that the competition is better this year and she's not getting a weight advantage like she did in the boy races.  

And as for those boy races, she beat Summer Bird at a distance he didn't like.  She barely beat Mine That Bird, a horse who won one race last year and none this year.  And lest we forget she had the weight advantage against that almost pony-sized gelding.  

Then in the Woodward she beat the likes of Macho Again, a horse who they couldn't even give away to stand at stud in the US. And he was the class of that field which also included such "stalwarts" as Da' Tara.  And again she had the weight advantage.

31 Aug 2010 10:55 AM

Great race, she gave all she had, tremendous heart and try. She was working so hard to hold off LAT, the winner kind of snuck by her on the outside.  I agree that a shorter race would be a better fit for her at this point in time.

31 Aug 2010 10:56 AM
Bob Z

Diane J,

Exactly.  Had Rachel not raced and won 3 times against the boys last year and Zenyatta try the Breeders Cup Classic and win this would all be a much different conversation...

Thats why one has to really appreciate what they saw in Rachel and Zenyatta last year ... running against the colts is not typically done... last year while not the first time for it ... certainly has made it "appear" that it is the norm and is to be expected...

"Why do so many people think the Distaff is not worthy of Rachel? Many of the great mares/fillies of the past have won that race. In fact, except for last year when Rachel ran as much against the colts as fillies, it was practically a given the females took aim at the Distaff as opposed to the Classic.  I'm concerned the new mentality is a mare/filly cannot be considered great UNLESS she repeatedly runs against males and wins. I hope this is not the case, but it does worry me. Rachel tries her hardest every race and she deserves all the love and admiration the fans can give her."  

31 Aug 2010 11:01 AM
Gary at Rough Creek


First, I think your response to Annette is beneath you.  

Second, it seems that some writers in this business are a little defensive and ready at a moments notice to make excuses for Rachel's defeats.  I saw a filly running comfortably on Sunday, with internal fractions that are consistent with her best races at 9 furlongs (not too fast, but not dawdling either), who just hit the wall and got caught by a filly who was getting a significant weight break.

Third, this year's 3 YO colt crop does not seem to be as fast as last year's 3 YO crop.  For just one example, on a similar surface, Super Saver was almost 2 seconds slower in The KY Derby than MTB was the year before.  If the track was playing similarly from Traver's Day on Saturday to the Sunday of the PE, these "slowish" colts ran more than a second faster than Persistently and Rachel while carrying 4 or more pounds.  Hardly a ringing endorsement of the fillies.

In the 5th race on Sunday at Saratoga, maiden 3 YO's and up went 6.5 furlongs in 1:16.68.  Not exactly dawdling.

In The King's Bishop on Saturday, Discreetly Mine was on the lead the entire way.  No one was really making up any ground on him.  The chart said he was "weakening late."  Maybe that just means he's better at 6 furlongs!  

I would agree with your admonition though.  We should all seriously look at the internal fractions from all three races.  How did these horses come home in their respective races, and what does that tell us about them?  This may very well be the objective analysis to go with.  

1) Discreetly Mine shouldn't be run past 6 furlongs in top class "miler" company.  Keep him sprinting at 6 furlongs to see his best.  

2) The Travers' field wasn't stellar, and there were no real 10 - 12 furlong horses in the race.

3) And Rachel was even slower than the 3 YO colts were in The Travers, who carried 4 more pounds than she did.  Maybe that is telling us maybe she should be kept at 8 - 9 furlongs!

These conclusions seem rational and fit the data...not just from this past weekend, but from all the data we have on these horses from the past as well.

Last thing.  Whether Rachel is retired or not should not really depend upon what any of us want or think, no matter what time of year it is.  That decision should be based solely on her physical and mental health and well being.  That takes a horseman's or horsewoman's eye and judgement.  I just hope that's what determines Rachel future...sound judgement.

31 Aug 2010 11:09 AM

On the subject of Calvin, and his extensive use of the whip on Rachel, in my opinion (not to upset anyone)Calvin was embarrassed. Put yourself in his place. You go from having a stellar year with Rachel, to having a "not so" stellar year, you're the top jocky @ Churchill, you've got the mount on one of the most spectacular fillies in history,and yet you just cant seem to get it done this year. I believe Calvins excessive use of the whip, was more because he was embarrassed to lose-just couldnt let it happen, thus the over- whipping. I hope Calvin realizes that he is still a top jocky, and he doesnt need to be embarrassed, and take it out on Rachel. I DO think Rachel resents the whip.

31 Aug 2010 11:15 AM
Bob Z


Regarding the comments on them changing jockeys for Rachel...

Does a jockey get specific instructions as to the tactics of the race...

... or is it up to him/her based on how the race develops...?

I know it probably varies with the owner/horse/jockey...

... but in the case of Rachel...

Is how Calvin and Rachel ran a product of Steve Asmussen's specific instructions before the race...

I don't understand all this "get rid of the jockey" talk...

If Steve Asmussen gives Calvin (or any jockey) specific instructions and the jockey does not follow them... (with some leeway for how the race develops, getting bumped, stumble out of the gate etc.)

Like Donald Trump.... "your fired"

I have to assume that Calvin followed the trainers instructions... so why blame Calvin for a 2nd place finish when Rachel was clearly at her limit at 1 1/4 miles... (?)

31 Aug 2010 11:15 AM

I have something to say that some people aren't going to like.

For those who say Rachel never was great, when Rachel Alexandra peaked in 2009, we saw her cruise like a Bentley in the Oaks to a 20 length victory.  We saw her leave from the outside post in the Preakness and be hounded every stride by a pack of males eager to tear her apart and watch her fight her heart out in the stretch.  Then, we saw her ease up in the Mother Goose while she set a stakes record.

It was at this time of 2009, and this isn't what some of you want to hear, but Rachel Alexandra was the best horse on the planet.  And had you put her in a race with other mares and fillies, including Zenyatta, I'm sorry, no one beats Rachel when she was at her best.  It would have been way too many lengths to make up for Zenyatta.  Take that to the bank!  I'll say this as well, Mr Moss wasn't looking for a fight with Rachel at that time in 2009.  This is just the way it is folks!

31 Aug 2010 11:15 AM

I still think she needs a new rider. I love Calvin Borel; and I know he is a horseman and that he loves horses, especially Rachel Alexandra. However, I think he's feeling great pressure to win, and it's causing some puzzling rides. And I don't think Rachel likes the heavy-handed whip ride. I think Rachel was well within herself battling Life At Ten on the lead; but I think Borel should have drawn her in some, get her to relax of that pace. For the classic distance, she was going to need reserve energy for the drive to the wire. I think a different rider (confident and gentler), who knows that this could be a one-off proposition, would get her to relax to the stretch, and then urge her on with a solid hand ride, maybe show her the whip. I would like to see Martin Garcia ride her. I think he is a joyous, confident young rider with tremendous upside, who does not seem to be spoiled by success. But I certainly don't think RA is cooked... mismanaged, yes...

31 Aug 2010 11:19 AM
Bob Z

Somebody made a really good point on this or another blog...

Why didn't Team Rachel have another entry in the race to act as a rabbit to soften up Life at Ten so Rachel could hold some energy back...?

31 Aug 2010 11:19 AM
russell maiers

Nice article Steve, she ran a good race, much like Azeri when she put away the front runner and Storm Flag Flying went by her at the end. Or Smarty in the Belmont beating Rock Hard Ten and Eddington by 15 lenghts only to have Birdstone catch him. I dont believe there is anything wrong with Rachel, and in a mile and an eigth with the magnificent Zenyatta, lets just say I would not bet on that race. I would guess and love to see Blind Luck and Rachel meet in the distaff but the connections would know best where to place her. The classic should be wide open whoever runs and I believe will be a good race. The distaff really might shape up to be a great race if Rachel takes on the fine group of three year olds. Thanks again Steve, your article was right on especially with Rachel playing catch up and getting back to herself after her gut wrenching last race of 2009.

31 Aug 2010 11:23 AM


always love your thought provoking blogs. Unfortunately I dont get on here much anymore because I spend too much time on here. Eight horses to train/care for by myself keeps me very busy.

 Anyway just a few thoughts. I dont think RA is ready for retirement. I do think that she can get 10F. As you pointed out, many of the races at Saratoga have had slow finals, so not knocking her final as the track is clearly playing that way regardless of distance. Some have pointed to RA blowing hard after the race, which speaks to me of a horse that is not 100% fit. The ultimate goal is the BC. This is a prep race for that goal. Its not uncommon for a horse to lose a prep race (okay I'm old school and well remember many horses using stakes races as preps for others and not expecting them to win said prep). It was not a failure, disappointing in that she didn't win, but she didn't lose by 10 lengths either, which would tell me she doesn't want 10F. She didn't spit the bit like a horse who has had enough, she kept trying and lost in the final jumps by a lttle more than a length. IMO I think that RAs campaign this year has hurt her as far as her fitness level. But the goal has always been having a relatively 'fresh' horse for the BC. Jury is still out as to weather RAs connections have mapped the right way to get there or not. I'd say not, as she thrived on a stronger campaign last year, but 'I' don't live with the horse everyday. I think her next race will be telling if she steps forward off this or not, giving her the 'foundation' she needs while keeping her 'fresh'.

31 Aug 2010 11:25 AM

I don't think Mike Smith has a mount for the Lady Classic, yet. Just saying. Maybe a change in trainers too? Could be a pint of beer every now and then might cheer her up?

31 Aug 2010 11:25 AM

ra isn't running like she did last year because she has a new trainer

horses are very funny animals   i know  have had horses for 38 years

change things on them and they don't do well

send her back to her old trainer and see the old ra

31 Aug 2010 11:31 AM
Personal Ensign

Rachel will be hard pressed to win even the ladies classic but one thing is  already sure regardless: she will not win any eclipse awards. Older Female is already reserved once again for Zenyatta.

31 Aug 2010 11:42 AM

I wrote yesterday in one of the sights and am doing it again.  First of all my first love is Zenyetta. I watched Rachel's race  and was surprised Borel rode her the way he did. First of all pushing her in a long race where the trainer didn't know if she could go the distance. Then hitting her like he did.  Folks that was some race. Come on admit it Rachel ran a good race. I still feel her and Zenyetta would give us a race to remember for all time. Now  i wait to watch my wonderful filly run  Zenyetta.

31 Aug 2010 11:52 AM
pam r

Thank-you for your fine article on RA.  I am a huge RA fan and this year has been tough watching her get so close so often.  I feel like she just isn't the same horse this year, and while I wanted a RA/Zenyatta match up last year, I don't think it would hold the same meaning this year.  I have enjoyed watching Zenyatta set an amazing winning streak, but will always feel like most of her campaign was on the easy side. None of Zenyatta's years, as good as they were, were near as impressive as RA's 2009 campaign.

31 Aug 2010 11:54 AM
spitting the bit

Thanks Steve for your kind words for dear Rachel.  I think that her 3-year old campaign was so absolutely brillant, unbelievable, and historic that this season seems as if she is now just an allowance horse.  All the facts that you just stated above I am sure have contributed to some of her defeats this year, but none of them are disgraceful, the loses.  She is a tremendous filly and I would like to see her run next year, but I am sure that her connections will not do so.  And I would like to mention that the comments on Calvin's use of the crop.  I remember him saying that he is using one of the newer whips and that it provides more of a popping sound than a hit, maybe that is why he seems to be beating her.  I believe that he loves that filly and would not hurt her for his life, tho, I agree it looks poorly.  I wish that the whip was more or less banned.  Thanks again Steve!  

31 Aug 2010 11:56 AM
Cleveland Rocks


I couldn't have said better!  

31 Aug 2010 12:03 PM
Meydan Rocks

Gunbow 30 Aug 2010 9:51 PM

“In my opinion, Rachel and Zenyatta spoiled us last year.  They made fillies and mares winning the biggest open races look almost normal, or even expected.  But folks, there was nothing normal about what Rachel and Zenyatta did last year.  There's a reason why a female had never won the Woodward or BC Classic before last year. “



Gunbow 30 Aug 2010 9:51 PM

And if Zenyatta goes on to win the Classic again this year, make no mistake, repeating in the Classic would represent the greatest accomplishment by a female thoroughbred in modern history.”



Ranagulzion  30 Aug 2010 9:22 PM

“As you also suggest, the euphoric Zen-Rachel match-up is dead but don't you think that it is appropriate to lament and mourn over what might have been, in terms of taking the sport to another level of glorious thrill and excitement?  And who do you think bears the brunt of responsibility for killing it? Please comment on this issue.” 

I believe different plans and agendas killed it.

First of all you have a conservative trainer on one side who’s owners allow him leeway to do what he sees fit by the horse. And then on the other side, you have a more “daring” trainer who’s owner is more forceful in terms of input of how his trainer uses his stock.

And then you are talking about two animals with different physical needs. Or so I’m led to believe.

I have read that in the mornings, Z trains when she is well and ready. I think I even read an article where Sheriffs talked about how he had learned to “listen to what she was trying to tell him”. Apparently, there was an occasion where she refused to train. They tried to make her and she taught them a lesson! Someone correct me or add to this story.

In the run up to HOY Rachel was asked for a lot and she delivered. She ain’t a machine. The rest has been well said on this blog.


Megs 30 Aug 2010 10:48 PM

“I love the article, except I fail to see how Rachel trying all comers compares to Zenyatta remaining undefeated with all but two or three races coming against soft competition. Rachel's feats make RACHEL great, not Zenyatta.”

Re: Your comment about Zenyatta.  It’s been a while now since HOY-gate.

I know you don’t want to come off as being whiny and simple. So I’m going to assume that your poke at Zenyatta was just a knee jerk reaction to something you misinterpreted in Steve’s article???


Springsmom83 30 Aug 2010 11:00 PM

“I do have a question, however.  Has she always run with her tongue hanging out like she did yesterday?  I don't remember seeing her do that before.”

I think what you saw was is called a “tongue tie”. I believe trainers tie some horses tongues with a piece of cloth to prevent them from accidentally biting it when running. But I could be wrong...


Denmark 30 Aug 2010 11:40 PM

“What I don't like is the east coast clique.  They will not accept Zenyatta which is sad and not worthy of the two best mares.”

That might be in for a change come November.  A few minutes after the BCC (that is).


Hiram 31 Aug 2010 12:07 AM

“I been reading all of the comments, I agree with most of them. Zenyatta is by far the best filly we will see in decades, like Smith mention before. I dont want to take credit from Rachel, she is a great filly, but I still believe that Zen, should have won horse of the year last year. and of course this year as well.”

I say let bygones be bygones. Sometimes greatness shines brighter in defeat. And I say this in reference to both fillies. Rachel in her recent loss (she was valiant) and Zenyatta in the only loss she has experienced (at the hand of humans). IMO, if she wins the Classic 2009 will shine brighter for her.


John C. 31 Aug 2010 3:10 AM

“There is a perverse desire to immediately throw great horses into the breeding shed. Get this into your heads once and for all: for many statistical and biological reasons, the greatest horses do not give birth to even greater horses. Do not expect ANY of Rachel or Zenyatta's offspring to even remotely hold a candle to them. For every great son or daughter of a great horse, there are hundreds if not thousands of mediocre or lesser offspring.

The main purpose of this sport is competition! This is thoroughbred racing, not walkover practice. Avoiding competition or diminishing competition should be shamed and heavily penalized when accolades and awards are deemed at the end of a year, and when "greatness" is bestowed historically. The sickening trend of avoiding competition until it is forced upon the owners by the "Super Bowl" Breeders' Cup has greatly diminished this sport, yet it has rekindled my love and appreciation for...harness racing. That's right. In harness racing, you can see the best horses in the sport face each other every TWO WEEKS and they race about 20 times per year. Good mares regularly race against colts too!”



hoofprintsandhorseplay 31 Aug 2010 5:51 AM

“In the Woodward, RA caught a field that would be lucky to win a feature at Finger Lakes, and were the furthest from quality stakes horses. She should have won the Woodward.”

You’re buying me a new laptop! I about spat my morning tea on the keyboard when I read this!


dr fager 31 Aug 2010 7:30 AM

“Too bad horses seem to take on the identity of their owner, and not the other way around.  I have never had a horse of the scope of RA, so I don't know how I would handle it, but if I do, and I act like Jessie Jackson, somebody shoot me.”

Dr fager - I’ll have a gun ready but I’m not sure I could blow you away on cue. Please reconsider. Owning an equine champion such as RA would be GRRREAT!!!! ;)


Steve Haskin 31 Aug 2010 9:17 AM

“Annette, if you feel she's ready for the breeding farm, who would you breed her to in September?”

OH BOY Uncle Steve, was that a loaded question or what? As soon as I read your question, I felt like the little boy standing too close the edge of the grand canyon and his parents yelling “DON’T”!! :-)


MikeM 31 Aug 2010 9:18 AM

“What do you get in a racehorse if you combine extraordinary talent,soundness and a HUGE heart? The answer is R.A. With every race horse there are physical issues that eventually take their toll and comprimise their performance. I believe that there are physical issues that are beginning to take a toll. If you read between the lines Steve Asmussen is saying as much. Trainers never give the full story. I'm not saying they are running an unsound horse, rather I'm saying the wear and tear is becoming a performance issue that would cause a lesser horse to end it's usefull life as a racehorse. She has now become a REALLY good racehorse and no longer is she the super horse that amazed us last year. If her connections can live with that then there is no reason to retire her.”

GREAT COMMENT! And I believe it is this kind of thinking (physical issues that horses face) that has led to the normally conservative John Sherreffs to be even more cautious with the AMAZON of a mare that he has in Zenyatta.


I have a question.. How does one separate Z and RA?

They are both obviously brilliant at 1 1/8 miles (in their own way) and another based on her only try is probably brilliant at 1 and 1/4 miles. ( I use the word "probably" to acknowledge the "plastic" naysayers)

Do we need categories to break this down in terms of how to separate them?

One had a brilliant year (at 3) and the other (depending on who's doing the talking) has had a brilliant career that started at the tail end of her 3rd year.

Even though they run in the same era, they never faced each other and probably never will.

How do we break this all down???

31 Aug 2010 12:04 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Only her hairdresser knows for sure.

31 Aug 2010 12:04 PM

Firstly I would like to say I have loved watching Rachel all through her career and part of me would love to see her continue. BUT last year after the Woodward there was a collective grown from the group of us watching and we all said the filly is done that that race broke her. And watching her this year its clear to this little group of us in the UK that she still loves to gallop, she still turns out the fractions but the love of racing, that killer instinct to win has gone. So maybe the kindest thing for her would be to let her go off and be a horse now.

I would have loved to have seen Rachel race against Zen but lets be honest would it really be the fairest thing to do to a filly who has given so much pleasure to all who watch her?

31 Aug 2010 12:09 PM
Steve Haskin

Douglas, I hope this answers your question -- Gabby's Golden Gal (gr. I Acorn), Flashing (gr. I Test and Gazelle), Malibu Prayer (gr. I Ruffian), Just Jenda (Monmouth Oaks), Sarah Louise (Victory Ride), not mention the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Belmont, Travers, Jockey Club Gold  Cup, Whitney, and Stephen Foster.

Gary, you're right, I could have expressed myself better with Annette.                                              

31 Aug 2010 12:10 PM
Meydan Rocks
31 Aug 2010 12:12 PM

Amen to that, Steve - every word. I would also add another thought, not to get everyone snarling and snippin but as what I feel is a valid point. There's a world of difference between closers, who do a quarter-horse-like explosion over a short haul and those tough horses who grind it out over the long haul. Rachel put on a heck of a race for the first mile, maybe the first mile and an eighth. A very good horse caught her with not enough left - and the issue only became inevitable in the last few jumps. Don't get me wrong. I'm just as wowed by the dramatic closer as anyone else, but I'm afraid I have the greatest respect for the tough, courageous grinder who fights gate to wire. As Hard Spun impressed me more than those who beat him. He did the work and if I was sending my mare to one of the young stallions, I think he'd be top of my list. He had speed, durability and plain ol' thoroughbred heart. The reigning Horse of the Year is still on the throne, along with her great big heart. As Steve said - let's just let the Breeders Cup sort it out. Thanks for the thrills, Rachel. You truly are the ultimate gift.

31 Aug 2010 12:12 PM

I drove all the way from Grand Haven, MI to be there at Saratoga this weekend for Rachel. It was my first time to Saratoga and I was so impressed!  It was very inspiring for me as an artist and photographer and thoroughbred race horse fan to finally see Saratoga. I was totally in awe of Rachel and swelled up with tears as she went by me on her way out to the track. She's a champion, pure and simple, no matter what she does this year. What a total delight to see her in person. Steve, I totally agree with what you said here.

31 Aug 2010 12:13 PM

As many have already said, the bigest thing that I took from the race was Calvin Borel deserves criticism.  He hit the horse way too many times and I've lost some respect for the man after seeing that fiasco. If she races again I hope that they replace Mr. Borel.

31 Aug 2010 12:15 PM

I knew in my gut that Rachel would get beat, firstly because of the distance and secondly her jockey was not smart enough to run a tactical race and to realize that she could not maintain those early fractions over that distance and that a closer would catch her.

Also shame on him for beating that magnificent mare the way he does, he even hit her on the shoulder at the end. If I were Jess Jackson I would be looking for a new jockey, my choice would be Mike Smith, he hits Zenyatta only as a last resort and only on the saddle cloth and he knows when to push the button.

31 Aug 2010 12:19 PM


Thanks for another very well written article. I am also a Zen fan, but I think that RA is an amazing filly. She did run an amazing 2009 season. I also feel that she has been in a lose lose situation as far as criticism goes. I also believe she ran the way she was supposed to Sunday, but was to pressured  by LAT early on. Her loses have not diminished her 2009 season in my eyes at all. People are to busy trying to justify why she should not have gotten 2009 HOTY when she did have an awesome 2009 year.  2010 is a different year. She has not been the same horse this year for whatever the reason, but every time they have asked her to run she has given 100%. I also agree that this should tell people just how special Zen's undefeated streak is. Even though Zen is my favorite that does nothing to take away from what a very special talent that RA is. Whatever the future holds for her I am sure she will continue to give 100% of herself. I hope she has a safe and sound rest of 2010, and if the BC races, whichever one, are in the cards I only wish her the best.

31 Aug 2010 12:26 PM

Is it unusual for Saratoga to play tiring?  Curlin's 14 second come home time in the Woodward (9 f) comes to mind.  And yes, Curlin was over the top at that point, but the same comments about the track being tiring were being made during that period also.

And speaking of Curlin, I've never thought he was a good physical type match for RA, but without doing bloodline research, I don't have a positive alternative.  I do think, typewise, a Big Brown type horse would be a better match.

31 Aug 2010 12:33 PM

@ Steve Haskin:  I would like to see Rachel go to Dynaformer, or Curlin. But there are a few other young "studs"(sorry about the pun)out there, that would be just as suitable. Will Dynaformer take a maiden?

31 Aug 2010 12:41 PM

I had to skim the best I could to see if others had noticed the excessive use of the whip by Borel. Sadly, so few made reference to it.   It's not the first time Borel has used the whip on her.  Go back and look at prior races.  Someone on another blog counted the number of times RA was hit.... it was over 20... excessive by any standards on ANY level horse.  Racing has to do something about the whip.  Seriously, I don't think it makes any horse run faster to the wire.  RA doesn't run like she loves it, it's more of just a job.  Shorten her up and give her a jockey who knows how to hand ride.  

31 Aug 2010 12:42 PM
Let It Ride Mike

The emotions have all been wonderfully expressed. The business aspect of this that I wonder about - how does losing the Beldame and Breeders Cup Distaff (her running in the Classic is a 100-1 shot IMO) affect her foals value? She will have had a dreadful career as a 4 yo, and any potential bidder of $ 10,000,000 for her first foal, which I think was a realistic figure going into this year would get a thorough mental examination after bidding that now. So, if she can make two million for JJ winning them both, how much will it cost him if she loses them both?

31 Aug 2010 12:44 PM

I think her best days are definately behind her she has not improved much as a four year old at all. She is definately no Zenyatta, that's for sure, but did take care of Life at Ten, give her credit for that. Anything over a mile, she can be had on a given day, last year I would not have said that, but the classic distance is just too much for her! It's time for the east to give the queen her due, and that's the one and only Zenyatta ! Watch out boys Nov. 6th, Zenyatta is coming to Churchill ...

31 Aug 2010 12:53 PM
Mary in Vermont

John C,

I agree with you in part, that the greatest horses do not often give birth to equal or greater horses, but if they are to have any genetic influence on the breed at all, we do have to get what we can get on the ground in order to have genes to work with. If Rachel's breeder is correct that she has the large heart, and from her '09 campaign it looks like a real possibility, it would be nice to have those large heart genes coming through her. There are only a handful of sources of that gene. That alone, is no small contribution. Nor do the disappointments of her '10 campaign negate the possibility of a large heart. She may be sour on racing, or have undiagnosed pain. Another great inheritable characteristic is Rachel's durability. She has raced as much as Zenyatta who is 2 years older, and in much more contentious races, and is still sound. To say nothing of her speed.

You can't measure breeding success or failure on the basis of the F1 generation. It is more like that multilevel chess game on the original Star Trek.


I suggest you go back and review Rachel's Preakness and Woodward. In fact, we all should.

I think Rachel runs her best races as an EP - an early presser stalking the lead - as in the Haskell or the Mother Goose. In the Preakness, she was going to have to run it as an E - the early speed horse, or risk getting boxed in and never let out. Rachel had to stay with or in front of none other than sprint record holder Big Drama until he cooked his own goose, and she did it from a post position that had never previously held a winner. And you think she "caught a field without any speed?" Hello? She was the first filly to win that race in 85 years and all you seem to remember is Mine That Bird closing quickly at the end? You must have blinked and missed it! Do yourself a favor man and re-watch that whole race. It was a stunning victory.

Same thing in the Woodward, she had to go to the front and stay there, and those older boys in the Woodward played pretty rough with her. That race was a real dirty street fight, and it took an inconceivably gutty effort from the filly to keep her neck out in front. 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, or the way I wanted to see her 'pressed' for the first time. 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. But she won. The first fill ever to do so.

Everybody in our vicinity on the rail 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 - 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 will never be the same after witnessing the heart, and guts, and glory that horse laid down on the track that day.

In the days following the Woodward I actually tried to file a complaint about the way the race unfolded. It looked like collusion against Rachel to me. You can't fairly blame Jess Jackson for how the race unfolded. I think he was a co-victim of how the race unfolded.

It’s hard enough to turn in a brilliant effort once in a while, but every race? Rachel delivered nothing but brilliance from February '09 right through the Woodward while smashing through record after record after record culminating with becoming the first filly in history to win three grade I route races on dirt against males in a single year. You fortunate souls are not likely to ever see anything like that again, and I feel sorry for you if it all played out before your eyes and you just wouldn't let yourselves see it. Or feel it.

Here are a few quotes from those in the know about Rachel's Woodward Stakes victory ...

"I think she’s the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t compare her to anyone. I’m not afraid to say she’s better than Ruffian, because she is. They sent two speed horses after her and made her go in :22 4/5, then they came after her one at a time and she put them all away. Those were tough older horses and they tried everything they could to get her beat and they couldn’t do it." - 96-year-old racing legend John Nerud.

"You don’t see many horses livin’ that could have won that race." - noted veterinarian Dr. Mark Cheney

"She had everything thrown at her and she overcame it all. I've never seen anything like it. You had that feeling of a horse trying for the Triple Crown. It’s the stuff of legends." - Graham Motion, trainer of third place finisher Bullsbay.

"It was like a 23 yr. old girl defeating 30 yr. old men." - Steve Haskin..

"Her campaign was fantastic! We have never seen a 3 yr. old filly with a campaign like hers, not only beating the boys, but going on to beat older boys." - JoAnn Jones HRTV

"As brilliant as she is, as fast as she is, as talented as she is, the grit and determination she displayed here today takes her up even another level." - Lafit Pinkay Jr. HRTV

"If she is not tired after this victory today she is not from this planet. She is incredible. She is invincible" - Gary Stevens HRTV

"What an extraordinary presence she (Ruffian) had out on the racetrack, just the way people talk about Rachel Alexandra's having an awareness of how special she is, and responding to the crowds. Ruffian did very much the same thing. (Of Ruffian) When the gates would open you would see this incredible athletic display. It was like watching an olympic sprinter run against a pack of school kids. It was just extraordinary. In all her races (against fillies) as she would come into the stretch she would just suddenly move away from the other horses. That's always a pretty special thing, and she just did it time and time again.

There have been times in the past when somebody's horse just won a big race and they would say hey this horse ran just like Ruffian, and I kind of laugh a little bit. But in this case, I think that Rachel Alexandra is a truly great filly, and she is just so terrific for the sport, and it is a good thing to be talking about (the comparison). I would feel differently if I didn't think Rachel Alexandra deserved to be compared in that company." - Stuart Janney III being interviewed on the merits of Rachel Alexandra being so often compared to his magnificent Ruffian:

31 Aug 2010 1:03 PM

I watched the PE Sunday, and for the first mile or so I thought, "she's back". She survived the duel with Life at Ten rather handily, but then really started shortening her stride late.  Rachel has never struck me as a horse that didn't try, didn't give her all in a race, so I was very disappointed with the excessive use of the whip.  I don't care if it just makes a loud noise or hurts like hell.  The filly knew she was being punished for something that was beyond her control (or distance as it were). I don't own her, train her, nor have I ever seen her in person, but she did not look like a contented horse on Sunday. I think her connections should take a long, hard look at what they have already done to her, and what they may continue to do to her in the future, and then make a decision that is good for her, and her alone.  That certainly would not be the BCC.  I'm not recommending a knee jerk retirement - just find a race she can win to build her confidence back up.  Stop throwing her into the deep end of the pool with cement and a whip.

31 Aug 2010 1:13 PM
kathleen o

Mary in Vermont, I could not have expressed my feelings any better than you did in that post.  RA is an incredible filly that gave it all she had, and she doesn't have the desire to come that close to the edge again.

31 Aug 2010 1:14 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

If Persistantly wasn't in the race I wonder what people would be saying. Rachel beat the rest of the field by 10 lengths at a distance that she doesn't like.

31 Aug 2010 1:20 PM

Wonderful article Steve and you always seem to give me pause for thought on probable cause and effect ..  I personally do not feel RA should be retired as I do not believe she is back to her previous form.  Maybe she will never get back there, but maybe she will if her trainer can fit the puzzle together --  Many posters have mentioned that Calvin B really came down hard on her with the whip in this last race,  but he really knows her better than any other jockey, and if memory serves he put away his whip and agressively hand rode her to the finish which tells me he paid attention to her.  RA tucked her tail at his overly aggressive tactic and he listened, he knew when to put it away and hand rode her the last 80 yards. I also read that Calvin stated RA was not there for him when squeezed her to move - which sorta indicates, he had no horse left- As you mentioned, had RA been to the outside of Life @Ten --she might have controlled more of the race --Then again, Calvin had enough time to put her there -- I think in her last race he did this tactic -pulled her back and then around so that she was cruising on the outside of the front runner..  She appears to relax when put on this pathway ..RA has been on a progressive course and doing well, and just because she has placed second --dont discount the race.. When Blind Luck won the Kentucky Oaks, she did not run nearly as fast as Rachel did in the La Troienne, either time wise or Beyer wise --

Also, the La Troienne was RA fastest time at that distance.. And she has steadily gotten better over the course of the summer - in her last two starts she relaxed, and did her lead changes. Although she didnt dominate the Ladys Secret, dont forget that the track ran slow due to heat and humidity -so in retrospect, her effort was really good.

Dont count her out, sometimes, all us older ladies need-- is time.    

31 Aug 2010 1:23 PM

Good column! Go Rach in the Ladies Classic...Queen Z in the Classic and it's all about the women...or heck, I'd be happy if Z LOST her next race and dropped into the Ladies Classic too...Then Friday is the big day and forget Saturday at Churchill...ha ha

31 Aug 2010 1:25 PM

Who did she beat last year??? Zenyatta beat a bunch of Grade I winners in the BC Classic and Life is Sweet numerous times.  Prior to that she cruised by Ginger Punch on dirt which is her best surface.  Zenyatta has actually faced some decent horses.  RA has lost to Zardana and Persistently?  Who are these horse?

I think RA is a very nice horse  and it isn't like she is losing by much.  But she is not the freak some people thought she was.  She beat a bunch of nothing fillies and horses like Mine that Bird and Macho Again.  There is no way she will beat Blind Luck in the BC Ladies Classic.  For all of her fans just enjoy what 2009 was but in 10 years they will still be talking about Zenyatta and Rachel will be all but forgotten by then because of 2010.

31 Aug 2010 1:26 PM

Well written Mr Haskin.You captured my feelings on Rachel ,her connections and their 2010 management of her,Zenyatta's accomplishments and the appropriate look to the future.It is so unfortunate that some can only see Rachel vs Zenyatta ;or east coast vs west coast when we need all of our racing stars (human and equine) to promote the sport. Rachel and Zenyatta have certainly done their part and hopefully will continue to do so!

31 Aug 2010 1:37 PM

I hate to see her retired, yet I'm also in agreement with some other fans here that she should go out on top. However it appears the reputation is somewhat tarnished alreday in the eyes of some.  So she peaked at 3, no one can take that away from her.  She's still one of the greatest of all times and I can't wait to see what her babies do.  They will have enormous hooves to fill!  And although this article is about Rachel, let's not discount Persistantly!!!  OMG, Rachel wore down Life at Ten, yet Persistantly had a huge tank and blew past them all!  I'm just waiting for Rachel to say 'enough, I'm not gonna let this happen to me again, I want back in the winners circle!'  We love you Rachel - you have given us more than we could ever have hoped for!

31 Aug 2010 1:42 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I just read an article from the parallel world. "Rachel Alexandra returned to dominating form today annihillating three overmatched competitors after longshot Persistently was a late scratch after taking a misstep. Rachel cruised to victory to win by over ten lengths after dusting off the challenge from Life At Ten. Borel never had to go to the whip as Rachel answered the question as to whether she could go a mile and a quarter or not. The time was a little slow probably because there were no challengers in the stretch. She's back, and now it's on to The Breeder's Cup Classic where Rachel is expected to be one of the favorites after her impressive win today."

31 Aug 2010 1:42 PM

There is no reason to  retire R A. Everybody seems to know she just can't do 1  1/4 miles. That doesn't mean she is not an Awesome individual. She has accomished what no other 3yr. old filly ever could.  Run her  6, 6 1/2, or 7 furlongs when she is fit she is unbeatable. A mile on the turf might be interesting. She needs a good rest right now, she will be fine.

But Zenyatta is the "Queen". RA is a Princess.

31 Aug 2010 2:06 PM

Poor Persistently- wins a grade 1 for her owner/breeder, in a race named for a brilliant champion owned/bred by her owner's family, in a year in which the race's namesake passed over the rainbow bridge, and all everybody can talk about is RA.  I only wish I had been at an OTB- I would have made money, as I love Shug McGaughey and usually put at least a sentimental saver on any Phipps horse. I found Shug's comments after the race interesting as he fessed up to not trying the filly around 2 turns earlier. Wow a trainer who admits he doesn't know everything- it seems to me that a few more noteable trainers could benefit from that type of humility.

31 Aug 2010 2:09 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

To mararacing,

I appreciate your positive spin on Rachel's PE finish.  No she wasn't beaten by 10 lengths.  She was beaten by a filly that had yet to win a stakes race, much less a "Grade 1", in a time of 2:04.49.

If Mine That Bird had lost a 10 furlong race, finishing in over 2:04.50, what would we be reading about him!  Summer Bird won the Travers last year as a 3YO in 2:02 and 4, and then the Jockey Club gold Cup in 2:02 and 2, in a class of 3 YO's that contained Quality road and Musket Man, and still some on here call that class sub-par!

Of course Rachel can run/coast 10 furlongs.  As a trainer, do you really think that is her best distance though?  Do you think it is the responsible thing to do to aim her for a 10 furlong race where all the best 10 - 12 furlong horses in the world will be running against her?  They will not be just allowance winners who can pick up the pieces in a race that falls apart.  

Did you watch Zenyatta finish and then gallop out after last year's BCC?  She looked like she could literally do it again.  She loved the opportunity to go 10 furlongs.  I think she'll be coming home a little faster than 27 and change.

Before the PE yesterday, my wife commented on just how much bigger and stronger Rachel looked in the post parade.  After the race, she said that Rachel looked like she had lost about 150 pounds!  Racing into shape is one thing.  Running Rachel again in world class company at 10 furlongs in 9 weeks would be something else all together.  

31 Aug 2010 2:20 PM

I don't think she looks happy this year, and she still tilts her head to the right down the stretch. Her ears are different, too.

Not that I think formulas, etc are gospel, and I don't understand ragozin very well, but I was reading that Zen and Rachel were comparable and far, far outclassed the older filly & mare division.

I wonder what's the thinking after the race on why she didn't live up to what was anticipated?

I think the Rachel of last year could get 10 if she could sit behind or dictate the pace...this year...I don't think she's happy.

31 Aug 2010 2:37 PM

In assessing Rachel's year, keep in mind that she won the Fleur de Lis in a faster time than Blame won the Stephen Foster (same track, same day, same distance). Obviously pace makes the race, but that was a pretty good performance even if the competition wasn't spectacular (though it was a Grade II). And she blew 'em away in the stretch. If she's OK physically, and runs well in the Beldame (assuming that's where they put her), I wouldn't count her out of the Classic. Though maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. Still, even if she's done and can't get the mile and a quarter, she's provided some great moments.

31 Aug 2010 2:38 PM
Driftin' Sage

Retire Rachel?  Ridiculous~  That would be like retiring a very young teenager with life ahead. After all, she was still a baby last yr at 3.  Just because she didn't win a couple races?  That would be like making a mistake at work, so you quit.  Duh!  Let's give that awesome horse the respect she deserves and let the trainers and owners make their own decisions...which, I hope IS NOT to retire her yet.

31 Aug 2010 2:40 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Slew, regarding your 10:30 AM post, I agree with what you said and true that a lot of riders are using a 'popper' instead of a traditional whip now. But a horse that is trying with everything they have and still getting spanked can be totally heartbreaking to them, especially the fairer sex. Some will act out. Some will sulk. Some will wring their tail. Some will internalize. Nobody outside of Rachel's barn knows what she is like to be around. Does she pace her stall? Does she weave? Does she crib? Has she dropped her personality to become the robot her connections want her to be? Nobody knows.

Mostly what I'm saying is there is no need to flail at a trying but tiring horse like that. If Calvin rode like that in the UK he would have been punished for abusing his mount.

31 Aug 2010 2:48 PM
Steve Haskin

I find this item in the North County Times pretty revolting. Makes me feel like a jerk for defending California fans and their love of Zenyatta in a recent blog.

"Fans gave a hearty cheer when Rachel Alexandra was beaten in Sunday's Personal... Ensign at Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Rachel Alexandra was caught in the final strides by Persistently. Zenyatta's West Coast fans relish any time the defending horse of the year, Rachel Alexandra, loses. Zenyatta finished second in horse of the year voting last year."

31 Aug 2010 3:02 PM

Yeah and if nobody showed up she still would have came home in :27 and change and got caught by the winner of the following race.

31 Aug 2010 3:04 PM

I am not surprised that Rachel did not win the Personal Ensign. She has not been the same horse since the Woodward. The pace in that race was sizzling and Borel knew that if it continued she was a goner. He slowed it down and won, barely. If you look at how she reacts to the whip, she doesn't respond well. It is almost as if she backs up from it. Look at the replay.

She is not the same horse as she was but I do not think that she needs to be retired. After all great horses, Kelso, Exterminator, Forego and Secretariat lost races. It is only recently that we need to have perfection.

31 Aug 2010 3:06 PM

Congratulations to Shug and his connections, How happy they must have felt that their horse won the race in the shadow of their star, Personal Ensign.    We cant over see someone else's joy for our sorrow,   Life goes on...  and so does Rachel.    They can put her in to pasture early and start her up for a new season next year,  Without rushing her, taking the time to get her properly trained and ready to go at five years old.

31 Aug 2010 3:06 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Steve - you posted 'Zenyatta's West Coast fans relish any time the defending horse of the year, Rachel Alexandra, loses.'

Please don't lump all of the West Coast fans into a small minded group. While I was not at all surprised that RA was defeated in the PE, still I found no joy in her loss. Even the fans here in CA and of Zenyatta can appreciate everything that RA accomplished last year.

Comparing RA and Zenyatta is like comparing two fine wines. Totally different but still completely enjoyable.

31 Aug 2010 3:24 PM
Let It Ride Mike

Fuzzy, a rider in the states gets blasted either way. 3000 NY railbirds would have been screaming he stiffed her if he didn't do what he did. In the US, that is considered to be proper riding, and until there is a rules change, every jock will probably do just the same in that circumstance.

31 Aug 2010 3:29 PM
Mike Relva


I've been on the Zenyatta bandwagon from early on,but I derive no satisfaction for RA losing. Only want the best for her and all horses'.

31 Aug 2010 3:33 PM
Mary in VT

I know what you mean Steve. Healthy adults should be able to admire, discuss, and compare the accomplishments of both of these great horses without resorting to mean spirited ugliness. But alas ... no. To think that a newspaper would print such a hideous statement doesn't say much for them. I have always understood the disappointment of Zenyatta's fans over her loss of HOY, but never understood why they focus their rage on Rachel instead of Zenyatta's connections who might have sealed the deal for her with a more ambitious campaign. They have lost HOY with her twice now, so it wasn't all about Rachel, now was it? Oh well ... I'm glad that I can love and celebrate them both.

31 Aug 2010 3:34 PM
Mike Relva


Do you call yourself a racing fan? You slam RA,did it ever occur that just maybe being cooked after a long,tiring year that it's asking too much for her to repeat her past work? Give her a break,she tries hard each time she races. And this is coming from someone that adores Zenyatta! If you can't have compassion for her,then you're missing out on the real picture. And,yes RA will be remembered,her place in history is more than secure!

31 Aug 2010 3:40 PM

I posted a fairly lengthy comment this morning but it has not appeared so I won't bother to try and recreate; just want to thank you Steve for being a voice of reason.  I still love you, Rachel.

31 Aug 2010 3:47 PM
Mike Relva


Valid point,I can't argue. But,did you know that Jim Cassidy,who worked with Ruffian STATED on HRTV that Zenyatta is in the same league as Ruffian? He should know,right?

31 Aug 2010 3:48 PM

Steve, I heard from a source that at Saratoga "fans" were yelling "steal it, Johnny V, break their hearts!" That just tells me Rachel isn't the one that's the "loser."

Now Shug McGaughey is all class...quoting from a NY paper: " They sure could have gone some place where it wasn't a mile-and-a-quarter. They don't really duck any spots...My hat's off to that group for taking the shots they did. I saw her in the Woodward. She ran as gutty a race as any horse has ever run."

kyrachelfan: good point about FDL time besting Blame, I forgot about that ;-)

31 Aug 2010 3:50 PM

PS and Steve, you're not the jerk ;-)

31 Aug 2010 3:51 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Shadenfreude knows no boundaries. Shame on all those who cheered Rachel's defeat.  They are not true fans.  If they had any sense at all, they would have wanted Rachel to win by a pole in a fast time so that she would be aimed for the Breeders' Cup Classic.  As things stand now, they will never get the chance to see their beloved Zenyatta roll up behind the gallant Rachel Alexandra as the field turns for home at Churchill Downs.

I am quickly getting to the point where the venom spewed in Rachel's direction is poisoning my desire to truly care about future racing stars.  There is so much negativity and all she does is try her darndest each and every time. Some are saying that she never was anything very good and never deserved HOY and never beat any decent horses.


It seems that the internet has turned the entire population of the world into critics and we think everything is American Idol or Survivor and those who slip up even for a brief moment must be voted off!!!

31 Aug 2010 3:54 PM
chris j


A poignant article.  Much has been stated about the Rachel versus Zenyatta "showdown".  The simple fact is: Rachel was still ahead by over 3 lengths after 1 1/8 miles in the Personal Ensign, after battling Life at Ten into submission.  She has never been the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles, so asking her to do so in general (regardless of the competitition) is a large task.  Last year, she might have been able to handle that task - on dirt.  But because the Breeders Cup was on a synthetic surface, we were deprived of a matchup of the 2 powerful females at the classic distance on a dirt surface.  Zenyatta is an incredible mare, one who will quite likely repeat in the Classic if she runs to her standard form.  Rachel simply isn't good enough this year to run that extra quarter mile against a beast like Zenyatta, who gets better as the races get longer.  I would tend to think that if they offered $5MM on the Ladies Distaff at 1 1/8 miles, the matchup would be a difficult task for both fillies!  Maybe they should make an exception so Zenyatta can run against Rachel and still collect the same paycheck if she wins!  She already beat a better field of colts last year.  Just a thought, even though there is no chance of it ever happening.  And you are correct about another thing - Rachel will NOT be diminished if she runs against the fillies in the Ladies Distaff.  The classic (this year) isn't her cup of tea, so why force her into a race she isn't ready to take on?  Thanks again for an insightful article!

31 Aug 2010 4:01 PM
Pam S.

Wow, Steve, that highly partial statement in the North County Times (never heard of that paper) is regrettable, to say the least.  It makes Zenyatta's California fans sound bitter and vengeful, and I think you can tell from the blog reponses here that most are not like that.  I am SURE most were surprised and disappointed on Sunday like I was, and I'm a big Zenyatta fan.  I'm also sure most of us who are into horse racing love the horses themselves, and don't just see them as betting numbers with little men on their backs.  There are exceptions, I guess, but it's still disheartening to read such childishness in any newspaper.

31 Aug 2010 4:02 PM

Mary in Vermont, beautifully summed up, thank you.  I find agreement with several here, and wonder a few things, some mentioned already:  I thought Rachel ran a very gutsy race, and had she not gone straight to the front might have won.  We can blame Calvin, but she broke extremely sharply, and maybe he did the best he could.  That said, I have wondered the last two races whether she wouldn't have run more comfortably (rated easier) with Shaun Bridgmohan (sp?) on board. I also think the race was a step in her training, as mararacing pointed out, but to that I would add that she might not have been properly trained for the distance - and maybe intentionally, as mararacing also states - building to a distance rather than reaching it and then having to keep it.  I thought she looked not quite as drawn up as a 100% ready to race filly should look - in other words, a few pounds heavy, also mentioned but I can't remember by whom now.

Cdnkowboy, this was a stellar quote from your father:  "if you never stand up you never have to worry about falling on your butt."

Jen in NY I also thought a breeding to Street Cry would be an interesting possibility, and whoever mentioned a Big Brown type poses another interesting possibility.  He is very tightly inbred as I recall, and don't know enough about pedigrees to have a valuable opinion, but the type comment caught my attention.

Overall, I don't think Rachel is ready to retire, not as gamely as she ran.  She was trying to win.  She either wasn't fit enough, or doesn't have the distance.  I honestly think it's the former, but I don't know anything about her training regimen, and have only ever been directly connected with training standardbreds, and not for quite some time - and I appreciate the comment about the best standardbreds racing one another every two weeks, for months on end in some cases.  Standardbreds may not be as glamorous as thoroughbreds, but they are generally tough, game, and honest.

Steve, I thought you gave us a wealth of ideas to discuss, and appreciate your balanced approach.  Whoever thought you were somehow dismissive of Blind Luck may not have had the opportunity to read your piece on her last week (or maybe the week before?) which I thought beautifully told a really interesting story with such a happy ending.

31 Aug 2010 4:02 PM

Ref: Steve Haskin 31 Aug 2010 3:02 PM

Don't feel like a jerk for doing something nice and appropriate and in the process negate it. The North County Times does not speak for or accurately reflect the majority of West Coast Horse Fans. Almost everyone at Del Mar that I spoke to loves Zenyatta, but not at the expense of Rachel. We were just as unhappy to see her defeat. Focus on the positive and sing the praises of accomplishments and ignore the ego based bias (East or West). Anyone can exercise their ego and defend a position (right or wrong), it takes someone special to put your ego aside and applaud another (right or wrong). Keep up the good work.

31 Aug 2010 4:03 PM
Rachel O

I thought everything had been said, so I wasn't going to comment. Steve, if you think Zenyatta fans were happy about RA's loss and I don't think that's the case, think again. I'm a "dyed-in-the-wool" Zenyatta fan, and I've driven thousands of miles to see her run four times, but I felt very sad when Rachel lost yesterday. There are many postings on this blog saying flat-out that altho they are Z fans, they think the world of Rachel, too. Whoever wrote that stupid piece--about Z lovers feeling joyful that RA lost--is the real jerk and should put down his pen or close his laptop permanently.

31 Aug 2010 4:06 PM

Take a breath Steve...its just a continuation of some of the ugliness that you have seen way too many times on your blog.  I have seen it go both ways so I think its fair to say there are jerks in each of these fan pools. I am a hugh Z fan from the east coast but I love RA and watch her with the same amount of excitement and anticipation.  

31 Aug 2010 4:08 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   I was rooting for Rachel Sunday and disappointed when she lost even though I am a big Zenyatta fan. For fans to fanatically take sides on either side because of a silly HOY vote is ridiculous. There are plenty of fans that are fans of both, who appreciate great thoroughbreds. Yes, if they were in the same race I would root for Zenyatta but more often than not I root for Rachel. Please don't feel like a jerk because some rabid fans cheered her loss. I can assure you that there were fans there with them who were embarrassed by that. Your article was special and gave us a special time in the sunshine. We thanked you for it because it meant a lot to us long suffering fans, especially in Northern California, and we got to pay tribute to our beloved Lost In The Fog because of that article. Thank you.

31 Aug 2010 4:11 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Whoever wrote that piece does NOT represent Zen's fans. Why would you regret what you wrote because of what some @#$!? writes? I'm sure some people cheered at RA's loss and I imagine some people would cheer if Zen got beaten. Does that make ALL fans on both sides to be this despicable? A RESOUNDING NO!!! I can't believe YOU commented on this. I'm baffled that YOU went there. As a California horseracing fan I'm deeply offended. Have there not been enough comments from us expressing sadness and concern over Rachel's loss? WHAT does it take for Cali fans to not be judged the way you just did? Patently UNFAIR!!!

31 Aug 2010 4:22 PM

Steve, I live is Southern CA and although I am a big Zenyatta fan. I have never enjoyed watching a favorite lose a race in all my 37 years of following horse racing. Winning and loosing is a fact of life. Thank goodness the article does not represent all of us living in CA who respect both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Some of us have been around long enough the difference between bad and good sportmanship. This article represents just plan bad sportmanship. Shamefull...

31 Aug 2010 4:28 PM

Excuse me for how off topic this is, but isn't it a little odd that Jerry Hollendorfer's picture is shown in the story about Mr. May's death?  I appreciate the connection, but it seems demeaning.  If you don't have a picture of him, why don't you put up a picture of Blind Luck that he went to the Oaks with?  It seems more fitting and a better tribute.

31 Aug 2010 4:29 PM
New Orleans Lady

Steve, sadly that is the attitude one takes when jealousy raises it's ugly head.  It was very apparent at the Eclipse Awards last year in CA when Rachel was announced HOY that there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm and I could feel the hostility thru the TV. I was sure there was going to be some outcry and, in fact, I think someone did yell out something stupid, but what do you expect when you're in someone else's sandbox? Anyway, The bashing has become so juvenile that I tend to ignore it all like you would some unruly child and disregard the negativity as ignorant and misinformed.  I appreciate your positivity and celebration of Rachel. Keep it coming...  

31 Aug 2010 4:30 PM
Will W

Poor Calvin ! He only uses a popper on Rachel and still criticisms of his use of the whip on Rachel continue to mount in this blog. Steve, please educate your readership on this sensitive subject. Calvin's no child abuser, beating up on a four year old. His character and reputation doesn't deserve to be tarnished in this fashion.

31 Aug 2010 4:32 PM
Smoking Baby

 Another GREAT article Steve.  Thank you.  I must say I'm not sure Rachel Alexandra would've laughed her way through last year's Alabama Stakes though.  Careless Jewell ran huge that day and I believe would've given Rachel all she could handle going that far.  I also believe Icon Project would've beaten her in the Personal Ensign and am convinced that Summer Bird would have beaten her soundly in the Travers.  The Woodward against those older horses was the right move.  As Dennis Miller used to say...That's just my opinion.  I could be wrong.

31 Aug 2010 4:34 PM
an ole rail bird

from reading between the lines,& reading the body english,& using all of the tricks that a railbird learns over a 48 year career. i think that steve assmussen has know from early in the year that rachel had peaked. i also think that he wanted no part of zanyetta, at any time,nor anywhere, on any surface. calvin boreal has taken the art of getting a horse run on a loose rein, to a hole new level, with RA. in the charge for home, with a tireing horse,he did a jockeys job. he got all that she had ,this day. the sumation of it all is, she ran7/8 of a mile under pressure, but on a loose rein.when pressured down the lane she was beganing to fade & calvin did what he had to do. what would you be saying if he hadnt hit her at all?  around my barn if he hadnt done what hedid, we would have said he didnt do his job. according to the "new race fans" a jockeys job is to see who can come back with the best human interest story. RA got beat in a good horse race. get over it,&we willrace tommorrow. 3 cheers for calvin boreal.

31 Aug 2010 4:35 PM

EasyGoerFan, that was a truly awesome post! Bless you ♥

PS I was a SS fanatic...weren't their races the BEST! Could you hardly wait for them to meet again? Aren't you glad they gave us such a great year?

31 Aug 2010 4:40 PM

The fact that there are (at this count) 223 responses to this article suggests just how important Zenyatta and Rachel are to racing. Both are great stars, have given us many sensational moments (think Zenyatta in the Classic), and obviously will long be remembered. Maybe there's still a chance they will meet. If so, I hope it's in Louisville.

31 Aug 2010 4:43 PM

I am a huge Zenyatta fan.  However, I did not stand and give a hearty cheer when Rachel lost the Personal Ensign.  

That article in the North County Times in my view, was written to stir up the old East versus West debate.  How ridiculous is that!  Can we not celebrate Rachel and Zenyatta?  

I live in the West and I admire and appreciate Rachel Alexandra.  It just frustrates me to watch her being whipped when she had just put another spectacular performance.  She is not done.  She doesn't need to go to a breeding shed!  

I hope Jess Jackson reads this blog.  Most of us care very deeply for Rachel and want the best for her.  I don't care where and who she races, she is a champion and a Horse of the Year winner.  It is a joy to watch her run, but now in the Personal Ensign.    

31 Aug 2010 4:50 PM
Bob Z

Big Tex,

My sentiments exactly... Summer of '09 around the Mother Goose or Haskell... no horse that I saw running last year including Zenyatta beats her a 1 1/8....

I agree... thats just the way it is...

But,... unfortunately for everybody .... a year later, 200 pounds heavier, an extremely questionable 5 months off and an even more questionable situation where somebody got sucked in to committing to a 5 million dollar race when the horse clearly wasn't ready...

and the (in my opinion) mismanaged season beginning with the 5 months in New Orleans... could have been sunny Florida, and more active and possibly able to be ready for the Apple BLossom....and a clear plan for the 2010 season....

This season to me,

(a casual big race type of fan...)( I have no interest in who won the 4th at Aqueduct today or any other track...)

... has been one band aid after another... starting with the decision to be inactive for 5 months....

I only get sucked in by the great ones.. and then again not every one of them...

But with Rachel it happened... I just don't know what happened after the Woodward and what the thought processes were of those making all the decisions...

My hope... Run and win in the Beldame at 1 1/8 miles ... run in either the Ladies Classic or the Dirt Mile and win that...

... and then hope they bring her back next year for this time a well thought out plan for 5-6 races at nothing over a 1 1/8 ... and lets see what she is really capable of....  

But... yes ... last year (2009) in July or August no horse running beats her at 1 1/8 miles...

BIG TEX said....

"I have something to say that some people aren't going to like.

For those who say Rachel never was great, when Rachel Alexandra peaked in 2009, we saw her cruise like a Bentley in the Oaks to a 20 length victory.  We saw her leave from the outside post in the Preakness and be hounded every stride by a pack of males eager to tear her apart and watch her fight her heart out in the stretch.  Then, we saw her ease up in the Mother Goose while she set a stakes record.

It was at this time of 2009, and this isn't what some of you want to hear, but Rachel Alexandra was the best horse on the planet.  And had you put her in a race with other mares and fillies, including Zenyatta, I'm sorry, no one beats Rachel when she was at her best.  It would have been way too many lengths to make up for Zenyatta.  

31 Aug 2010 4:54 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  Such language !!!! And what were you doing for those eleven minutes? If I ever have a small operation breeding farm like I want to, I'm going to name a horse after you- Spunky. We sure think alike even though you are a little more vociferous at times. Love your posts.

31 Aug 2010 4:54 PM
Smoking Baby

 Most of the comments I've read have expressed nothing but admiration for Rachel Alexandra. I have to  wonder if it will be the same if Zenyatta ever gets beat. I was at Santa Anita for Zenyatta's Santa Margarita and watched Zardana beat Rachel at the Fairgrounds.  Yes... there were some folks cheering.  I don't know if this matters but Jerry and Ann Moss were right in front of us and were certainly not among the people cheering.  I'm sure if Zenyatta ever gets beat there will also be folks cheering.  I for one LOVED the Give Californian's Their Day piece.  Thank you for writing it.  I think California racing fans are for the most part good fans just like anywhere else.  

Side note:  You want to see ugly?  Wear something other than black to a Raiders game.  Now THOSE crazies can get ugly.  I just talked some Rams fans I know into going to the Ram's/49ers game this year instead of Ram's/Raiders for their own safety.

31 Aug 2010 4:58 PM
marc w

I have long thought Zenyatta was the better horse--that said yet I supported RA claim to Horse of the Year last year because I thought she did more and for a longer time. I defended the trainer change on RA not because I wanted it done but for the fact that SA took abuse because he got her then managed her through a perfect season. Not an easy task.

EVEN WITH a fantastic horse, those not in the business have no idea how hard it is to keep a horse on top of its game. Peppers Pride--OK she ran in restricted races---but it in no way should diminish her feats. Zenyatta what a training job! Remember Cigar was not the same Cigar in his last year---it wasn't the tougher competition. It is just hard to stay on the highest level, wear and tear. Baseball, hockey, and football players are the same. Sometime the desire is there but the legs are not.

An example maybe Funny Cide---he quite simply was the best horse in Derby and "Definitely" in the Preakness---he never was to that level again---"but for those two races" As great as Secretariat was he was never going to beat Prove Out because he was just soooooo good for a while. Note these two never won 5 in a row let alone 8 or 16, or 17. Peak is one thing for a short while.

31 Aug 2010 4:58 PM

Great article as usual Steve. I do have one comment: ban whips!

I agree with Alybar: "I think she needs a jockey change.  I was very disappointed in Calvin's ride and tactics.  She should have been rated, and certainly not whipped the way she was."

Calvin Borel did Mine That Bird no good after the Derby and he's not helping Rachel either. This filly doesn't need to be whipped. I don't care what kind of whip. Get rid of it.

31 Aug 2010 5:01 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Please pardon Zookeeper's French. She can't help it. She's French. Go Runflatout Go !!!!! Are you relaxing, getting ready for the big race?

31 Aug 2010 5:07 PM

I have only seen Zanyatta and Rachel on television, but the one that had me gasping was Zenyatta. Winning the Classic the way she did should have been HOY material in 2009. I truly believe she is the best mare I have ever seen. Rachel is a great mare, but Zenyatta is at a higher level. Certain horses just dominate no matter what, win or lose: Secretariat, Native Dancer, Man O'War and now Zenyatta.

31 Aug 2010 5:08 PM

If Rachel is to be effective going forward, I feel many changes are absolutely required.

First, she needs to be moved out of Asmussen's barn. His style is not working. Perhaps a return to Hal Wiggins could help.  She certainly has fond memories of those early days.

Second, while I like Borel on many horses, he is not riding her to meet her requirement. In the Derby Oaks, she was young, fast and far superior to her competition. He only needed to hold on. Rachel's style has evolved for many reasons, including the normal weight gain of a filly growing into a mare. She should be rated; not whipped while on a fading front running pace.  History tells us that once a horse resents the whip, it's over.

Next, owner Jess Jackson should place the highest price he thinks he can get on Rachel and sell her, for HER betterment. A meglamaniacal owner, motivated by his need for power and glory, while also being narcissistic in his attempts to be charming is doing more harm than good as it relates to her scheduling. Needing to face Zenyatta in April, he rushed her, then backed off, then was always secretive in future race appearances. WHY? It all seemed like a constant knee jerk.  If they truly had a plan, it was never clear to anyone else inside the industry. HER future, while best tied to Curlin in the barn, will never progress under his watch on the track.

I am not a RA fan.  In fact, quite the opposite; a card carrying member of the Zenyatta Army.  However, I love the sport and respect her accomplishments, and I feel there are more things to achieve, but only if changes are made.

She came across that finish a beaten warrior, tongue dragging, tired of the whip, and probably tired of being mismanaged. She seemed to miss the glory days of the past. It was sad.  More loses in races like the PE will break her spirit.

One last comment for those of you who still think (hope) that she can run 10F, she is telling you that she cannot.  I don't care what you think her pedigree says, she cannot run to those numbers.  The best laid plans in the breeding shed are often compromised by residual traits. A Mile and 1/16 may be her best distance right now. I think 9F in her current condition and frame of mind is not a sure thing.

31 Aug 2010 5:13 PM

Steve, I share your distaste for the reporter's comment in the North County Times about Rachel's loss. Believe me, this West Coast Zenyatta fan would never dream of rooting against Rachel Alexandra, a horse running her heart out and doing everything her connections ask of her. And none of the other California fans of Zenyatta that I know would ever consider such a thing. Slandering so many fans like that in print is awful, and I made sure to let the reporter know. Thanks for the alert.

31 Aug 2010 5:14 PM
Steve Haskin

RachelLover, thanks, I will look for it and to find out why it wasn't posted

31 Aug 2010 5:16 PM
Steve Haskin

Fuzzy, you're right, I shouldnt lump them together, but that had to be a pretty sad sight to stoop that low. I shouldnt have added that second comment about feeling like a jerk. The majority of Zenyatta fans are true horse lovers. I dont know the extent of the cheering from the article. Maybe it was overblown.

Will W, I have already mentioned in past stories that Calvin uses a whip that is designed not to hurt the horse. I am told the horses barely feel it. I can assure you he would never hit her like that with a regular whip. People don't realize how much he loves this filly. Comments like the ones on here from people who are not aware of the facts would hurt him deeply. He and his wife Lisa have as much affection for Rachel as anyone could possibly have for a horse.

Smoking Baby, you are correct, I forgot who won that race. I still believe Rachel would have beaten her, but she probably would have had to work harder for it.

Kat, it's tough finding a photo to suit the tragedy. As long as Hollendorfer's name is in the head, it would be OK. Being Jerry's assistant is more relevant than any of the horses he traveled with.

31 Aug 2010 5:22 PM

The amazing thing to me is that both Zenyatta and Rachel are still competing in Grade 1 races.  Mares and fillys usually have lost their desire to run after 18-19 races.  I remember watching Lady's Secret at the beginning of her career and again at the end.  She was a different horse. RA is a great filly and Queen Zen is a outstanding mare.  The connections for each horse is so different, if RA had the same connections as Zenyatta we would be seeing a much happier filly.  Zen has been lucky enough to have people that put her well being first, RA was not so fortunate.  RA needs a new owner, trainer and JOCKEY.  Most mares would not have put up with the whipping RA received during the PE.

I wouldn't mind if both RA and Zen retired now, sound and happy for Zen and at least sound for RA.  Neither of therm have anything more to prove, they have given the racing public some of the greatest races we will ever see.

31 Aug 2010 5:23 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Let It Ride Mike - I wholeheartedly agree with you. My point was that maybe it's is time for the American Jockey Club to review it's whip rule. A rider needs to ride their mount to the best of it's ability. But when the next horse is 10 lengths behind I don't see the point of repeatedly hitting an exhausted animal who is giving his/her best effort.

31 Aug 2010 5:34 PM
Gary at Rough Creek


I've read your reply to Douglas regarding what fillies/horses Rachel beat last year, and all I can say is, "C'mon man!"  Does this Rachel thing have you that contorted?  To leave rational objectivity at the door?

Yes, Rachel beat Sara Louise.  And Sara Louise beat Rachel.  

Malibu Prayer is a Grade 1 winner THIS YEAR, but not LAST YEAR when she faced Rachel.   It might very well be a different story at 9 furlongs this year.  But you want it both ways when you replied to Douglas.  You want Malibu Prayer's accomplishments this year to apply to her quality as a runner in 2009...that's a neat trick, but not objectively meaningful.

Same with Just Jenda.

Sara Louise is essentially a sprinter who can win at 8 to 8.5 furlongs against the right field.  

The colts you mentioned were all beaten while giving Rachel a significant weight advantage.  Yeah...she won...but you will never ever convince me that at equal weights she was faster than MTB and MM at 9.5 furlongs, or MA at 9 furlongs.  At equal weights, at 10 furlongs, on a fair surface, Summer Bird would have beaten her would MTB and MM by the way.  

As soon as she started to give weight to rivals, she ran just as fast as many of her times from last year, but she lost.  And not even against stellar fields.

Please answer me this, I know you abstained from voting for HOTY last year, right - but can you write with a straight face that Rachel beat better horses under larger imposts than Zenyatta did last year?  Which of these females raced against classier competition at the time that they faced them?  

For one example, Zenyatta beat Champion Summer Bird at 10 furlongs on what probably was an equally compromising surface while giving him a pound.

I think last year's 3 YO colt crop was pretty good.  I think it was very impressive that Rachel beat them twice.  But it wasn't on the square.  And at least to me, and those who put together the list of the 100 best race horses of the Twentieth Century, weight matters.  And besides the colts, Rachel's 3 YO filly competition AT THE TIME she raced against them was very weak.      

31 Aug 2010 5:39 PM

Steve, Persistently deserved some cheering.

Shame on anyone who doesn't cheer a victorious horse. that is my opinion. They just laid their life on the line for our amusement. the least we owe them is a rousing applause!

If the cali fans were doing it out of malice then that is not something I can gather from a comment circulating around the internet. I remember hearing boos after Birdstone's belmont and thought that was cruel from NY fans.

Persistently deserved cheering and what a beautiful win for the Phipps clan. Especially after losing their beloved mare in April.

I screamed my heart out for that little filly Sunday (shocked my neighbors didn't think to call the cops lol) and don't regret it one single bit.

31 Aug 2010 5:40 PM

Just reading the above comments and it's the first time I have heard of the California paper.  I have not seen any such nonsense in the Southern Cal. papers. Well, there is alot of nonsense in the local papers just not about horse racing...

I gave a hearty yell when Persistantly won.  Not because I wanted Rachel to lose, I just thought if someone was going to beat her, it was great for the Phipps, Shug and a grand daughter of Heavenly Prize to win.  I was in Ky for Personal Ensign's distaff and that year and the Phipps ruled.  I think in 88 they had something like 6 homebred grade 1 winners. Unbelievable.  Let me see there was Personal Ensign, Personal Flag, Caddilacing, Easy Goer, Fast Play and perhaps Dancing Spree. Can't remember.

Anyway, the old adage of don't believe all that  you read is valid.  I'm a huge Zenyatta fan that wasn't happy to see Rachel lose (although I thought she would at the distance) but I was happy to see Persistantly win. If that makes any sense.  

31 Aug 2010 5:56 PM

I agree with those that commented Rachel looked like a tired horse in the photos posted of her yesterday, and the bandaged back leg was not a good sign either. Retire her before she gets injured.  If she continues to race, a jockey change might help her.  The speed duel Calvin put her in toasted Rachel...and look how Life at Ten finished.  

31 Aug 2010 5:57 PM

So, Steve, wondering if anybody reads your blogs????

Almost 300 comments so far.  Cool.

Ok, so RA didn't care for 1 1/4 miles.  Some horses don't.  Not all champions have.  Better to find out now than the day of the Classic.  Can you hear the yelling if she finished up the track in the Classic and HADN'T tried the distance before?

It's interesting that I keep reading "she's bigger, she's stronger" and that's a good thing.  A horseman I once knew loved 2 year old and many 3 year old fillies because "gravity ain't got to them yet".  They were lean and light and fast and could fly.  When they became mares they got bigger and stronger, sure, but they also had to pick up that weight and move it.  And land on their fetlocks and knees with every jump.  

RA looks beautiful and on Saturday she was fine up until about 1 1/8.  Then, as they say, somebody put a couch on her back and had a bear sit in it.

Find some good spots for her in Sept and Oct.  Let's see where and how she runs the best, let's play to her strengths.  Then let's go to Churchill.  Whether it's her last race or not and whether she wins the Ladies Classic or not, I hope to be there and I'm looking forward to cheering her home!

31 Aug 2010 5:58 PM
Anna Luna

Rachel ran well in defeat...gave it her all and once again displayed the true heart of a champion - she just got beat by Persistently who was better on August 29th.  As for's all politics...East v. inequities..I really don't care.  All I know is that I've had the unique opportunity to see the great Zenyatta run many times since I'm a Southern CA native.  I wish I could have also had the opportunity to see Rachel run in person here in California and had it not been for the pesky synthetic tracks that we were mandated to put in back 2007 (thanks to Richard Shapiro and the CHRB), perhaps I could have seen her race here...oh well...

As for the North County Times - don't believe everything you read and chalk it up to poor reporting.  I wasn't cheering when Rachel lost...I wanted to see her win and to go on and run against the big Z in the BC Classic, providing she is sound...let's hope that she is.  Rachel is a champion, she's just not 18 for 18...Zenyatta is.

31 Aug 2010 6:01 PM

Kantheros retired already.  Goodness that is terrible.  I just knew we had another Curlin in the making with him....  Maybe a miracle will take place later for him.

Just goes to show how delicate they are..

31 Aug 2010 6:08 PM

Great article, thank you.  To me Rachel has a sad look in her eyes this year.  She just doesn't look happy.  I would agree - Calvin Borel certainly did not need to keep whipping her.  BAD on his part.  If Rachel was mine, he would not ride her again.

31 Aug 2010 6:19 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

"I'm mad as #@%$! and I'm not going to take it anymore."

Mr. Haskin,

I don't care what some obscure writer says in an even more obscure newspaper. I care about what YOU think and say about Zen's & Cali's fans in general. Are you going to have the same knee-jerk reaction if/when some idiots are cheering Zen's defeat? Are you going to paint all Rachel's and Eastcoast's fans with the same broad brush? Do you think that there are no such idiots in your neck of the woods? If so, you haven't been reading many of the posts on these blogs.

I still can't believe that you posted that comment. Saying that you shouldn't have added it, after reprinting that damaging piece of garbage, tells me that you regret *saying* what you were *thinking*. Forgive me for not finding any comfort in that.

If I didn't have such a high opinion of you, I wouldn't give a flying fiddle about what you think of us. Your words hurt far more than the outrageous comments of some on these blogs. Those are easy to dismiss. Yours, not so much!  

31 Aug 2010 6:26 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

Some of you might find this interesting,

I just went back and looked at the internal fractions from last year's Breeder's Cup Classic.  With a quarter mile to go, Zenyatta was 9th, about 6.75 lengths off a 1:36.16 pace.  Adding 0.20 seconds per length, that puts Zenyatta running the mile in about 1:37.5, give or take.

Rachel went 1:37.54 to the mile pole yesterday!  Almost identical to Zen's time at the mile last year.

The difference of course is that Zenyatta came home in The Classic in 22 and change (in a final time of 2:00.62) while Rachel came home yesterday in 27 and change (in a final time FOR HER - not the winner's time - of 2:04.70).  Roughly a 20 length difference.  

Does anyone think she can really make up 20 lengths in 9 weeks?  

31 Aug 2010 6:27 PM

Rachel, thanks for the kind words.  

Oh my gosh, I was so excited back in early 1990 when Easy Goer and Sunday Silence were gearing up for the rematch.  It was so disappointing when they both lost a race and then both suffered career ending injuries before the Arlington matchup.  After they left the scene, I decided to give all my love to Go For Wand. :(

I hope all the Rachel and Zenyatta fans savor the next couple of months.  This fun ride is about to end.  

31 Aug 2010 6:45 PM

"Rachel's internal fractions yesterday in the PE were similar if not better than those in some of her most acclaimed victories last year, like The KY Oaks where she earned a 108 Beyer going 9 furlongs in 1:48.87.  She's just not a 10 furlong horse, crawling home in 27 and change.  She ran 1:12.02 for the first 6 furlongs yesterday.  This is slower by 0.03 seconds than what she ran in the M Washington last year, very close to what she ran in he KY Oaks, and slightly faster than she ran in the Fantasy,  the Fairgrounds Oaks, The Goldenrod, etc., etc.

In other words, it was well within her comfort zone, and faster than some of her best efforts of last year."

"Second, it seems that some writers in this business are a little defensive and ready at a moments notice to make excuses for Rachel's defeats.  I saw a filly running comfortably on Sunday, with internal fractions that are consistent with her best races at 9 furlongs (not too fast, but not dawdling either), who just hit the wall and got caught by a filly who was getting a significant weight break."

Thank you Gary.  I don't know what Rachel did last year to make people such firm believers that this was a 1 and 1/4 horse. Impressive wins at 9 furlongs do not guarantee impressive wins at 10 furlongs.  Ask Quality Road, who is only a recent example.

And she would have laughed her way through last year's Alabama?


I seem to remember a very fast filly winning last year's Alabama.  Careless Jewel.  She had a world of talent, but apparently is now relegated to the same "she got lucky" status as Persistently, without even facing Rachel.

I also read an another article by one well read writer reminding us that we should not ever forget the Rachel of 2009, no matter what.  This article came out before the running of the Personal Ensign.  Please try not to be too critical of the Zenyatta fans.  It seems to me that the wrong-headedness goes both ways.  We're only human--all of us.

31 Aug 2010 6:46 PM

I am a Rachel fan and agree with the others who suggested that her jockey blew this race. She doesn't know how long the race is. He over estimated her reserve and hitting a horse that is trying her best doesn't win him any points in the eyes of the public.

31 Aug 2010 6:52 PM
Steve Haskin

It never fails, whenever I write about Zenyatta, I hear it from the Rachel fans about Zenyatta's faults. Whenever I write about Rachel I hear the same thing from Zenyatta fans. Whenever I write about both, I hear it from both their fans. I just cannot understand why some people can't accept a positive column on either one on its merits and leave it be. This compulsion to trash the other horse never ceases to astound me. I guess coming into racing in a different era, I see the sport and the horses a bit differently. Debate is a good thing, but let's admit it, this has gone way beyond good, clean debate.

31 Aug 2010 7:03 PM

I a colt had the same racing record as Rachel Alexandra, no one would be wondering if he should retire from racing.  Lots of great colts lost races now and then, and then ran for four or five years before being retired.  Even Curlin lost a few and is still considered a top race horse.  To me, it sounds like there is some prejudice going on just because she is a filly!

31 Aug 2010 7:04 PM

Steve..thank you for the beautiful post on our horse of the year..Rachel Alexandra..i can understand why some are disappointed but i really agree with isn't like she finished up the track.She ran a great race out of her usual scope and still managed to just miss.I also don't understand why running in the distaff would be considered not acceptable to some fans.Look at who would be in the ladies..not every horse can excel at every distance.There is no shame in that.

31 Aug 2010 7:10 PM
Curlin Bandwagonner

Alybar, How about Martin Garcia for Rachel??? We can figure Mike won't ride her, since he is one of the biggest Zenyatta fans. But if L@L is going in to the BCC, then maybe Martin would jump on Rachel??? I would like to see it anyway.

WInnie, I too remember people booing Birdstone, and throwing things out on the track such as beer cans and other assorted trash. I was mad at Birdstone at the time, but he took advantage just like persistently did. They ran incredible races and did what they were supposed to do. I applaude them for their win!!!

BTW, I think Birdstone has gotten his revenge in MTB and Summer Bird-who was a breathtaking racehorse!!!!

This is a brilliant article BTW. I couldn't agree with the analysis any more.


31 Aug 2010 7:20 PM
Bet Twice

The North County Times?  Is that a real newspaper?  I could understand being upset if it was the Los Angeles Times or the San Francisco Chronicle or the San Diego Union Tribune, but holding the North County Times against West Coast fans is pretty unfair.  

Per Rachel, given her races this year, she seems to be moving backwards not forwards.  Her numbers are going down and she's had plenty of time to get fit.  If she's sound, by all means race her, but there is evidence to suggest she's not on the improve.  

Your comparison to Azeri isn't quite accurate.  Azeri ran exclusively in Grade 1 races in 2004 and won 3 times, something Rachel is yet to do.  There was no shame in Azeri's 5th in BCC at a distance she didn't like (particularly given her competition) but again, she was beating her peers at the G1 level throughout the year.  

The what if Persistently hadn't been in the race scenario doesn't really hold water for me.  In Grade 1 races, Rachel will keep facing horses that press her on the front end and and closers who come from out of it to finish.  

Ultimately, I'm not advocating her retirement,  but I don't think its outrageous to suggest she might need a "freshening."  It was tough to watch how exhausted she was and I don't think fans are wrong to ask whether this is where she needs to be going into the Breeder's Cup, Classic or otherwise.    

31 Aug 2010 7:29 PM

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the usual balanced and insightful article as only you can deliver!  There are many of us who love both Rachel and Zenyatta - east coast/west coast doesn't matter to us - they are equals, one is not diminished by the other!  What I noticed in the race was that Calvin took her very wide on the clubhouse turn when he had no one to his left, then he beat her unmercifully with the whip, and if you watch that portion of the tape you will see the white of RA right eye show, that could be why she shortened her stride - it literally was a beating he delivered to her.  The fractions were fast - both John and Calvin set up the race for Persistently and Alan Garcia to surge and take the race and Persistently and Alan did it magnificently.  A classic case of bad scoping of the field before hand by Calvin.  I would speculate that Calvin thought Life At Ten was his only competition and he made a serious judgment call that cost Rachel the race.  If you watch the video again you will see her looking in Persistently's direction during the gallop out, it was sad to see her do that.

Rachel Alexandra is a great horse and as such deserves respect for her accomplishments and warts!  Which one of us is perfect, that we should expect these fabulous equines to be perfect!

31 Aug 2010 7:37 PM
Smoking Baby

Smoking Baby, you are correct, I forgot who won that race. I still believe Rachel would have beaten her, but she probably would have had to work harder for it.

Steve, you are a class act.  Thank you for acknowledging one fan's humble opinion without being uncool about it. And yes...You could be right.  Maybe she would've won regardless.  Have a GREAT day sir.

31 Aug 2010 7:42 PM

As disappointed as I was in Rachel's defeat in the Personal Ensign, I was also pleased to see Persistently win for her sake and her connections' sake! It was great seeing Personal Ensign honored by a horse wearing her colors enter the winner's circle.What a proud and emotional win it must be for everyone concerned!

31 Aug 2010 7:47 PM

Great, great article. You bring a lot of historical perspective that is in short supply. This is the instant, microwave, laser age and people seem to want horses to be the same. Many great horses have lost races, had bad spells, suffered from over racing and poor conditioning, bad management and health problems to name a few, but still retain their great place in history. If RA is fit and doing as well as she is, let her continue to race and go out on top in a shorter race like the Distaff. There is no shame in that. If it diminishes her memory in the mind of some then that is their problem and I don't think they really understand horse racing and how things can change from year to year. I am actually glad she is proving the quality horse that she is by continuing to race after all the circumstances you spelled out. It says a lot that she has come back to race at her current form from all she endured.

Good of you to point out that it shows just how difficult Zenyatta's achievement is to attain!

I also want to inform those that think hanging out in the pasture is "being a horse," that this is not the epitome of horse happiness. Sure TBs benefit from turnout time instead of being in a stall all the time but horses like having a job they can do. All domestic horses were bred to have a job. These horses have racing in their blood and like to run. The happiest off the track TB is one with a new job that they like.

Do human athletes win a gold medal at the Olympics, retire and never do anything athletic the again? This is a really OLD reference but even Esther Williams continued to swim after she stopped making movies. She even carried cards that said,"Yes, I still swim."

Please Steve, do a blog on the whip and the current REQUIRED use of the popper. While it would sting our bare backside, it does not hurt a horse. I think it would be dangerous to be on a horse in a race without one. You need something to get a horse's attention. What if they were wandering into a dangerous position? Every horse is different and responds to the use of a whip differently. Every racing or training situation is not the same. If the whip is not physically harmful, then leave it up to the jockey & the trainer on how to use it.

31 Aug 2010 7:52 PM
Kevin J.

I agree 100% Steve. Rachel showed her fire is still burning, I am convinced the Ensign was a test to see if see could wire a field at 10 furlongs. She can rate and now her connections should know that she has to at 10 furlongs. 10 is not her race I agree, but she should be given the chance to try it again. However she reminded me so much of Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont, maybe it's just a bit to far for her style, She is all in ever time, so what if she trys the distance again,maybe she in her own mind will not get fooled again by the extra distance, and be waiting for a closer. Let's remember she is still young !

31 Aug 2010 7:55 PM

just a real real shame that both owners could not see fit to run both fillies against each other last year at the height of both of their careers.

31 Aug 2010 7:58 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

'It never fails, whenever I write about Zenyatta, I hear it from the Rachel fans about Zenyatta's faults. Whenever I write about Rachel I hear the same thing from Zenyatta fans. Whenever I write about both, I hear it from both their fans.'

Well Steve, I guess you know how it feels to be an owner or trainer or jockey of a sucessful horse.

31 Aug 2010 8:00 PM
Steve Haskin

It didn't matter who printed it. If they cheered her defeat, they cheered her defeat. But as I said, perhaps it was overblown and over sensationalized. I have forgotten about it.

31 Aug 2010 8:03 PM
Steve Haskin

That's it for the Calvin bashing. Obviously, many did not read my comments about his whip an his feelings for Rachel. So, this discussion is now closed.

31 Aug 2010 8:08 PM
steve from st louis

Steve: I wonder if losing Kantharos to injury won't affect Jackson's thinking with Rachel? I respect your thoughts but I hope they retire her. She has absolutely nothing more to prove and Jess isn't a spring chicken. I hope they throw down a fresh bed of straw and introduce her to Curlin.

31 Aug 2010 8:12 PM
Mike Relva


I agree with you a million per cent.

31 Aug 2010 8:17 PM

Yes Steve, let's get back to "agree to disagree!!!!"

Both these fillies are incredible super stars, and this trashing on either side, does nothing to encourage people to enter the "sport". Horse racing is struggling enough. RA & Zenyatta are both remarkable. Personally, I did not want to see a match between them. I have followed this sport, closely, for about two yrs now, and find myself, of late, cringing, as I watch some of my favorites. I turned the TV off last weekend, immediately following the race, as I didn't want to hear the critics. It is almost too much. These are our heroes, or rather heroines, of the sport. This type of negativity will only serve to drive people away.

RA ran an amazing race. And she lost. I will always be a fan of such courage, regardless of outcome. This is one of the remarkable facts of horseracing:

the sheer courage, the drive, the HEART!

My hope is that the connections of RA will do what is best for her.

31 Aug 2010 8:35 PM
virgil wolfe

@ Steve re "I find this item in the North County Times pretty revolting. Makes me feel like a jerk for defending California fans and their love of Zenyatta in a recent blog."

Hey - I don't know who those people were, but they do not represent California or Zenyatta fans.  Just bad apples.  Your recent blog was justified and spoke for legions.

31 Aug 2010 8:41 PM

     Dear Mr. Haskin,

       In my opinion, it's time

for Jess Jackson and

Steve Asmussen to wake up and

smell the coffee and realize that

Rachel Alexandra will never be the

same as she was last year. In fact

she should be retired before she

and her connections are

embarrassed in either

Breeders' Cup race.


       Kyle Stasierowski

      25-year-old loyal TVG

      viewer, HRTV viewer, and

     Blood-Horse subscriber from

     Alden, New York

31 Aug 2010 8:42 PM

I love racing and I love horses. I love Rachel and I love Zenyatta. I also love the bottom claimers at the lower tier racetracks. All of them are giving their all for the love of running and for our pleasure. I don't want to see RA run against Zen because whichever one loses would not deserve the negative press that she would get. Some things are better left to the imagination.

31 Aug 2010 8:53 PM
Joyce, Lincoln, RI

Thanks Steve, so eloquently put as always.  All said and done, it was still an exciting race.  

Rachel got a very nice round of applause on her way back to the barn.  I didn't hear a single boo!

One little boy said to his parents, "Calvin's gonna get FIRED!"  

31 Aug 2010 9:04 PM

I think these posts point out something very significant: many people are expressing how sad they feel, how defeated Rachel looks, yet on blog after blog I read criticisms of how the Mosses have handled Zenyatta's career. This sense of loss and disappointment are directly related to how Rachel was campaigned last year, just as the joie de vivre still displayed by Zenyatta is a result of how she has been campaigned for her entire career. You can't have it both ways. Revel in the thrills that Rachel provided last year, but then accept that what we see now is that consequence. As a true fan of horses and the sports in which they compete, I love nothing more than seeing a happy, healthy horse excelling and enjoying what they do best. I hold Jackson accountable for what has happened to Rachel; I commend the Mosses and John Shirreffs for being such thoughtful, caring stewards of Zenyatta.

And to the poster who asked why an article about Rachel must always result in a mention of Zenyatta: it is because the Eclipse voters refused to consider sharing the award. Much of the animus and hostility expressed by fans on both sides would have been avoided if both had been recognized as they both earned it. They are, at least for now, inextricably linked.

31 Aug 2010 9:10 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  My sentiments exactly. It's not just about the stars, it's about all of the horses whether they be in The Breeder's Cup or the cheapest fair race. I love them all. I still plan on claiming the sorriest looking one I can find in a cheap race and take him home to take it easy. You're right, the rivalry is out of control and it's best if they don't face each other now. It's time has way passed anyway. Zenyatta and Rachel are both great champions and neither deserves to be bashed and that includes the course that their owners decide to take for them. One thing you can say is that they are both safe and healthy and that is what counts.

31 Aug 2010 9:20 PM

A question to the experts out there from someone who wants to learn more.

Everyone (well almost) has said RA is not a 1 1/4 horse...Why?? Is it because of her speed and the need to be on the lead or her pedigree, specifically the dams side, which I don't know much about (Lotta Kim -Roar?? Or is it all of the above?? Also, if she were a closer like "Z" would that change people's opinion??

I was at Saratoga on Sunday and she just amazed me in her effort and it just made me love her all the more, even in defeat. We cheered her coming back and I was surprised that Calvin still let her gallop out even further.

Alot have commented on her not being can you tell? She's never, even last year, really exhibited happiness like "Z" does. She looked fine in the post parade and cantered back with an arch to her neck...tired, but justly so.

One thing I did notice is her lovely youthful body is gone..she lacks the outline she had, specifically her underline with not much tuck-up..more straight across and heavier. One that really took my breath away physically was Life at Ten...BIG girl and very impressive looking. She made me very nervous!

31 Aug 2010 9:23 PM

Most of the people writing on this blog are horse racing fans, I am a horse racing fan but also a horse owner and a horsewoman.  The most important element should be the well being of the horse, not the ego of the owner, trainer or the jockey.  These horses run their hearts out for racing fans, the least we can do is to show them the respect they have earned  giving us such exciting moments during their races. I hope both Queen Zen and RA are able to retire sound. They both deserve it.

31 Aug 2010 9:58 PM
Robin from Maryland

Another great article.  Looks like RA is not the same horse.  Maybe I'm crazy - but she didn't look comfortable runing, for whatever the reason.   Her time to shine was '09, now it's Queen Z's.

31 Aug 2010 10:07 PM
Spa Flat Rat

Rachel does not run like a horse who wants to be retired. Twenty-three years ago on a muddy Monday after the Travers the Greatest Filly I had ever seen was sent to the track to chase the all time money winning mare title.  Chris McCarron saved Lady's Secrets life that day when he stayed on and kept her from running through the outer rail to her barn.  A great horse ran a tough race and a Phipps horse ran her down.  They have the greatest broodmare band in the world and they can run all day.  Congratulations Shug.

31 Aug 2010 10:08 PM

I'm so glad that I finally got to the comments about Calvin's stick. I just couldn't believe that he would hurt his girl in any way. It's a great relief & actually no surprise that he would use a stick that was easy on the horse. I have always love Calvin Borel & Mike Smith in the saddle. I have a great deal of admiration for them both & I feel like it's the Racing God's gift to them to be on such exquisite mares!  Thank you for clearing this up & I apologize most humbly to dear Calvin for letting that thought creep into my mind!

31 Aug 2010 10:10 PM

Steve..thank you for trying your best to keep it clean.I too can not stand the bashing of any horse..why? we can all debate but the slinging of junk isn't cool at all.

31 Aug 2010 10:21 PM
Bet Twice


There are many on here who can give you a much more in depth answer, but here's why I would question her ability to go that far at the G1 level.

Her sire, MDO, was sensational up to 1 1/8.  At 1 1/4 the race had to set up perfectly for him.  Many could comment on dam side, but I'm not knowledgeable enough.

She stopped pretty badly the last eighth on a track she likes while running quick, but not unreasonable fractions.  

She has a running style that gets tougher the farther she runs.  While many say she can sit off the pace, she's never sat very far off of it.  The faster she goes early, the easier it is for the closers to pick her off at the end.

She doesn't really rate, meaning Calvin can't really take her off a hot pace without getting into a fight with her.  Her trainer put a figure 8 noseband on her earlier this year to give Calvin more control (it closes their mouths so they can't evade the bit.)  Their attempts didn't work, so they've gone back to giving her control, evidenced by Calvin's loose rein in the PE.  

31 Aug 2010 10:37 PM

Great article, Steve. Rachel's heart is not in it anymore - that's what it looks like to me. That doesn't mean she's still not awesome and should never be dismissed. She's a great champion. I'm solidly in Zenyatta's corner - she's tops in my book - but I take my hat off to Rachel, always.  I just think she's ready to move on to the next phase of her life, and possibly pass her remarkable gifts on to her babies.

31 Aug 2010 10:45 PM
Steve M

If the shoe was on the other foot...doesnt anyone think that if Zenyatta gets beat in the Breeders' Cup some "fans" on the east coast will cheer for that?  Rachel vs. Zenyatta turned into an east vs. west thing last year so people in the west associate Rachel Alexandra with all the talk and press from last year about how Zenayatta's win in the Breeders' Cup Classic meant nothing since Rachel wasnt there, it came in California and it was on implied that California racing was inferior to the eastern racing. I am a big Zenyatta fan, live in California, have driven 400 miles 4 times to see Zenyatta....and my affinity, as well as many others' in California I am sure, for Rachel is not very high because of all the things I had to read and hear last year. I agree that she had a better campaign in terms of the seasons the 2 put together and deserved HOY....but I have never felt Rachel was better than Zenyatta. Even when she was all out to hold off Macho Again last year and clinched HOY in one of the weakest Woodwards in recent memory, I was always hoping Zenyatta would get her day in the spotlight. She did in November but then I had to read all the junk about California and these ill feelings are there and for some people seeing Rachel lose prolly is some sorta vindication.......just like if Zenyatta lost someday, it would be for those easterners who wouldnt feel any sadness about her losing and could even root for it to happen.

31 Aug 2010 11:07 PM
Gary at Rough Creek


At first, I included my comparison of the the internal splits of Zen's BCC victory and RA's PE race yesterday just because I found the times coincidental and interesting.  The only conclusion I drew from them was that Rachel is not a 10 furlong horse, while Zenyatta sure the hell is.

But your remark, that comparing different tracks and different surfaces is "pointless", got me to thinking.  I won't go in to all that I thought about it, but I will say this:

Look at Zenyatta's splits in her first Apple Blossom, available to HOTY voters last year.  Granted, it's not Saratoga...but it is dirt.  Ginger Punch went the first 6 furlongs in 1:11.61, and Zenyatta was 8 lengths behind (by the account I may have been less).  Regardless, she was at least one second behind Ginger Punch after 6 furlongs.  Since Zenyatta won that race by 4.5 lengths in 1:42.64, she must have come home the final 5/16ths in what...28 and 2 or less?  Almost IDENTICAL to how she came home in last year's BCC on synthetics.

Dirt or synthetic, she runs the same way, and with the same result...she wins.

So I think a comparison is more than justified.

I hope you don't see people expressing their opinions regarding Rachel's distance limitations as "bashing her".  I certainly have no desire to bash her.  She is an amazing 8 - 9 furlong horse who runs her heart out in every race.  She shows up every time.  It's not a disgrace to have a distance limitation, and it's not ridicule to point this out to some folks who have - shall we say - overly optimistic expectations of the filly.

I saw an interview of Bob Baffert on TV some time ago.  He was discussing some of the mistakes he had made during his transition from quarter horses to Thoroughbreds.  He brought up one example where he entered a horse in a race that was just too darn long for him.  Baffert said, "That horse came back all lactic acid and hair."  

The way Rachel walked back to the barn after the PE yesterday, it wasn't funny.  I'd hate to see her attempt 10 furlongs again.  

31 Aug 2010 11:26 PM

Thanks for your in-put Steve. You always know how to set things straight. I would like to see Rachel run again, and retire winning her last race. I Love Rachel and will always no matter what. I just hope Calvin (the jockey) was given a good talking too about over using the whip. Whipping her is not going to make her run any faster. If he keeps that up she will not want to run at all....

31 Aug 2010 11:52 PM

Mr. Haskin,

With all due respect, your quoting from Riverside's neighborhood newsletter to defame all Zenyatta fans everywhere, and your retraction of the nice words you said about us recently, was unnecessary and unwarranted, and quite frankly, rather childish.

Last time I checked, The North County News was neither a true newspaper, nor representative of anything or anyone, other than it's own publisher's opinion and agenda.

I seriously doubt that many of Zenyatta's fans, wherever they live, feel that any of Rachel's wins or losses, taking place over 3500 miles away from Z's stall in Hollywood, have any bearing on Zenyatta at all, good or bad.

I would also be very surprised if the majority of Z's fans fear any horse currently racing, in a match up against her.

That being the case, it seems highly unlikely that any notable percentage of Z's fans would take pleasure in Rachel's loss, unless of course they had some money on Persistently, which is a horse of an entirely different color, wouldn't you agree =)

It's true that some Zenyatta fans were pretty mad about the HOYT thing last year, but they aren't mad at Rachel and never were; they're mad at the east coast bias in the reporting and the voting.

But TBH, I don't even think most even care that much about losing the HOYT title anymore at this point.

It's just too hard to be a bitter person and love Z. Bitter clashes pretty badly with 1200 pounds of tall, dark, and happy.

I guarantee, however, that should Z loose any time soon (especially in the BCC), you will see far uglier things written about her, gloating and cackling, right here on Blood Horse by some of your very own "professional" colleagues (Jason Shandler would probably entitle his post "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead");  a far cry, wouldn't you say, from some unnamed and unidentified "fans," reported by some obscure neighborhood newsletter?

01 Sep 2010 12:29 AM

Mr. Haskins, I purposefully read/skimmed all comments hoping to talk myself out of posting a comment. Have loved horses a lifetime but only been to a few races, met Calvin & followed RA since 2007. Realize I don't know much about horse racing, although I am attempting to learn, but I work with kids & I really think horses are a lot like kids. RA was taken from someone who loved her & had done a great job of training her and put with who she now has. To me her earlier successes were because of her initial training. As far as I'm concerned she only has Calvin who loves her and he has to follow directions; however, at least she has someone in her corner who doesn't hurt her. One thing about horse racing - I absolutely hate it when owners/trainers put everything else before what is really best for their horse. Rachel is magnificent! I'll enjoy what was and be glad I was a part of it; I'll accept what now is & realize I'll probably not change any minds as to RA's training, etc. & I'll pray for the best for her and for safe trips. I really liked Ole Rail Bird and Moodygirl. Thx for the space - this Granny will go back to her knitting now but will definitely be at BC in Nov.    

01 Sep 2010 12:39 AM
The deacon

Rachel ran her heart out, that's good enough for me.

Applaud the effort.............

01 Sep 2010 1:26 AM
k sweatman

I have said from the start of this year that I don't believe Rachel wants to race anymore. It's my guess she wants to become a broodmare. When a female horse feels this way, they lose their competitive edge. I got laughed at when I made the remark. Fans don't want to hear it. Horses are not robots. I hear, "she's not losing by much, she just needs a little more work". That, my friends, is insane. Rachel can work out and train until she drops dead from exhaustion and it won't change what's going on between her ears. The reason she is not losing by huge margins is because she IS such a gifted talented runner. Rachel is simply void of heart and the desire to win. Something Zenyatta has not yet lost. Big Z is ALL heart, that's the difference between the two. Physically Rachel Alexandra is fine, and the Rachel of 2009 would've given Zenyatta all she could handle. That being said, we are not looking at Miss Rachel 2009. She is a different horse now, no less magnificent, only different. She has earned the right to retire and become a broodmare if that is where her mind is. We as fans need to let go and support doing what is good for Rachel Alexandra. Horses who run only because they have to, are at higher risk for injury. What a shame it would be if Rachels' glorious career ended with an injury.

01 Sep 2010 1:42 AM

I agree to some of your points Steve although I thought she should've run in the Ruffian.  I have no doubt she would've won it and would have one G1 already.  The way she ran LaT to the ground in the PE, I can't imagine her getting worked in the Ruffian, it would've been almost like a workout.  So, having 4 weeks to the PE would've been sufficient.  I also said in the other blog prior to the PE that the race was going to be a pure prep, but it turns out they really wanted to win it.  I think if Team RA didn't go for the win, they would have an even more tighter Rachel in the Classic.  I still don't think she can hang with QR on the front end but at least she would be fit.  From what you quoted Asmussen, that she was blowing so hard after the PE, I just hope that she really was doing well the next day.  I think they went for the PE and really pushed her.  I said that the Distaff is hers to win because it's her distance as long as she didn't get fully extended in the PE, she should win the Distaff, Blind Luck would be her main competition.

After the Distaff, I hope they retire her.  What worries me is that any inkling that Rachel IS back, will make JJ go for another agressive campaign next year.  Do I believe that JJ learned his lesson ?  My answer is no, because he's a competitor, I remember reading an article on DRF about Rachel's campaign last year and all but JJ thought it was a grueling campaign that had an effect on her.  JJ's response was something to the effect that she was happy wherever they put her (not in the same exact words).  I don't know JJ that well, I only speak from what he's done so far, maybe others who know him well can correct me.

On another note, me very excited, too excited in fact that I book my hotel for the Zenyatta Stakes near Arcadia, instead of HP.  I can't wait for 10/02!!

01 Sep 2010 1:52 AM


Keep on fighting the good fight. I think Claire Novak over at NTRA had a similiar article why there is some much hatred on these both side.

I believe that it is not so much hatred as there is passion.

As for the North County Times that gave "thumbs up" to the cheering of the fans after Rachel Alexandra lost at Del Mar, and then you had some of the Zenyatta on this site distancing themselves from this episode - please get real!

Do you expect everyone to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" together.?

I remember when Sunday Silence was trying to win the Triple Crown at Belmont Park in the Belmont Stakes against Easy Goer and when Easy Goer started to pull away in the stretch people started to hug one another, even strangers, and scream at the top of their lungs to the defeat of Sunday Silence - just to rub it in his nose.

Folks, stop your political correctness in the name of "loving both these horses".

It's a sport. Get used to it.

01 Sep 2010 1:56 AM
Jet Pilot

Quote from Joyce:

"Rachel got a very nice round of applause on her way back to the barn.  I didn't hear a single boo!"


Did you wave your pom poms too? Keep it real. I was there. There was some "choice words" for Rachel and Calvin after the race.

Just sayin.

01 Sep 2010 2:03 AM


01 Sep 2010 2:13 AM

"I find this item in the North County Times pretty revolting. Makes me feel like a jerk for defending California fans and their love of Zenyatta in a recent blog."  Yeah, because taking the words out of a regional rag and painting all California fans with such a flimsy broad brush is a totally reasonable reaction.  Also, just curious, why do California fans need "defending" because they love a West Coast-based champion?  I enjoyed that article, because it was, as usual, beautifully written. But the idea behind it was curious.  Anyway, your reaction is a knee-jerk one and not worthy of you or your column, I don't think.  

01 Sep 2010 2:28 AM
Old Yeller

To Mary From Vermont and Cdnkowboy. I'm in total agreement with both of your comments.Mary from Vermont knows Horseracing ! And the Cdnkowboy knows what sport is suppose to be all about. Dare we forget about Seabiscuit losing some big ones, or John Henry getting nipped a couple of times, what about Cigar being a second level kind of horse in the beginning. And the most glaring example of all Alydar. Could we just hang on here a bit. Gee should Alydar have thrown in the towel after the Derby. No he did not, but think what we all would have missed if he and his connections had. lets get real about our sport, these amazing, noble headliners are not machines, they are big time RACE HORSES ! And they know it. To quote Cdnkowboy's Dad. If you never stand up you'll never have to worry about falling on your ass. Never in major graded horse racing has there been a real Champ that never took a few lumps along the road. That's why they were great, because they came back after getting beat and proved they were not going to take their ball and bat and run to the breeding shed!

01 Sep 2010 4:11 AM
Bud The Spud !

We have not seen the end of Rachel, just the first bump on the  road. Did anyone really thing that she was just going to pick up where she left last year. Hang on folks she is still Rachel, just getting ready for the main event, she just has to figure out that the stop sign is a little farther down the track !

01 Sep 2010 4:46 AM
Jim C.


Why do you single out the Zenyatta fans for bad behavior (e.g., the North County Times article)?  Not sure if you are aware, but right after the Personal Ensign, one of the first tweets from NYRA personality Andy Serling was to insult Zenyatta.  He tweeted the following: Marty (#68):

"Persistantly [sic] has now accomplished more than Zenyatta in 2010...she beat at least one good horse."

Wouldn't you say that remark is inappropriate, especially since it appeared on a Twitter site with the NYRA imprimatur?  

His remark is also not true.  Zenyatta has entered four grade 1 races this year.  Carrying 129 pounds, she defeated St Trininas, who is the #3 ranked older female by the DRF.  She defeated Zardana, who earlier in the year defeated Rachel Alexandra.  She defeated Rinterval, who the previous race lost by a nose to Informed Decision.  She defeated Just Jenda, who last weekend won the Molly Pitcher.

This is a fair question.

01 Sep 2010 7:13 AM

I am a Rachel fan and saw her win the Woodward last year which was the greatest race I have ever seen, and I have been to a lot of races including BCs and classics. All of us that gathered to watch Rachel were saddened by her loss.

I don't think Rachel has lost the heart or desire to win, I think 1 1/4 isn't her distance. It also needs to be pointed out that she also carried 8 pounds more than the winner. I don't think she should retire but should finish this year including the BC Ladies Classic. Following Rachel has made racing so thrilling for me and I have been a fan since I could walk. I also brought 6 of my horse into racing by getting them to follow Rachel and all became avid fans.

Rachel did not duck a race last year despite track conditions or the competition. She has heart.

Zenyata winning the Classic last year was also thrilling and she is a great horse whom I really like as well.

I have subscribed to BH for several years. I own retired racers and am a partner a 2 year old in training. I have to say that I have noticed a bias which seems to me stems from liking one owner and not the other. Lots of criticism of Jackson but glowing reports of Moss. The edition with coverage of Zenyatta's last race, I believe you wrote it Steve could not have been more adoring. I thought you were inaccurate in describing how easily she won when in fact it was not a blow out. One of my colleagues is a very big Zenyatta fan but even he said he detects what seems to be a preference.

This is not about Rachel having a less successful year than Zenyatta as several of us noted it last year too. It is also not about me having a favorite as they are both amazing horses that should be inducted into the Hall of Fame and have been great for horse racing. It is just about reporting evenly in your magazine.

01 Sep 2010 7:43 AM

Great article.  I had the opportunity to be there Sunday, and the 1 thing that seems clear to me is that the distance of 1 1/4 is beyond RA's range.  She was absolutely dominating when I saw her from my stance on the backstretch, and at 1 1/8, she had a lock on the race.  But what really stuck in my mind was the gallop out.  After Borel got her to the midde of the clubhouse turn, she stopped and was just so absolutely spent that her head was hanging to the ground.  

Most of the greats have lost races; that aline does not diminish their accomplishments, and RA will someday be a HOF horse, no doubt.  But it is senseless to exploit this filly by running her in the BCC.  She should be placed where she belongs, not where her connections feel they can receive the glory.  What we are seeing with this animal now is that she is paying for the campaign she was put thru last year.  Yes, she gave us thrills in 2009, but at what expense to her?  

SA was given the gift of a push button superstar who required water, hay and guidance.  She received 2 of the 3.  That this trainer cannot, in his first full season with her, bring her back to form speaks volumes.  Was the HOTY trophy that important that she should be  a ghost of her former self this year?  And is it worth compromising her talent, mind and life over the BCC, where she would not only lose, but severly compromise her spirit as well?  I think not.  Her connections need to adjust their priorities: it's about the animal and not the limelight.  RA did all that was demanded of her last year.  Now these connections need to listen to the filly and to what she is asking of them.  They need to place her at a level and distance where she belongs and allow RA to finish her career with dignity.

01 Sep 2010 8:00 AM


I am a fan of horse-racing but I am not a fan of any horse. I bet on the one that can make me some money.

I believe that the Rachel Alexandra/Zenyatta comments have very little to do with people being fans of the two horses but more to do with the fact that some people feel that a wrong has been done and they will not rest until it is admitted. Each race Rachel Alexandra runs only serves to vindicate their position. In fact, it was refreshing to read Alan Shubacks's article on Rachel Alexandra on Aug 31.

This is now a crusade. In my case I will die rather than believe that a horse did something out of the ordinary by beating Macho Again and Mine That Bird.

01 Sep 2010 8:12 AM
Barbara W


With all due respect,I think your acknowledgment of that hateful newspaper article was way more inflammatory than any comment I have read on this blog. Maybe you are confusing some people's dislike of RA's connections for dislike of the horse.

I am a fan of the horse first and foremost. Reading that clip from that article made my stomach knot up--similar to the feelings I get when I read Draynay's posts.

01 Sep 2010 8:49 AM

I am in total agreement with you here Steve. The sport has already lost Eskendereya, Tuscan Evening and now Kantharos this year...the last thing we need to see is Rachel and other top thoroughbreds retiring just because they have hit a speed bump.

01 Sep 2010 8:57 AM
The Rock


Speaking of the "popper" whips, are these mandated in any states? If not, what would you guesstimate the percentage of jockey's use these popper whips?

In my opinion, I think Rachel just flat out got beat. I also believe all the jockey's in the race rode it by the way it looked on paper. Rachel was the one to beat. Johnny V had no choice but to keep her honest or it would be a merry go round race. Alan Garcia was hoping for a situation to perculate between the two and hope that they slowed down enough for him to catch them.

No excuses. Good rides by all riders.

As I usually say after a race, next race, next case.

01 Sep 2010 9:08 AM

The Rachel of 2009, the filly, proved herself time and time again. Her record says it all.... she gave her all.  The Rachel of 2010, the older filly, is still a champion in my eyes even though she has not been able to replicate her racing career of the previous year. With that said, my prayer for Miss Rachel Alexandra is that if and when she races again, may she cruise the track with the grace, tenacity and the love of running that she did in 2009. And if they chose not to race her again, may the rest of her life be one of happiness and joy in just being Rachel, the beautiful champion, HOY 2009.

01 Sep 2010 9:23 AM

Run her back in the Gold Cup or Beldame. She will improve off this race. This race put alot of stamina into her.

Let's keep it in perspective 5 races this year and she's finished first or second each time.

The stick is a non-issue? were not in 1948.

01 Sep 2010 9:28 AM
Steve Haskin

Laurie and Papillon, I have already stated that it was a knee-jerke reaction and I should not have said the part about feeling like a jerk. I also said after further thought that the story may have been overblown and over sensationalized. I dont know what more you want me to do.

01 Sep 2010 9:34 AM

Was she trained to go 1 1/4?  I keep hearing that training now a days is just a series of sprints.  Maybe if she was trained at 1 1/4 she could actually run at that distance with getting tried.

01 Sep 2010 9:36 AM
dan milliman

I was at the Personal Ensign and wonder how fast that track was playing. The Travers was slow, too. I think Rachel needed a race at a mile and a quarter and would come back better at that distance the next time. She demolished Life at Ten. Persistently ran a Drosselmeyer type of race - no speed duel.

How many trainers would love a horse who has Rachel's record for 2010? If she comes out of the race OK, I think she'll be competing well no matter which race she gets entered in. Rachel as an underdog will take it to whoever she runs against. They had best be ready for a tussle.

One last note and a small disagreement with Jess Jackson: I think Curlin ran great in his last Classic, possibly moving too soon on the turn, but 4 horses beat 2 minutes that day in that race including Curlin. I think they liked the track just fine. Too bad Raven's Pass did such a good job of drafting on Curlin.

My utmost rule is simple: When everyone gets back to the barn OK, it's always a great day.

01 Sep 2010 9:39 AM
The Rock


Calvin using the whip however many times in last year's Woodward seemed to work fine then. And its a popper whip. It can't break the skin. They can hardly feel it. The talkin' to should go to Jess Jackson to let Steve Assmussen do his job without him breathing down his neck. This guy can't form an opinion of his own without getting approval from JJ.

Forget retiring her. Why? Because she got beat? Big deal. She lost before. Nobody whined then. Unless the trainer feels she's lost interest, then by all means. She runs 2nd in a race and the crowd cries for retirement? She might not be where she was at this point last year, but she's still a whole lot better than what remains in her division. We were spoiled last year. Everyone take a deep breath who thinks she should be retired.

01 Sep 2010 9:51 AM

I am just as confused as you Steve, when it comes to understanding the current race fan. Have you and I become dinosaurs? Back in the day there was never this silly bashing and venom directed at great thoroughbreds or jocks. Perhaps you could write an article on the evolution(?) of the racing fan...then again maybe not a great idea since the bullseye would then be on you. lol.

01 Sep 2010 9:54 AM
Gary at Rough Creek

To Papillon,

I agree with almost everything you wrote...all the most important points anyway.

To Old Yeller,

I like a little bravado as much as the next guy, but I think your point is misguided.  You are absolutely correct that horses are not robots.  They are not machines, and they can suffer mental and physical injury by repeatedly trying to do things that they are not capable of doing.  

I got into horses by working teams of draft horses in the woods.  The worse thing you could do to one of these great animals is to ask it to pull a load that it was incapable of pulling. To do so repeatedly is even worse!  If you do make this mistake, they lose trust in the teamster, and they lose their desire to pull.

Same with Thoroughbreds.  

I saw all I needed to see last year to know that Rachel was best at 8 - 9 furlongs and really wanted no part of 10 furlongs.  The ONLY reason Rachel has been pointed to a 10 furlong race is the egotistical pipe dream of having her run in the 2010 Breeder's Cup Classic.  

So they tried the experiment...Rachel was doing great...looking great...she went out and gave her all and she hit the wall.  A couple bloggers on here have tried to say that Rachel needed that one.  It was her first try at 10 furlongs.

What did Zenyatta do in her first try at 10 furlongs?  She beat the best males in 2:00.62, only about 20 lengths better than Rachel's effort in the PE.

The calls for Rachel's retirement are partly out of respect for her and partly out of a sincere desire from many to not have this great filly get hurt or mentally depressed.  She has nothing really to prove, and there are no "lofty goals" within her grasp this year.

As I've written here before, if she is showing signs that she really wants to keep running, by all means keep racing her.  If not...if she is showing signs that she is just too tired, or over the top, or just wanting new surroundings, why not retire her and make her happy?   Hasn't she done enough?

01 Sep 2010 10:12 AM

Seems like everyone has an opinion but like always Steve, you seem to have hit the nail on the head with your words and talent to put it down in print.  Thanks for being a voice of reason!

01 Sep 2010 10:13 AM

Anything less than a stellar performance by a top thoroughbred and the horse racing fans start calling for retirement. Can you imagine if fans in other sports had that mentality...Brett Favre would have been sent out to pasture about 280 games ago.

01 Sep 2010 10:17 AM
Richard Patrick

When horses/teams/businesses are winning, nothing need be changed.  When they are no longer performing at the highest level, maybe something needs to be changed to shake things up.  Baffert took arguably the best jockey in the country off Lookin At Lucky.  Calvin is a good jockey in the Derby, if he can hang on the rail.  Once he gets to "strategizing," it doesn't seem to work out, as eveidenced by his pushing Life At Ten so wide on the first turn, and losing ground himself.  Come on, he's on Rachel, he doesn't need to force anybody wide -- just outrun them. She's outrun 2 Belmont winners, a near-Curlin beater, a Whitney winner, a Derby winner, and Macho Again without a jock strategy; she didn't need one last Sunday.  Calvin is okay, but let's try Bridgemohan, John Velazquez, Gomez, even crazy ol' Desormeaux (who knows when/how/why to use a whip).

I'm also intrigued by some of the lingering bitterness toward Rachel from Zenyatta fans.  Be bitter at sports writers, or connections, not Rachel. All either one of these mares have done is run their hearts out and try as hard as they can everytime. I particularly am disappointed at Zenyatta's people for keeping her on the synthetics.  I think they have failed to give her the chance to be one of the best ever.  Had they barnstormed like Alysheba, Cigar, and yes, Rachel, who knows what her legacy could have been had she been able to beat all comers on dirt. But I can't fault Zenyatta -- all she does is run fast and try and hard as she can.  She's a great horse. As is Rachel.    

01 Sep 2010 10:38 AM
Mike Relva


I'm a die hard Zenyatta from the start,but when I read what Steve org. said I didn't take it as he believed ALL Zenyatta fans behaved that way. You both are over reacting! Unlike another host,I've always found Steve as an objective writer! Give him a break!

01 Sep 2010 10:38 AM

Mr. Haskin,

We want you to put ashes on your forehead, crawl on your hands and knees and beg for our forgiveness! NO, not really! As someone who has often stuck her foot in her mouth, my knee-jerk reaction to yours was as unwarranted as yours. I apologize for the anger I expressed yesterday. We all feel and say things we later regret. I should have remembered that before I blasted you. So please forgive my temper tantrum. I deeply regret it. I promise to sit on my hands and take a deep breath next time the blood rushes to my head. :-x

01 Sep 2010 10:43 AM
Mike Relva


You're incorrect,there is hatred for these horses and individuals that do aren't racing fans. They should choose another sport! Passion is one thing,but when it trancends into name calling,slams,and generally not giving horses' their due then it's something altogether different.

01 Sep 2010 10:45 AM

Forget racing Zenyatta, imagine if RA raced in the Breeder's cup mile vs Goldikova.  That would be awesome if RA could beat her.  I don't think it's too far fetched.

01 Sep 2010 10:58 AM
russell maiers

Steve, the best piece of advise I ever got about horses other than to teach them to go forward willingly came from a 90 year old wise horseman. He told me whenever anyone has to put another horse or breed of horse down to make the horse or breed they love look good means they have doubts. I believe its that simple. Thanks for all your great writings!

01 Sep 2010 11:15 AM
kathleen o

K sweatman,  I've been saying the same thing.  She's still fast, her times are good, she's in excellent health.......she's just not going to put in the same all out effort that she did last year.  I think her connections know that.  Check the video of the race, just before the finish you see her clamp her tail a bit and her hind quarters bunch.  Calvin felt this and knew she was about to give him her opinion of the whipping he was giving her.  I've spent over 40 years with horses, and their communications can be subtle, but unmistakable.  The 2009 Rachel would run her heart out to finish first, a true champion.  The 2010 Rachel just doesn't have her heart in racing any longer.

01 Sep 2010 11:31 AM

Mr. Haskin wrote: "I have already stated that it was a knee-jerke reaction and I should not have said the part about feeling like a jerk. I also said after further thought that the story may have been overblown and over sensationalized. I dont know what more you want me to do."

Let's see....a little self-flagellation might be nice...then you could weep copiously (in public) out of shame.....followed by a long, sincere, heart-string-tugging article about how west coast fans in general and Zenyatta fans in particular are the smartest, prettiest, nicest, most rational, well-infomed people on the planet....Yep, that might do it.

; )

01 Sep 2010 11:54 AM

I saw the race. I also saw what they did to her. That other horse ran her so fast in the beginning to wear her out. There is no doubt in my mind Calvin had nothing to do with her losing. They had a rabbit in the race to tire her out and she was in first all the way and I saw the white froth coming from her mouth. She was pushed from the very beginning while the others took it nice and easy. Someone put the rabbit out there on purpose to do that to her. I have no doubt in my mind she is still a great race horse. She was set up.

01 Sep 2010 11:54 AM

okay couldnt help myself and had to get back on here to see whats what. I think some missed the orginal post by Steve commenting on the slow final 8ths in several graded races prior to the PE. Nobody is asking those horses if they are done and need retiring or that they can't get the distances they raced at.

As far as Persistantly goes, obviously Shug and the Phipps thought a lot of her from jump as she finished 2nd in both The Frizette (G1) and the Matron (G1). To discount Shug with a nice filly is like discounting Jerkins(the giant killer). Shug admitted that he thought she was a sprinter, go figure with Heavenly Prize as her 2nd dam....

I still think Rach can get 10F. I will also say that unlike Z, it will be her distance limitation. IF the BCC was in 3 weeks, yes she'd get beaten. But in 9 weeks? Depends. I spent time with Rach at CD in 2009 and 2010. She was not as fit this year, but this race will help to get her fit. I think the mess they made of her training earlier in the year and the lack of having a plan for her campaign has not helped her. Unfortunately there is no undo...Some thoughts in my mind. If I were preping a horse for either BC race, some key things I would be looking for.  Distance, to get much needed foundation. Utilizing strengths, tactical speed for positioning and ability to relax. Getting to the bottom, which means being able to hold of those closers and building stamina. In either BCC or BCLC shes going to need to be able to do this. I would also add that the heat/effort in the Ladys Secret Stakes may have effected her more than realised and showed in this race. Hopefully her connections will be able to move her forward off of this to the BC and she will preform well regardless of which race she ultimately entered in. Naturally I would like to see her in the BCC IF she is ready, her next race will definitely tell.  Otherwise, the BCLC is fine with me. My only hope is that if she does go to the BCLC, she races at 5 and tries for the BCC 2011.  

As to the comment about the bandages...they are normal standing wraps.

01 Sep 2010 11:58 AM

After going back through several of the comments about Rachel not wanting to run anymore & the insinuation that Calvin is the only one who loves her now I feel I want to share some observations.

First, I think that Steve, his crew & his family ADORE Rachel & would never want to see her compromised. She seems to like Steve just fine as well, judging from some of the sweet moments I have seen them share in photos.

Second, I don't see any indications in Rachel's demeanor or running style (since losing the nose band!) that she isn't into her job anymore. She ran with tenacity & guts Sunday, just like she always has, whether she is as good as she was last year or not. She definitely showed her love of flight is still in her heart in the Fleur de Lis!

Third, I admit that I have concerns over the 5 month layoff. It is not a common occurrence on the backside to see a horse take 5 months off because she's "tired".

BUT, Steve says that she is incredibly sound, she is moving well & is happy. After seeing that they decided to retire Heart Ashley because the condition of her ankles was deteriorating I can hardly believe that Steve would allow Rachel to run if there was ANY risk in injuring her. Nor would he run a sulking Rachel. I have faith that Steve is doing right by her, as best as he can.

The 1 1/4 was a test that had to be taken before she tried the Classic. I hope to see her in the Beldame, should she rebound well from this trail. Sometimes you just have to have a little faith in the things you cannot control & since I can't be there to see that they are doting on my Beloved Rachel.... I feel that she is in capable hands.

Best of luck to Steve, Calvin, Rachel & their crew, I hope to see them in the DISTAFF.

01 Sep 2010 12:09 PM

The reactions from thin skinned folks to Steve's North County rag report just illustrates the divide between east and west - not only in horse racing, but in politics too.  As an easterner I can understand why the westerners feel ignored and slighted since the racing press has lambasted them for synthetic surfaces, but realistically I don't see why they don't understand our point of view. This mandate to lay down synthetic tracks without sufficient evidence of their relative safety or consistency sets you up for ridicule. What we've learned is that synthetic tracks may indeed reduce the number of bone injuries, but on the other hand they increase soft tissue injuries - particularly behind.  I don't want this to be a screed about synthetics, but it is a big reason why you might detect a bit of disdain from easterners. Your horses are fine.  So are your horsemen and jockeys.  I think Zenyatta is all you think she is. I don't like people diminishing Rachel's accomplishments, however. In fact, I don't like to see this vitriole that I see here on this blog between east and west.  It's stupid.  In the now famous words of Rodney King [ one of your homeys ], "Why can't we all just get along?"

01 Sep 2010 12:10 PM
Rachel O

Wow, Steve, you sure did stir up a hornet's nest with your comment about North County Times and your reaction to it, "knee-jerk" or otherwise.

What seems to be happening here is a demonstration of the passion that both RA and Z stir up in the public. When have two horses EVER managed to do such a thing? Maybe Seabiscuit and War Admiral.

These fillies entered the scene when times are tough and people are stressed, worried, and angry to begin with. They see these marvelous beasts as pennies from heaven for them alone. Humans, being one of the most territorial creatures on earth, are going to defend the accomplishments of one against the other (east-west coast bias thing). It takes a saintly person to get beyond it. I almost said "rise above it," but that sounds too much like a judgment.

Steve, I admire you for approaching this with the aplomb and fairmindedness that you do. You succeed where most of the other sportswriters do not. Don't let strange articles and wild fans get to you. You're doing fine. I love your writing, your generosity, your knowledge of the history of this sport, and your humor.

I'm a psychologist and I've been around so long I remember watching Silky Sullivan at Santa Anita.

01 Sep 2010 12:30 PM
Judy G Loves Rachel ~ California


You know I live on the West Coast. I cried when Rachel came in 2nd ~ notice I didn't write "lost"! She ran with her heart as always!

I, personally, counted over 20 whippings. Steve, what are your thoughts on that, please?

Shame on those who diss ANY horse!

Your comment: "She made her own magic last year and that will never be diminished by her defeats this year." I echo that comment!! Thank you!!

If I could give Rachel a hug I would. So, I send one via the internet! XO

01 Sep 2010 12:34 PM
Bill Daly

Good point, Giddyup.  Did Dr. Fager fans spit out the bit when he [along with Buckpasser] was annihilated by Damascus in the 1967 Woodward?  Of course not. We realized that the race was not set up for the doctor what with Damascus running with a rabbit to soften him up. When Whiteley ran Damascus without the rabbit, guess who won? Rachel was up against it Sunday.  Life at Ten is no slouch and she pushed Rachel to run faster than Calvin would have liked.  A mile and an eighth no problem, but a mile and a quarter is a whole 'nother story. She probably isn't at her best at the longer distance, but if she comes out of the race OK you ought to see her bounce back with one of her better performances.  I just hope she isn't too worn out and dispirited after losing such a tough battle.

01 Sep 2010 12:41 PM
Linda in Texas

Wow, ought to just read and keep my thoughts to myself, but since so many others are opining i will add:

Steve Haskin, Lost in The Fog, Mike Relva,The deacon,Old Yeller, Mary in Vermont, Dr. Drunkinbum,DDinIL, and a host of others, i agree totally with all of your comments.

Re: Cheering for RA's loss is totally unsportsmanlike behavior and not at all what horseracing is about. I am a tough old soft hearted fan of all horses and i found myself with tears and i never thought i would admit that, when Rachel was ahead so much of the race and then passed by Persistently at the end. i was totally disheartened for her. But happy at the same time for Persistently. She did what they sent her to do.

I cheer for no losers on the track or off and that goes for people too.

Kantharos, one of Jackson's 2 year old's has now fractured a leg and will be retired. He had a promising career ahead of him, but at 2 his racing days are already over.  

Jackson says 'he will keep fans posted on his progress as he heals.'

Why didn't he do the same when Rachel was off and being hidden for 5 months?

Rachel is not happy. Period. She looks like she is suffering from

an overload of too many people trying to figure her mind out and make her right again.

She has earned her legacy so quit pushing her. Let her go where she feels most comfortable.

And i am going to make a suggestion that hopefully will be taken as well meaning.

Frankly,I would like to see The Mosses and their wonderful team take over Rachel Alexandra. i think Rachel needs more caring, hands on human interaction than she now receives and she would probably enjoy the company of Zenyatta. If i had either one of them, their stall would be between my den and my kitchen! That said, please do not lambast me.

With reports that Mr.Jackson was not even at Saratoga to watch Rachel run, tells it all.

How many fans here, if they had a horse like Rachel Alexandra, would not show up for her race????

For folks who want to criticize Steve, take the good with the bad like we all have to do in life.

After all,it his column and he owes no apologies. But as one said earlier, other fans would cheer Zenyatta's loss also. That kind of behavior needs to change, we aren't at T-Ball games, we are adults and we should be above that type of negative public display in any sport. Cheer for the winner and applaud the opponents for their gallant efforts.

01 Sep 2010 12:43 PM
Pedigree Shelly

       Great subject ! The way I see it , If RA can't get a mile and a quarter in the Alabama what's the use of going to the BC Classic ! Rachel and Zenyatta will never meet ! Depressing !!

01 Sep 2010 1:06 PM
Fren O

PS: Does anyone know what ever became of, Butterfly Belle. She is the horse that took Russel Baze to his initial record breaking victory. Subsequent to that good run, as happens with too many "lesser' horses,  she was raced down and down. WHERE IS SHE NOW?

Please, let there be a good report.  I do hope that she has not been used up, discarded, and shipped for slaughter.

01 Sep 2010 1:21 PM
Kevin L

It seems simple to me, in discussing Rachel. Last year the goal was to run in the Woodward against older males and this year it is the Breeder's Cup at Churchill.Last year it was stated early on that she would not run at Santa Anita in November. She had 9 races by September and the Breeders Cup would have been probably number 11 for the year (unless she runs on a 9 week layoff), at a suspect distance on a suspect surface.She was given a rest and came back with the goal of the Breeder's Cup, the race in Arkansas was rediculous in my mind. Who wants to take on the best coming off a layoff? I am disappointed that rachel has not shown the same flash as last year, I think 1 1/4 is difficult for any front running horse if they get pressure. I think 9 furlongs is her limit. I hope that she runs again and we see her on Friday night at Churchill. With all the comments about how slow the race was, nobody has mentioned the final time at Del Mar on Saturday. Where have the 1:59 10 furlong horses gone, Secretariat and Ghostzapper? yes, Zenyatta is awesome. What was her gaol last year? The Breeder's Cup Classic. What is it this year? The Breeder's Cup Classic. You pick a goal and you work towards it until you reach it or realize it is unattainable. I think the Classic is unattainable fo RA, so the Ladie's Classic needs to be where she heads. This does not diminish her 3 year old season. She reached her goal.    

01 Sep 2010 1:23 PM

Dear Steve:

Thank you for this article.  Beautifully thought-out and written, as usual.  I follow your blogs faithfully and have great trust in your opinions.

That being said, I regretfully have to say that I think she should be retired. I agree with the other posters who feel that each defeat diminishes her accomplishments from last year. Plus it gives the Zenyatta zealots more and more ammunition to demean her.

I am also worried that, being Rachel, she does everything asked of her and puts her heart and soul into every race. She could wind up like Ruffian or sweet little Eight Belles, who both paid the ultimate price for their desire to win.  

I have personally seen her run at the Mother Goose, Woodward, and now the PE.  When she lost on Sunday, I was crushed.  I feel very conflicted because I would love to see her win more races, but what would be the point?  She won't make HOTY again.  Why not give her the rest she deserves and boy, would I love to see lots of future little Rachels.

I just want what's best for her and her legacy.  

01 Sep 2010 1:57 PM


Life at Ten who was pressing Rachel in the PE was not sent there as a rabbit to soften up Rachel. She is a solid mare who had won 6 races in a row, the last one at 1 1/4 miles.

A rabbit is a horse who has no chance of winning the race and is in it to insure a fast pace so that a closer, who belongs to the same connections, can have a chance at winning.

There is no connection between Life at Ten and Persistently. They have different owners and trainers. With Rachel in the race, there was no need for a rabbit. Rachel, by nature, sets solid fractions on her own and a closer always has a chance when the pace is honest.

I don't know why LAT was pressing the way she did. Maybe her connections didn't want to be too far behind as RA has been known to distance herself by so much that it is near impossible to catch her.

Life at Ten didn't cause Rachel to lose the race. Quite the opposite. She herself fell victim to Rachel's high cruising speed. The distance, as many have pointed out, was Rachel's undoing, not the presence and pressing of Life at Ten.  

01 Sep 2010 2:06 PM
Riva Ridge

Retire Rachel?

so whose idiot idea was that?

I had the priviledge of being on the rail at the BC last Nov and Zen made her move right in front of wouldn't believe the "Rachel Who?" idiocy surrounding us.  Both are talented horses, but one needs a better jockey.

01 Sep 2010 2:31 PM
Scott Jones

I was in Saratoga on Sunday and have some observations on Rachel post race and some questions I'd love answered.

1) Walking past the grandstand and back to the barn Rachel looked completely spent. More so than any other horse I saw that card.  It didn't appear that she'd be recovering from that effort anytime soon. If this is true, and she left it all out on the track, then that would seem to contradict the notion that she's lost the will to race or won't respond to calvin's whip.  It would perhaps also explain the cryptic response from rachel camp after the race regarding her future.  Looking at her races this year, they can't possibly have been that surprised by the result.

2) Persistently walked past us just after Rachel and was full of energy.  Very marked contrast.

3) I don't remember seeing Rachel's tongue hanging out like that before.  Is that simply further proof of the extent of her exhaustion? Is it a habit or common for her?

4) Can one race- like the woodward really take that much out of a horse?  Six months would seem like enough of a recovery. I thought they shut her down b/c HOTY had been already run as much for the grueling campaign.  

5) She's gained a noticable amount of weight since the woodward.  It would  seem plausible that bio-mechanically she could have changed and just can't run in as efficient and swift a motion anymore.  Such structural changes can't be so uncommon, can they?

6) She seems to have gone wide often this year, but on this occasion it appeared to be a tactical decision by calvin as he probably thought his only threat was life at ten, and wanted to keep her wide.

7) The pace did not appear that strenuous.  Nothing like what she experienced last year in fighting off challenges from da tara, past the point, bullsbay and finally macho again in woodward.  Anyone watching closely can tell this is nowhere near the same horse that raced last year.  Coming home in 27 and change the last quarter is a stark and sobering dose of realty to her current form.  I'm sure the mile and a quarter played a part, but she would have obliterated all the fields she's faced in 2010 were she racing to the level she displayed in the summer of last year- Which brings me to a question:

8) Is the difference due to: a) biomechanical changes due to her physical maturation/gained weight, b) burn out from her lengendary 3YO campaign, or C) Assmussman just isn't able to get her ready the was her previous trainer was.  Why is this point not brought up more?  Steve and Jess Jackson inherited a horse at the top of its form and rode that form through a magnificent summer campaign- As far as I can see they haven't proven yet they've figured out how to get her ready.  There must be tremendous pressure on assmussen to figure it out.  I think more kudoos is due her prior trainer and I wonder why this question hasn't been raised more often.

01 Sep 2010 2:34 PM

RE:SPICER WILLITS POST on aug 30 8:42 pm..1n 1953 "NATIVE DANCER" WAS A 3 YR OLD & "TOM FOOL" WAS A 4 YEAR OLD.THATS WHY they never met..oh for the yesteryear and yes i was there in person

01 Sep 2010 2:45 PM


There is danger every time a horse goes to the track. Look at what happened to Kantharos and it wasn't even in a race. Nashoba's Key broke her leg kicking the wall of her stall and had to be euthanized. Kona Gold found a way to fatally injure himself, in his paddock at the Kentucky Horse Park, after he'd been retired. I can go on and on.

Rachel is in no more danger of breaking down than an 8yr old gelding running in a $5,000. claiming race.

What I would not like to see is her running in another race beyond her capabilities. If she recovers nicely from her great effort in the PE, I don't think she should be retired, just yet. At her best distance, she can still make our hearts soar and that's what I want to see.

Remember also that there is no guarantee that her offsprings will have her talent. Very few champion mares have been dams of champions.

01 Sep 2010 2:49 PM
I. Davis

I think Ms. Rachel thought the race was over and she had won, having put away Life at Ten.  She's used to a 1 1/8 mile race, not 10 furlongs.  She was oblivious to Persistently coming up on the outside of her.  Calvin beating up on her did nothing to motivate her.  I recall Northern Dancer would almost come to a stop on the race track if a whip was used on him.  As I mentioned in other blogs before the race, if Rachel wants it, it's her's for the taking, and I really feel she must have thought the race was over when she blew by LAT.  I think it was a good race and one to build on for her.  Perhaps a jockey change, as Baffert had  done earlier in the year, might not be out of the question.  However, I wouldn't suggest that if she's running on BC Day at Churchill.....Borel rules at Churchill!  I feel badly for Jess Jackson and Steve for having suffered two tough blows this week...first Rachel's defeat on Sunday, and then their 2 yr old star suffering a career-ending injury. But you know what they say....when the going gets tough, get tough, get going!!  And I believe Jess and Steve will put this behind them and continue planning Rachel's run in the Breeder's Cup.........she's as good as Azeri, and will still give the boys and Z a run for their money...if she's come out of Sunday's race okay.  Rachel needs a huge send-off from Churchill Downs, her home track, and there's no better time to do it than BC Day!  Go Rachel!!

01 Sep 2010 2:52 PM
Barbara W

To those who have mentioned racing surfaces, I would say that if I'm not mistaken, Keeneland was among the first to jump to the artificial surface at great cost, and Santa Anita is planning on going back to dirt. So maybe some of this East Coast/ West Coast controversy will diminish.

I applaud the powers that be for trying to lessen injuries to the horses. Now if we could just figure out how to do that consistently.....

01 Sep 2010 2:55 PM
Bob Z

Interview starts at 2:00 minute mark.

You can tell by watching this interview that he definitely does not want to be answering these questions...

Not a "doe in the headlights" look but to my eye a look of "I'd rather be anywhere than here answering these questions"

"I'm trying to be polite but I can't wait for this to be over"...

Translation:  "Get me out of here"

This is clearly a guy who does not want to go off script and say what he really thinks...  everything is a calculated and measured response... sort of like the Presidents press secretary...

I agree with The Rock... this is a guy that has somebody breathing down his neck....

The Rock wrote:

"The talkin' to should go to Jess Jackson to let Steve Assmussen do his job without him breathing down his neck. This guy can't form an opinion of his own without getting approval from JJ."

01 Sep 2010 2:59 PM
Kevin L

One other thing, Horses do not break down because they are running hard or they would all break down. Horses break down in training, they break down leaving the gate, they are living creatures with frailities and you cannot protect them 100%. They are racehorses, it is what they do. I saw Penny Chenery's expression when a young woman asked her if ahe had ever rode Secretariat (HRTV)"of course not, he wasn't a pet". I do not advocate abusing animals but these creatures are bred to win races, and we can love the ability and heart they demonstrate, but at the end of the day they are not going to lick your cheek, lay in front of the fire in the den and let your two year old granddaughter pull it's tail. I am as guilty as the rest, I should have said that RA reached the goal her connections set for her. I doubt that the HOTY trophy means much to her.    

01 Sep 2010 3:00 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

To mararacing,

You must have missed one of my posts.  I did address Steve's comments about the "slow" final furlongs in the races at the Spa last weekend.

I think he was correct to bring them up.  Here's a short version of my take on those times.

1) Discreetly Mine won on the lead, but was weakening at 7 furlongs.  That's from the chart, not my opinion.  Taken with his other lifetime performances, keep him sprinting.  8 furlongs IN TOP COMPANY would be to his disadvantage.

2)  This year's 3 YO colt crop is significantly slower than last year's.  And unlike last year, there are no true 10 - 12 furlong horses in the bunch.

3)  Rachel is not a 10 furlong horse!  She came home slowest by far.

Horses were winning on the lead at Saratoga over the weekend.  Maybe the track was tiring, but I heard it said by at least two handicappers on TV that there was a speed bias.

Sunday's PE Stakes was the 2nd slowest since the distance was changed to 10 furlongs.  Rachel's finishing time was over a second slower than the average winning time.

As a comparison, Zenyatta's won her first 10 furlong race in world class company, coming home in 22 and change (almost identical to her finish in The Apple Blossom on dirt).  The final time in the 2009  BCC was 2:00.62.  Zenyatta was giving weight to a champion that is a true classic distance horse (Summer Bird) as well as all the other 3 YO colts and geldings in the race.  The older colts and geldings only carried 3 more pounds than Zenyatta.

That's how I see those numbers, and I think it was correct for Steve to bring them into the conversation.  Of course I brought Zen's numbers in, just because they stand in such stark contrast to what Rachel did in the PE.  Making up 20 lengths on a rested Zenyatta, on a surface which may very well prove to be her best, is a little too much to ask of Rachel don't you think?  She'll certainly face more pace pressure than what Life At Ten provided.  And her internal fractions in the PE were well within her lifetime averages that she's run in all of her best 9 furlong races.

I don't know if she's diving into her feed, if her eyes look bright, if she's busting down the stall and bouncing on the track.  If she is doing all that...GREAT.  If she is, I'd consider going to the BCLC.  If not, if she is dull, or listless, or off her feed or normal activity level, I would go ahead and retire her.  She's done quite enough, and apparently she's been in a stall for over a year without a turnout.  Give her a break.

01 Sep 2010 3:21 PM


I agree, there is no room for the hatred filled, profanity laced diatribes from people of both sides.

But what is the difference by how the New York crowd acted towards Sunday Silence's defeat and lost Triple Crown race at Belmont Park with the California crowd's cheering for the Persistently to beat Rachel Alexandra.

01 Sep 2010 3:22 PM

Why does Rachel need to be rushed off to the breeding shed?  She is only 4 years old.  She was 2nd in the Personal Ensign, so what.  She is not a loser.  

Further, I want to say I do not in any way mean to bash Calvin Borel or any jockey.  However, I must say it is the action of that constant whipping in the last part of the Personal Ensign that I deplore.  Have you ever experienced a hand raised to strike you?  Do you remember how you reacted and felt?

Last year, I witnessed a horse snapped with the crop at least 2 times in order to get him to load onto a van.  Its taken a year to get him to settle in with caring training and encouragement to relax and lose his extreme stress and nervousness to load willingly.  The snapping sound of the whip did more harm to this horse's anxiety to load on to a horse van.  

At least a year ago Jerry Bailey said he would like to see the crop banned from horse racing.  So would I.

01 Sep 2010 3:28 PM
Bill Daly

Barbara, I'm not a fan of Keeneland's surface either. Their dirt surface, however, was even more skewed to speed than Santa Anita's dirt surface.  Still, this isn't an east coast bias on my part; it's a dirt surface bias.

01 Sep 2010 3:33 PM

With the Breeders Cup races approaching, its really time to put this ridiculous "east bias/west bias" thing to bed. At the Cup it will be North America vs the Euro/Asians.  THAT will be the real "east vs west."  Lets just hope that our US and Canadian horses race and train well so that they are at their peak when they face the invaders from abroad.

01 Sep 2010 3:43 PM

I don't understand people wanting Calvin replaced. As far as I could tell, he didn't do anything wrong. The whip issue HAS been explained many times. Please read the comments before you condemn him. I know it looks awful but it is the type of crop that makes more noise than it inflicts pain.

Trying to rate Rachel has proven to be a huge mistake. If other  horses want to set suicidal fractions, she will rate, on her own, as she did in the Mother Goose. In the PE, she set the pace at a speed that is comfortable for her. The reins were loose. Calvin did not rush nor restrain her. She ran HER way, her beautiful free running way. Why must she excel at 1 1/4 miles for people to be happy?

I don't like the reports I read about the way she looked after the race. Was she asked for too much AGAIN? If so, that ISN'T Calvin's fault. He certainly doesn't plan her racing schedule. Calling for his losing the mount seems unwarranted to me.  

01 Sep 2010 3:55 PM

To Scott Jones:  Regarding Rachel's tongue, that is an interesting observation and it is common to her.  I went to see her the Thursday before the race as I learned from our local paper that Asmussen would be schooling her in the paddock that day.  They brought her in, and she was beautiful, of course, but she had her tongue hanging out the entire time they paraded her around.  And if you have seen any pictures/headshots of her, many of them show her with that big ol' tongue hanging out.  Don't know if it's just her, or a result of nerves, but I would sure like to ask Asmussen that question.  It gives her a slightly doofus look.  So it's not just when she races that she does that.

To Zookeeper:  why is it that  champion mares seldom breed champions?  Do you know?  Just curious.

01 Sep 2010 4:03 PM

Eugene Levey: lucky guy to have been there to see Native Dancer AND Tom Fool.  I thought I was old -- but lucky -- because I "watched" (albeit on TV or in the papers)the other Dancer and (the last part of) Kelso and Forego and Buckpasser and Dr. Fager and  Dark Mirage and Gallant Bloom and Shuvee and La Prevoyante.....  Ah, the good old days, when horses ran in races everywhere and 1 1/4 was not considered a marathon race.  Nevermind.

(BTW, if you lost a vowel in your last name, I would be asking you how the SCTV guys are doing.  Weren't you a Schmenge Brother?)

01 Sep 2010 4:27 PM

For all of you knocking JJ for not being there, he's almost 81 years old for cryin' out loud...cut the man some slack. I hope I'm as invested in life and involved in as much as he is when I'm that age. Self-made man with an awesome eye for a horse and a love of the game that put Curlin and Rachel in the tough races that many would have ducked and for a lot longer than almost everyone in acing.

There's lots and lots of owners and trainers who do not show up for every big race...some of them people most of you idolize.

01 Sep 2010 5:21 PM

I think Rachel would like a new job.

Just from watching her, I do not feel her heart is in racing anymore.  I haven't for a long time now.

She does not have to be a broodmare, she could have a dressage career, jumping, trail riding, this is a great mare, she may just need a change, maybe a polo pony!

Just a feeling....

01 Sep 2010 5:25 PM

I am at a loss to understand why anyone would "cheer" or even be "happy" at the less-than-winning performance of any racehorse. Without question, horses are simply the best part of the business hands down.

As for Rachel, I agree with you that there may be an underlying physical problem. I also believe it may be mental. I agree with the poster "Alex" and think that last year took it out of her, period. A friend, who was there, described her as exhausted.

With Zenyatta it is so easy to see that she loves what she does. That, no one can deny, but with Rachel, it is harder to tell.

I have never liked the hot summer meets, and I don't like the figure eight for some horses. Rachel's people seemed to have resolved the head pull to the outside, but all at the expense of stamina. Even more, would you want to be messed with so much after giving your all the year before?

So what is left? What more can we ask of a horse like Rachel who has left it all on the track and still gives all she has?

How about giving her a figurative

break? Without a doubt she is a horse who certainly deserves one.

01 Sep 2010 5:29 PM
Jim C.


Good News.  At the request of the Mosses and John Shirreffs, Oak Tree annouced Wednesday that Zenyatta's next race will be called the Lady's Secret Stakes.

And here you had thought that John Shirrefs was too "grounded" to be concerned over the name of the race.

01 Sep 2010 5:35 PM

Hey, Steve, I posted a comment about the whips etc the other day and it was not posted. I'm not a hasty person so, I don't understand why I wasn't posted???

I've read every post and I see no bashing at all.  Just concern over Rach's well-being.

I can't believe that a newspaper would print such non-sense!!!!  I'm a die hard Zen fan but, I love and respect Rach too.  How can you not?  I love all horses, it doesn't matter what they do, what their job is, I just love them!!!  And for someone(journalist) to say that Zen fans were chearing over Rach's defeat is crazy!!!  That person needs to put their pencil away!  I was chearing for Rach all the way but, she just stopped!!!  Like she hit a brick wall.  Was that because of Calvin whipping and beating on her or was it due to the distance??  I think it was both.  JJ please, get a new trainer and a new Jock for Rach's sake!  If not, retire her before her fate is that of Eight Belles or your new Star, Kantharos!!

BTW., I hope he's ok and comes out safe!!!  No Laminitas please!!!

01 Sep 2010 5:59 PM
robin of michigan

name me one horse of the year horse who has won every single race of their career, and i guarantee you, that you'll never name me one. and name me one horse of the year, who has retired after losing the year after their horse of the year reign, just because of the fact that they lost races? i guarantee you this much that those people who disrespect rachel alexandra because she came in second three out of the last 5 races of her four year old season would not be able to name me any. so, please knock it off with this retire rachel thing, just because she lost. that just goes and shows you that some of the zenyatta people, are just pathetic losers, who can't handle losing. and besides that, rachel is not doing that badly. three seconds, and all second place finishes were only from 1 1/4 lenths behind, and less. not bad. so hush it zenyatta fans!

01 Sep 2010 6:09 PM

well said Steve, well said.  I appreciate your common sense approach.  I adore Rachel and in no way is she ready for retirement.  It's not like she's been finishing up the track in her races.  Maybe she can't put together the form that she showed last year.  Maybe no filly will ever match that again.  It was an unbelievable season, and I believe that she has more to give.  We are all blessed to have seen her season last year.

Can anyone tell me what 1/4 inch bend shoes are?  Rachel and another horse in the race had them on, and I'd like to know what for.

01 Sep 2010 6:15 PM

Right on Steve,

I completely agree with this column.  I am making plans to attend the Beldame because as I told my wife, they will probably only run this horse 1 or 2 more times.  Last year she was crazy good....some people don't believe it....but I know it to be true.  Those last 5 tour de force races won't happen by a 3 year old filly again.  Watch the replay of her Haskell again....tell me that is not one of the most impressive races in the last 20 years?  

This horse isn't done yet....I would love nothing else for her to show up in the gate at whatever race they decide at the Breeders Cup and she makes them all look stupid.  Greatness doesn't go may take a hiatus...but it is still within her....Watch out haters....she's not done yet!

01 Sep 2010 7:42 PM
Mike Relva


Now,you're lumping every Zenyatta fan into the same box. No way!

01 Sep 2010 8:36 PM
Mike Relva


Do you really think that everyone in CA(Zenyatta fans) cheered for RA to lose? I don't.

01 Sep 2010 8:40 PM


I also remember in 1969 the California horse Majestic Prince was undefeated and just won the Derby and Preakness, but had sustained a  injury.

The trainer, Johnny Longden, said "the Prince" could not run in the Belmont but after a lot of pressure from the east coast media gave in let "the Prince" run.

Despite his injury, he finished a gallant second to the New York horse Arts and Letters whom received such a hero's welcome in the winner's circle that it was compared to the ticker tape parade the astronauts received when they came back from the moon.

Nobody in the New York crowd that day at Belmont Park even noticed or cared that Majestic Prince was hobbling off the track never to race again.

Nobody brought it up. Nobody called them out on it.

Now, how does that stack up with the cheering some fans at Del Mar had when Persistently passed Rachel Alexandra.

01 Sep 2010 8:45 PM

robin of michigan,

What gave you the impression that only Zenyatta's fans are calling for Rachel's retirement? Many, many fans of the great mare are also fans of the great filly and do not want to see her retired either. Haven't you noticed?

"Pathetic sore losers" doesn't quite fit the profile of a Zen fan.


I wish I knew why. It seems that it should be part of the bundle of genes that they pass on. However, the foal carries genes of many, many horses and brilliance may not be a dominant one. The racing gods decide who gets what and us, poor  humans, cannot figure it out.  :)

01 Sep 2010 8:57 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Good one, but you know bloggers, if he was 110 years old, someone would want his head on a plate.

John C. - John Shirreffs listens to Steve Haskin too, well about the Racing Gods anyway. That is nothing to mess around with. Glad they got the name corrected. All is well now. On course for a win in the Lady's Secret, then The Classic.

01 Sep 2010 9:07 PM

RachelAlex: "Why don't champion mares produce champion foals?"

The mystery of genetics and the unknown "something extra".  If it was as simple as recreating a recipe, then Barbaro's full siblings (same dam, same sire) should be as successful/talented as he was.  They're not.  Champion stallions don't always make champion babies, either. The difference is that stallions can sire over a hundred foals a year and a small fraction of those might ultimately be successful.  On the other hand, mares can  produce only one foal per year (and sometimes none at all). Odds are not all, if any, will achieve a similar level of success.

Robin of Michigan: question for you. If RA was winning her races, but clearly hating racing, would you feel the same way? You're right that there is no shame in her record this year and if she still loves it, then by all means, keep racing her. But if she's just going through the motions and not enjoying it, hasn't she earned the right to just go be a horse in a pasture?

01 Sep 2010 9:29 PM

Suggesting that it might be time to retire Rachel doesn't automatically make us "haters".  I've owned & been around horses a very long time; it IS possible to read their body language and demeanors. To some of us, it appears that Rachel is not enjoying racing any longer. It seems to me the antithesis of "hating" to want Rachel to be given what it appears she wants.

01 Sep 2010 9:33 PM
Pedigree Shelly

 Rachel Alex - I totally agree with you about RA's legacy ! I love RA and don't want to see her hurt, just so someone can prove a point ! HOY and a Classic winner is enough ! I want to see her have a safe and happy future ! She's done her part in racing :)

01 Sep 2010 9:52 PM
Spicer Willits


Wasn't(pardon if my memory is hazy) there was supposed to be a match race (in the Sysonby Mile?) between ND and TF, but the Dancer wasn't feeling well and they couldn't make it work. Would have been a heck of contest, though.

I'm with you MZ - Winn Elliot and the Race of the Week in the early sixties. I guess too many of us old fogies keep looking for what's never coming back again.

That's what great about Steve's point of view: we have to enjoy what we have now. And a lot of the time it's pretty darn good!

01 Sep 2010 9:53 PM

I like the way you think, Steve. And I've loved Rachel for a very long time. She's been such a boom for this sport and what she accomplished last year is nonpareil. Whatever happens from here on out, I hope it's for Rachel's best.

She's given us so much, and I hope she'll go out in a blaze of glory, in whatever race she ultimately contends. And if it doesn't work out, I'll love her just as much anyway.

01 Sep 2010 11:02 PM

All the Rachel or Zenyatta-bashing by the opposite camps sort of amuses me (if it wasn't such a sad reflection on the rise of poor sportsmanship). I doubt if the ladies in question would give a d--n about any of it. Put 'em out in a paddock together and like as not, you'd find them standing heads-and-tails,switching flies off each other like any other sensible horses. Can't we have competition and challenges without so much petty and childish bickering? Yeah, I'm a Rachel fan (who's old enough to have seen so many of the horses both fillies have been compared to) but I don't have any intentions of slamming Zenyatta or the Mosses or John Shirreffs either. Cheering for the team of choice does NOT mean booing the opposition. Let's show at least half the class of these noble horses. Cheer for the winner, no matter which one you love. Thanks for the column, Steve. Nice to hear the voice of common sense, thoughtful opinion and true love for the sport.

01 Sep 2010 11:05 PM

Steve and Dr. Drunkinbum - Thank you for setting me straight about the whip and Calvin.  I had no idea that the whips had been modified.  Also, Dr. D - your post of 31 Aug. 9:20pm said everything perfectly!  Thank you.

01 Sep 2010 11:10 PM

I'm sure absolutely sure NO ONE was cheering ANYWHERE when tough little St. Trinian's looked like she was going to pull the upset against Zenyatta in the Vanity (I'm sure it would have been reported had it occurred!).   Do you think Z fans should take it as personal vendetta against their queen if there was?

No one's allowed to cheer a hard trying long shot home anymore? Isn't that what usually happens when the underdog pulls off an unexpected win (except on the 'home field'), in any sport, let alone at 20-1 in a horse race?  And isn't it  louder if it's 30-1, and even louder if it's 50-1?  Anyone not cheering for the favorite is maliciously dancing on the broken hearts of the favorites fans?  

Just because you get excited for a winner doesn't mean you're cheering against the loser.  Was everyone who couldn't help themselves from yelling 'GO AWESOME GEM!' when Awesome Gem caught Rail Trip in the Hollywood Gold Cup cheering because Rail Trip lost? Even those who had Rail Trip singled on their pick 6 - huge California fans who love Rail Trip and are now mourning his loss to the east coast but couldn't help but get excited for the other gelding (or is he in this special class of horse I'm now learning about, the ones that can be cheered for?)

Maybe there were some cheering a loss at Del Mar, but don't ascribe it to everyone.  It's a pretty sad world when no one can imagine Persistently getting any cheers just for her own effort.  

I can imagine Rachel Alexandra fans were heartbroken on Sunday.  I haven't felt so sorry for a horses loss since I was little kid and cried for Alydar when he lost the Belmont.  

My dream is that Rachel comes out of the Personal Ensign fine, is NOT RETIRED, wins the Beldame and then wins the Distaff at the BC.  Z wins the Lady's Secret and wins the Classic.  Everyones cheers them both home because they're winners and we get to be glad for them both and the sorry state of the rivalry is over.  I will be there and hope it happens.  

But let's say Rail Trip doesn't load in the gate and Blame beats Zenyatta in the Classic and it's reported there's some cheering in New York, I'll get over it, cause he's a nice horse and winners get to get cheered for.  

01 Sep 2010 11:33 PM

Agree with you Steve the reporting of fans cheering her loss was disapointing, to say the least. As a "west coaster" myself, I have not personally felt the bias towards either filly, love them both, win or lose. The argument regarding 2009 is old and tired--the reality is that the award is Horse of the YEAR, not horse of the DAY, or of one race. If Zenyatta had left her home track to face outside competition last year, she likely would have won the award--but she didn't, while Rachel faced competition against males, older horses, and different tracks multiple times, not just once, thus making her horse of the year overall. 2010, obviously different story. Zenyatta has now at least left the state, and if she can win the big one outside of her home base, then by all means, the 2010 award is hers. Unfortunately, if she loses the classic to another major multiple '10 stakes winner, such as QR, Blame, of LAL, she will likely lose HOY again, as the rest of her year was again sheltered at home aside from the Apple Blossom. Honestly though, most fans don't even care about such arguments--they are both great horses, and it has been a blessing to have them both, regardless of how their respective careers finish out. Both will go down in the Hall of Fame, and will have provided us with many great memories--on both the west and east coast!!

01 Sep 2010 11:53 PM

I just now read this comment by Steve Haskin(trying to keep up with this blog is impossible! So many posts, so little time) -  

Steve Haskin said:

I find this item in the North County Times pretty revolting. Makes me feel like a jerk for defending California fans and their love of Zenyatta in a recent blog....

"Fans gave a hearty cheer when Rachel Alexandra was beaten in Sunday's Personal Ensign at Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Rachel Alexandra was caught in the final strides by Persistently. Zenyatta's West Coast fans relish any time the defending horse of the year, Rachel Alexandra, loses. Zenyatta finished second in horse of the year voting last year."

Steve - do NOT feel like a jerk. The jerk is the person who wrote that article. I am a "West Coast Zenyatta fan". Dammit, why can't all of this east coast/west coast Rachel vs. Zenyatta bickering stop! Please don't think all west coast fans "relish" Rachel losing! Yes, there are some Rachel haters and I'm guessing just as many Zenyatta haters so it balances out (not that it makes it right), so let's stop giving them any attention they don't deserve. Ugh! I'm so sick of it. I kind of wish you wouldn't have even posted that piece (or, at the very least, I wish I hadn't have read it), but I for one am glad you defended us West Cost Zenyatta fans. Anyway, this blog is about Rachel's Personal Ensign race, not Zenyatta. And, last year is done. Time to move on.

02 Sep 2010 12:27 AM
robin of michigan

fren o.

i don't understand what your talking about with butterfly belle. she was born in 1912, and that was before russel braze's time.

02 Sep 2010 1:11 AM

It looks like Zenyatta will be in the Classic, I don't know where Rachel will end up.  I'm a big Zen fan but I hope that Rachel doesn't end up in the Classic too.  If she couldn't hold off Persistently at a mile and a quarter, think what Blame and Zen will do to her.  And QR will be messing with her early.  But I just thought of something.  Both Rachel and Zen will surely retire after November.  We will never see them in the same starting gate, BUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT, maybe, just maybe we will get to see  Baby Rachel vs Baby Zenyatta some time 2 or 3 years from now.  Let's face it, their offspring will be followed closely by their fans and the media.  The match up COULD happen after all.  Just a thought.

02 Sep 2010 4:37 AM

You echo what I've been screaming about Zenyatta - there are no "easy" wins.

02 Sep 2010 5:29 AM
Let It Ride Mike

The North Cty Times writer might have tried to ascertain what percentage of those cheering where actually playing the race. The percentage of folks willing to take a stand at the windows against RA was probably many times higher in CA than NY, and anyone hitting a 20-1 shot over a 2/5 shot deserves to yell as loud as they like, imo

02 Sep 2010 9:35 AM

First to Bill Daily:  "Why can't we all just get along?" is from Rev. Martin Luther King not Rodney King who was pulverized by the LAPD, which led to the 1992 LA riots when the LAPD officers went unpunished.

To whoever said people were just being politically correct by saying they love both RA and Zen...razzberries to you!  I've been a racing fan for 57 years and I can tell you honestly I have never hated any horse.  I have loved some more than others, but I always admired and respected their rivals.  That's the thing about horse don't HAVE to pick just one horse to love.  Why are there so many exactas and trifectas?  You just spout nonsense.

Distance limitations show up with a horse who bursts out of the gate, runs early scorching fractions, then starts to tire after a certain distance.  They're sprinters.  Once in a several decades you will find a horse who can do that and then go the distance. (10f-12f) Secretariat and Seattle Slew come to mind.    The speed of Rachel coming out of the gate is spectacular...but those amazing fractions are extremely hard to maintain over a classic distance.  Watch UK racing.  Sea the Stars was arguably the best horse in the world last year.  His early fractions were dawdling as he gawked around like a tourist in NYC for the first time.  In the final stretch however, He put his head down, and moved like a bullet because he had preserved his energy for the final surge.  Rachel has never saved anything;  she lays it all down when she starts to run...right from the gate.  Zenyatta is sort of lazy; it takes her about a mile to get into her famously long stride, and when she does...shes a locomotive in the final stretch...a distance horse.

To those who say Rachel has lost heart...please watch the PE again.  She's all heart, and never stopped trying until the distance took it's toll.  She left a lot of herself out there on the track; she wouldn't have been beaten at 9f.

And to fans who choose to hate...I can only're not really just like the sound of your own voice. and know nothing about horses or horse racing.

Finally, it is a shame we have to lose Kantharos, a shining star in the 2 year old world...but watch out for the filly Fancy Point.  She's the daughter of Point Given and a Rahy mare.  She was absolutely fabulous at the Spa in a stakes race yesterday, and she just may prove to be a star by next year.  

02 Sep 2010 9:36 AM

PS:  I was bothered that Zen would be running in a race named for just didn't seem to be conducive to good luck.  

Take heart Steve...It will once again be returned to the domain of Lady's Secret as the race will be called once again so Zen may safely walk into the gate without disrupting the "fickle finger of fate".

02 Sep 2010 9:46 AM

I have been a Rachel fan since last year's successful campaign against the males. Even then, there were signs that she was close to hitting a wall. One example was that she stayed out of the Belmont which could have ruined her, the way the Belmont took Winning Colors to task. There were also the few races where she was fully extended, and the comments that maybe longer distances were not her style. That said, many champions are able to win at any distance over any surface. Then there are sprinters, who run a particular type of race very well. Rachel's connections clearly know her limits and in a sense cherry picked the best races for her. However, she still had to perform, and she did.

This year, Rachel came off a 5 month layoff to do respectably well, and if pointed to lesser graded stakes, can still win. She just isn't the same Rachel of last year. Even Arazi and Secretariat had off days, though Arazi's situation was more medically induced (surgery) than Secretariat, who bounced a few times against horses who peaked as he troughed.

The one filly who probably could beat the males is Blind Luck, and I feel more wistful about that possibility than the debate about Rachel, who has not exactly flamed out. Even in 2nd place she could still beat most fillies and colts her age.

02 Sep 2010 10:00 AM

The Lady's Secret Stakes was already run at Monmouth! ;-)

I think the filly's name that won it was...wait for it...LOL!!!

02 Sep 2010 11:44 AM

Rachel should've ran in the Woodward again instead of the PE. I think she could've won. The field she beat last year was tougher than this years is going to be. Quality Road lost the Whitney, Rachel already beat Mine That Bird when he was at his peak, and the rest are all allowance runners.

02 Sep 2010 1:52 PM

Thank you, Mr. Haskin, for this blog. I stand behind Rachel 100%. That campaign she put together last year was so brilliant that it will always be a bright and amazing spot in the history of Thoroughbred racing. I was fortunate too to attend her Preakness and watch her make history in winning it and it was incredible to witness; to know I was part of that in some small way. Even before she kind of slid a little this year (which all along I've thought to be due to questionable management), there were so many people knocking her and I couldn't understand why. I am not sure why there's a Zenyatta camp/Rachel camp mentality, and why there seems to be such an overwhelming bias against Rachel by the Zenyatta camp. I love both of them and feel fortunate to have personally seen them both in action and feel it's great for racing to have two such amazing female horses running right now. I am in awe of Zenyatta for sure, and it was so emotional to see her win the Classic last year.

There is no comparison between them to me, even aside from the fact that they've never met. They've both excelled in different ways, and that's enough for me to have witnessed them both do it.

Thanks again for the little "nudge" about appreciation for Rachel. I've always thought there's room to be a fan of her and Zenyatta.

02 Sep 2010 2:10 PM

One more thing... I too have felt for a while that they're not going to run Rachel past this year. Too bad they didn't do a little better by her this year. But win or lose, she's always going to be special to me. I'd like to see her run again too but if she stays in New York and doesn't come to the Breeders' Cup that won't happen.

But I saw her race 3 times; the last time in the Preakness, so that's a great way to personally remember her race career.

I still hope to see her at the Breeders' Cup though, just for one last "reunion" - even if it's in the Ladies' Classic, because I do have to agree she's not ready for the Classic. I'd still like to see her on racing's biggest stage (besides the Triple Crown) if they could just get her set up right for it. Maybe it's too late for that though...

I guess we'll see.

02 Sep 2010 2:14 PM


Thanks for mentioning the Calvin-bashing. Everyone's entitled to their opinions, but people who blame the jockey or the trainer for a horse losing, as if it's a cinch to ride or train a horse, any horse, let alone one like Rachel Alexandra, needs to t-h-i-n-k about what they're saying. Someone made a comment on another message board about how "you or I could have ridden Rachel Alexandra last year" (blaming Calvin for his ride) Uh, guess what? NO WE COULDN'T! If it was that easy to ride a race horse, do you think anyone would do it? I doubt it because each time these guys go out they put their lives on the line. I believe what you say about Calvin caring about Rachel Alexandra and how he would be hurt knowing what mindless people say about him without knowing what goes on. Thanks for posting that tid bit!

02 Sep 2010 2:23 PM
My Juliet

   As long as Rachel A is healthy and sound and wants to run, it would be a mistake to retire her. She finished 2nd three times this yr while carrying top weight. The first 2 races Steve said she wasn't at 100% fitness from the needed months-long layoff. I think the P.E. simply proved the mile 1/4 was not her best distance, it didn't prove she can't win a Gr1 race any longer. I do think for Rachel's sake and her many fans, we need to look at her as who she is now, leaving 2009 in the past. As Steve said, it was unrealistic to ever expect any horse to come back to repeat that king of year.

    I adore this filly. It's been great to read all the comments on here by those who feel the same way. When I saw her for the Lady's Secret, I thought she looked great in the paddock. Her demeanor seemed game-on, professional, and all-busines as usual. If it is true as others have posted, that her heart isn't in racing, then of course Jess should make the right choice regarding that. I hope she is rested now until hopefully the BC Ladies Classic.  

02 Sep 2010 4:08 PM

Thank you Steve, for a wonderful article (as usual) and thank you everyone else, for well an interesting hour of reading!  After reading everyone’s comments, I was struck by something, there is a big difference between being a horse person and a horse racing fan.  Being both, I’ve always assumed they were more intertwined than they are, and wow, I assumed wrong.  First, I have to say there is nothing wrong with being a casual horse racing fan, of course not!  However, the more I read about the people who continually trash Calvin Borel for his race riding on Sunday, the more upsetting it is.  I have to wonder how many people who comment and drag him through the mud have ever been to the track, or even watched an hour of TVG.  Calvin was not abusing Rachel; it’s insane to accuse him of doing anything other than riding a fair race according to industry standards.  Is it right that jockeys are allowed to carry whips and use them within reason?  Maybe so, maybe not.  However, Calvin isn’t the only jockey hitting his horse in this race or any other race.  If you want to change something, get on a computer, look up the governing body of horse racing and write them a letter.  Don’t get on a computer and trash someone for riding the same race as everyone else.  It is unfair to hold Calvin to a different standard than everyone else just because he rides Rachel.  

In response to Rachel being retired, why would anyone want to retire her?  She is still a top race horse!  Just for fun, I went back and looked up Derby winners that I can remember, being young some of you might laugh since I’m missing a lot of greats but I’m not going to comment on a horse I haven’t seen run. Since 1992, here are the horses I think most racing fans, causal or not, would remember.  In no particular order: Curlin, Skip Away, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Point Given, Silver Charm, Empire Maker, Big Brown, Holy Bull, Lawyer Ron, Summer Bird, and Serena’s Song.  There is no doubt that these horses were brilliant.  But none of them were undefeated and most of them had one or multiple “bad” defeats.  They lost races they were not supposed to lose and they got tired in the stretch at 1 ¼ miles, and many times at shorter distances.  An even better example is Gio Ponti this year.  He has lost quite a few in a row now but he is still a great horse.  Rachel was not good last year.  She was not great last year.  Rachel was extraordinary and I doubt we will see many, if any fillies again who accomplish what she did.  It is a shame that she will always be compared to Zenyatta and that Zenyatta will always be compared to her.  At the end of the day, if you look at a three year span, Zenyatta can’t be touched; no one has ever done what she has.  But if you look at one season, Rachel was something you can’t match.  We all had great expectations, however she is just like most of our other great champions, she has bad days and she doesn’t win every race.  I hope we see her in the Breeders Cup this year, I think she will give a fight in the Classic if they go that route.  I hope we see her run next year.  I just don’t think we are seeing a disgraced Champion this year.  

02 Sep 2010 4:44 PM

Again, for anyone.

What is the difference between 67,000 screaming, joyous, happy,  hugging fans at Belmont Park in New York after New York's Easy Goer spoiled California's Sunday Silence's bid to become a rare and precious Triple Crown Champion, or the crowd cheering wildly for New York's Art and Letters when he beat the injured Majestic Prince, denying him the coveted Triple Crown and being lead of the track injured and never to race again, with some fans at Del Mar cheering for Persistently to beat Rachel Alexandra.

Please, anyone?

02 Sep 2010 4:51 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Thanks. I understood where you were coming from on the whip. Visually it looked terrible. It looked so bad that I knew it had to be one of those new fangled contraptions. And there is nothing wrong with anyone rooting for the underdog but I was cheering for Rachel to win because she ran her heart out and I was hoping she could hang on. Often I root for big longshots simply because they are big longshots. Even though I like Quality Road I will be rooting for Mine That Bird on Saturday. He won't be a huge longshot but has been much maligned. I'd like him to prove that he wasn't an abberation. He was brilliant in The Derby and deserves recognition for it, and his entire Triple Crown. Coincidentally Calvin was taken off of him for The Woodward. Sometimes they just want to try something different and Maragh has been training with him. I'm a big fan of Calvin's, I don't know how you can't be but I like the change because it's a change.

02 Sep 2010 6:00 PM

To all my blogging buddies,

Runflatout is entered in Race 3 at Del Mar, this coming Sunday. He drew post 1 (Grrr!) in a field of 8. Bejarano is the jockey. I'm waiting for the PPs to come out to see if he even has a chance to hit the board. With that post, I'm even less hopeful for a win but if he runs well, I'll be very happy no matter the order of finish. Can't wait! And of course, my fingers are now wrapped around each other. LOL!

02 Sep 2010 6:03 PM
Jim C.


I do not think you ever answered this question: do you think Rachel Alexandra has the current form to finish ahead of Blind Luck?  Or Evening Jewel?  If so, based on what?

It seems to me that this is the most important question to be addressed right now.

02 Sep 2010 6:46 PM


In both cases that happened in NY, it is provincial partisanship. It's our horse is better than yours. They are not so much cheering "the loss" as they are cheering "the win" of their OWN equine athlete.

In the case of the Californians cheering the result of the PE, I doubt very much that any of them are great fans of Persistently or that the majority of them had good money on the winner. Sadly, I think these misguided souls were cheering the loss, not applauding the win.

Speaking of misguided souls, I'm reminded of the NY crowd booing Birdstone who had denied Smarty his (in their mind) rightful place as a Triple Crown winner. Obviously, the good people of NY care a great deal more about the TC if one of their own is up for it. When a California horse has a chance to accomplish the feat, they revert back to their provincial attitude that our horse is better than yours.

For people who appreciate all horses, that mentality is puzzling and being confronted with the pettiness of human beings is downright embarassing.

As a Californian and a dedicated Zen fan, I'm ashamed of the behavior described in the article or exhibited by some people at Del Mar. As a human being, I'm far more ashamed of the awful things humans do, that are far worse than the partisanship of some rabid fans.

Those are my thoughts on the subject. Hope you're not sorry you asked.  :)

P.S. I'm a Californian but I didn't not cheer at the sight of courageous Rachel coming in 2nd. I was also very sad for Life at Ten and happy for Persistently and her connections. How's that for mixed emotions? LOL!

02 Sep 2010 7:43 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Baffert's horse Prayer For Relief looks good. Too bad about post one, hopefully he can get him away from the rail. Of course he has a chance. Good luck, have fun !!! I say he hits the board. I'm betting the farm on him to show.

02 Sep 2010 7:59 PM
Matthew W

Rachel Alexandra was HOY last year--Lady's Secret won HOY, too--neither was at their best at 1 1/4, they were both (deserving) HOY's because they had the bestest seasons--I don't need to see her in the Classic--don't want to see her in the Classic--she's all class, no doubt--maybe if it's muddy but I hope not--stay vs fillies, she has already proven her mettle, she's one helluva filly!

02 Sep 2010 8:48 PM


Good luck to you Pal.  may Runflatout do just that from the one hole and come home safe.  You're a good sport indeed.  You should name your next one "Jollygoodfellow" 'cause that's what you are.

02 Sep 2010 8:55 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  You have Grade One class. Hopefully your little fella will follow in your footsteps. Go Runflatout Go !!! Both of you have a safe trip. I hope shipping to DM is good to you.

02 Sep 2010 9:55 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

One always has to respect a Baffert horse. Another one that has me worried is Channel Surf. In fact, they all scare me. One thing I'm grateful for is that Uncle Mo is safely tucked away at Saratoga.

If you promise not to bet the farm, I promise to have fun. OK? Thanks for your unfailing support.


Thank you so much for your kind words. "Jollygoodfellow"? Good name! Why does it remind me of Dr D.?

02 Sep 2010 10:22 PM

Excellent article, Steve. This puts you right behind Bill Nack as my favorite writer!

02 Sep 2010 10:34 PM
Steve Haskin

Jim C., my answer is yes, because I think she's a better filly and an older filly. If she can finish 10 lengths ahead of Life At Ten she can beat the 3-year-olds. Would it shock me if they beat her? No. But if Rachel returns to even close to last year's form, she's a better filly.

02 Sep 2010 11:46 PM

With regards to people cheering the loss of Rachel the sad reality is that every sport has bad fans like that. NASCAR has it's Gordon haters who take delight every time Jeff wrecks in the wall and I don't even want to get into the craziness that has occurred during some international soccer matches. The bottom line is you only need worry about your own behavior as a fan and exhibit class no matter what the outcome of the event.

03 Sep 2010 9:23 AM

Mr. Haskin,

I agree. At her best distance, Rachel has the advantage over 3yr old fillies, even Blind Luck and Evening Jewel. If all is well with her and she runs in the BC Ladies Classic, it will be a race to remember. As much as I like the other fillies, I want Rachel to finish this year in a blaze of glory.

03 Sep 2010 11:13 AM

Dr. Drunkinbum,

Thanks for your response and under-standing of my ignorance about the new whip.  I wanted Rachel to win and I prayed that she would, but I just had an overwhelming premonition about it every time I read an update on her training.  Where these premonitions come from I don't know, but they have unfortunately at times rung true.  Without a doubt she will win again and I think Raj is a very good jockey and the change will do her good.  Perhaps a complacency between her and CB set in - who knows.  I think Calvin is a very good rider and that he truly loves her, but sometimes certain subtle dynamics can change without being noticed and a new rider will refill the glass so to speak.

As to Quality Road and Mine that Bird, I love them both and cannot choose between them - given the weather, who ever is most fit and in the mood to run their legs off will win.  For some inexplicable reason I feel that Mine That Bird still has a physical issue with his throat or something related to it - another premonition!  I would to love to see him win, because I think he is great little game horse!  I feel he should have remained with Chip W. so, he could to get to the bottom of what is wrong and then find the best solution to return him to his winning ways.  He ran very good races even coming in second and third to tough horses like himself.

03 Sep 2010 12:20 PM

Steve, I reread your article and you make some great points..points worth mulling over.  The fact that Rachel has not been able to come back as a 4 yr. old in the same form as her 3 yr. old year, is not that uncommon and nothing will erase what she did last year... one grueling win after another.  Anyone who questions her HOY award just needs to really rethink their biases.  Anyone who is intent on disrespecting her as she clearly struggles this year is just living at the bottom of a very dark pond.  I have a couple of questions that may never really get answered:  why the long layoff? what happened?  ...and does she want to run; does she still love the game?  I've read over and over that for a filly, in particular, it's rare to be able to maintain their 3 yr. old form going forward as a 4 yr. old.  Given that this has not been even close to the grueling year she had last year,  why not keep her in training, work on her form, continue conditioning her, get into her head and get her happy, find the distance that is totally right for her, and see if she can grow and mature some more and come back as a 5 year old with a new kind of ability?  See if she wants to.  If she does, there is plenty of time to go to the breeding barn.  She may be totally done with racing and leaving her guts on the track.  She may well have given most of it up as a 3 yr. old.  But if not, why not just wrap up this year of racing and work towards next year.  Clearly she has stuggled this year. Just because, and perhaps because of, her HOY title, nothing says she has to show up at the same level this year.  She lives and breathes and changes.  We all do.  Something happened...who knows what...but the questions for me that remain are: "does she want to race", and "who can she become yet".  We're all so used to letting these colts and fillies go to the breeding shed when they are 3 or 4 yrs. old. Why?  Perhaps we've missed some of their best talent by doing so.  And beyond that, I think so highly of this filly, if she has it and if she wants to, I'd love to see her big kick again as she hits the stretch.

03 Sep 2010 12:21 PM

Rachel alexandra should go in the lady's secret its at 1 1/16.

they have nothing to lose.

Zenyatta would still win.

03 Sep 2010 12:41 PM

Calvin Borel said Rachel got outrun at the end, that the acceleration wasn't there. Seemed pretty obvious that the speed duel between RA and LAT took too much out of her and didn't leave enough in reserve for her to finish strongly. Put her back in a 1 and 1/8 furlong race and get her to sit off the pace and I'll bet she'll show she still has her high cruising speed at the end. I did notice that her stride doesn't seem to have the same effortless extension as it had last year, so she is not covering as much ground per per leap. Still a pleasure to watch her run, though. She's a beauty.

03 Sep 2010 2:37 PM
Gary at Rough Creek


Thanks for your well reasoned and well presented arguments.  I think what your remarks lack though are an inclusion of examples of good to great race horses that were ruined by improper training or by repeatedly asking them to do too much.

The horses you named, mostly colts, were proven at the classic distance of 10 furlongs.  No they didn't win every time, but they weren't being pushed past their biomechanically defined limits over and over again.

Rags to Riches held off Curlin in a tremendous stretch drive and won The Belmont Stakes...and she never won again.  St. Trinians ran her heart out this year against Zenyatta, and she has to take many months off to recover!

My experiences around horses and trainers makes me most concerned about fast fillies who run either on the lead or right off the pace.  Psychologically, they seem more likely to run their hearts out, and to even try so hard as to get hurt trying to stay in the lead.  And as any good horseman knows, asking a horse to do too much is how many injuries occur, especially when the horse has tremendous grit and determination to win.

Rachel is obviously best at no farther than 9 furlongs.  Further "conditioning" probably won't change's not like she isn't in shape.  

So, if she is healthy and happy, and wants to all means keep her at the track.  But why ask her to go 10 furlongs?  But remember too, Rachel hasn't been out of a stall for over a year.  She was not turned out while she was off from training this past winter.  Why, I don't know, but that in and of itself can be hard on a horse.

The best reasons to keep her in training or to retire her are known only to her connections.  But if she is sour for any reason, the decision on her future should be predicated on what's best for her...not what we want...and not what worked for tough colts in the past.  

03 Sep 2010 2:51 PM

Steve, I tried to read everything before posting but didn't have time.  Wow!  What a load of comments. It just shows how deeply affected we all are by these two fillies.  Your article was very balanced, fair and made excellent points, as always a joy to read.  On the whole the response has been praise for both girls.  There are actually very few negative comments and I find that very refreshing and revealing.  You bring out the best reactions in most people because of the very words you write.  But, Steve, I think you had a sort of melt-down, knee-jerk reaction to that silly newspaper story.  There will always be a few jerks in the crowd.  The only way to avoid that is to get rid of the people and allow only horses at the races.  So really, I'm impressed, as always, not only with the quality of your article but the quality of the responses to it.  GO RACHEL and ZEN!  Love them both!

03 Sep 2010 2:59 PM

Best of luck Zookeeper with your lil man. Do you have any pics of him/her?  I'll be looking to check 'em out and root for you!!!

03 Sep 2010 3:22 PM
My Juliet

   My post from yesterday incl. the name Steve twice; I wanted to clarify it was first the trainer Steve, then Steve Haskin(agreeing with his comment).

   Prepster, I think you are right-on re your comment @Rachel still being a top-level horse.

   John, as Zookeeper said, the people mentn'd were most likely cheering a horses' loss. That's what makes it wrong. Re the cheering when there was an injured horse, wrong also. The thousands of fans at Belmont cheering wildly for Easy Goer? Sunday Silence took the first 2 legs, the Preakness so close!! Finally their boy did it, on NY soil. I'm sure it felt great for them. Unless they booed Sunday Silence, I see nothing wrong with the way that crowd acted.

03 Sep 2010 3:41 PM
Barbara W

Agreeing with you completely, Dr. Drunkinbum about Calvin and MTB. Wishing him all the best this weekend. Any horse who comes in 1-2-3 in the Triple Crown deserves loads of respect. I willl always love him.

I think many who say Calvin shouldn't be on RA simply mean that it may not be a good fit. I do know that he appeared to be crazy about her. Sometimes people who recommend a change in jockeys are just thinking out loud and wondering about that piece of the puzzle.

03 Sep 2010 4:10 PM


Thank you! If I can figure out how to post pictures on these blogs, I will. So far, all the pictures I've taken are not worth posting. Either I move or he moves or we both move... not a good recipe for outstanding photography. If you go to YouTube and type his name in the search box, you can see videos of him that are far better than what I've been able to come up with, so far. Hopefully, I'll learn!  :)

03 Sep 2010 4:25 PM

Interesting, my comment obviously fell on deaf ears on how hard it is to keep on top in any sport let alone horse racing--then there is always the possibility that a horse will be incredible for a couple of races then never reach that peak again but beat a great one.

RA is still very good and was one of the best to ever run period. Over a whole year in 2009 and not exactly bad this year. Why would anybody knock her? A record setting trainer that obviously knows what he is doing? A rider that won 3 of the last 4 of the biggest and most important race in our country? (And!!!! For what it is worth I think jockeys are interchangeable at the high level---any difference among 50 would at best be a neck difference although any could, at any time ride a great or poor race) As for whipping watch the replay tape of the Ky Derby in 1996  Bailey and McCarron if you can count to a very high number and I bet you there were some serious welts on the horses after the race. This was as serious as a one day cold.

Get real--last year we had excitement at watching two great fillies---Racing is on a sick bed if not dying in a lot of ways---enjoy the good. I tend to lean Republican but it disgusts me that people want the President to fail. Its sort of the same thing. I rode the bench as a back-up quarterback in high school but I took great joy in seeing my team win even though I hardly played. What happened last year was great for racing and RA still brings out crowds as does the Big Z. Go heckle if thats floats your boat---but the long and short is you don't get it!

She didn't finish 3rd---I like a stable full of them like her. Is Brett Favre as good as he was when 30? But isn't a team willing to put $$$$ millions to take a lesser version? Does he help ticket sales?

Why knock her and her connections?????????

03 Sep 2010 5:07 PM

dinkydiva, hie thee to ye olde YouTube if you want to see some terrific footage of Runflatout.  Just type in his name :-)

Needless to say, this will be an exciting weekend of racing...but the ONE race I'm most looking forward to is the 3rd race at DelMar on Sunday!

03 Sep 2010 6:00 PM

I am a bit stubborn. So I did an analysis of 10 races run on dry dirt by a certain horse.

I combined the horse's Speed Fig and the Track Variant.

The average for all 10 races is 107.8

The average for races in 2009 is 107.8

The average for races in 2010 is 107.75

The horse is Rachel Alexandra. Sounds like the same horse to me.

The URL is attached.

03 Sep 2010 6:42 PM
John T

If  connections of Rachel Alexandra were serious about the

Breeders Cup Classic then the race for her should have been the Stephen Foster over the same course

and distance in June against males.

When that did not happen I knew right away we were not talking about the same filly as last year.

 On an update on the horse named after the late famous racehorse trainer Frankel,he will be having his second lifetime start at Doncaster next Friday Sept.10th.He

won his maiden in very impressive

fashion at Newmarket.

03 Sep 2010 8:47 PM

So many thought provoking comments on here, I find myself sitting and reading them for what seems like hours, but I really have nothing further to contribute to the discussion.  I appreciate everyone's right to have their own opinion and it comes down to that is what it is - your or my own opinion, owned by each of us alone.  We each watch the races just the same, but the effect it has on us, the things we perceive, can be as different as night and day.  This is such a great group of bloggers, I feel you all contribute a great deal and I'm glad to be a small participant and I thank Steve once again for providing us this venue.  There is no way I would pretend to second guess the connections of any horse because they are the ones involved in the everyday dealings with the wonderful creature.  My sincere wish is only that they always take the best interest of horse to heart first and foremost.

Zookeeper - thanks for letting us know about Runflatout!!  I'm so excited for you and I'll be watching on pins and needles.  Dr. D - please don't bet the farm - lol!

Oh, and if I'm not mistaken, Zenyatta runs with her tongue hanging out, too.  I don't think she and Rachel are the only ones, but I don't believe it's a panting thing like a dog would do.  



03 Sep 2010 9:43 PM

John T,

Thanks for the heads up on Frankel. Please let us know how he does.

Sherpa, txhorsefan,

Thank you! Debuts are very exciting but, I agree, nothing to bet the farm about. LOL!

03 Sep 2010 11:58 PM

I have not had a chance to think about what may have happened to Rachel, or what should happen to Rachel in the Personal Ensign, but now i don't have to think. I think she should work towards the Ballerina(like you said Steve), and go on from there. In my opinion I think the Personal Ensign was a great race for Rachel. Although she got beat and did not neccacarily come home the best final quarter, but it was an effort that I think should put a little more distance into Rachel. You also see these horses who go out racing who run huge races but a lot of occasions when they come back the next month for a race, they run someimes as low as 20 beyer pionts lower then the time before. And you there's no reason why Rachel should not be able to.  the same, she is a horse to. And as much as I love Rachel...I am  more of a Zenyatta Fan, but we are all so very fortunate to have two great fillies giving the Nation such wonderful thrills. I don't know what will happen to Rachel or Zenyatta form now until the Breeders Cup, but I don't know if Bill Nack will be able to describe how grat these filles are. (regardless of this years campagn)

04 Sep 2010 2:40 AM
Slew of luck with Runflatout.  You've got an AP Indy baby there..can't help but get the best.  So sorry about the post draw, but I'm certain his jockey will compensate for it.

04 Sep 2010 6:55 AM
Linda M

no knocks from me about RACHEL THE GREAT.  She had an extraordinary 3 year old campaign, travelled and travelled, and was the Queen.  Don't dismiss this amazing girl.  I also love Zenny.  GIRL POWER.  So they don't hook up, but you can't take anything away from Rachel after last year's gruelling campaign.

04 Sep 2010 10:30 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Barbara W

   I like the jockey change for MTB, to try to shake things up, but I wouldn't like it if they took Calvin off of Rachel, and I see no reason to do that. There has been nothing wrong with any of his rides on her, and that's his girl. Like you said, he's always loved her. He even gave up a chance at a Triple Crown for her. Calvin has done a lot for racing, and deserves to stay on Rachel. They still seem like a good fit. I do think there is a lot of pressure on that barn, which is too bad. Yeah, I've wondered out loud sometimes here, and regretted it sometimes. Once you hit submit, it's too late unless they decide not to post it. There is always the option of retracting it, and apologizing but sometimes the previous post still is the focus. Some don't even see the retraction.


   OK, I'll wait to bet the farm. I usually don't bet first timers anyway, plus the rail. I guess you're right.


  Just root for them both !!!

04 Sep 2010 11:15 AM


Thank you! Hope the genes are all aligned in the right way. We'll see!

04 Sep 2010 11:33 AM

Rachel ran a proven 10F horse into the ground (Life at Ten.)

If we just looked at Life at Ten's performance in the PE, some might say she isn't capable of getting a 1 1/4M based on the way she stopped.

As we all know, she IS capable of getting a 1 1/4M. Rachel is, too, but the setup of that race was far from advantageous.

All I know is that Rachel, even in defeat, ran 10 lengths better than one of the most highly regarded mares in the country.

Retire her? I don't think so. It's a testament to how good she really is that when she runs second, people think there is something wrong and she should be retired.

We have been spoiled. To those who are happy she lost, I hope you all realize how great she is for our dying sport. We need horses like Rachel!

04 Sep 2010 12:12 PM


04 Sep 2010 1:00 PM

Zookeeper.  He's a very handsome guy.  How tall is he, cause he looks tall.  Unless the groom is tiny.  lol

You must be soo excited!  Best of Luck and I'll have my eye on him from now on.

04 Sep 2010 4:36 PM
Bob Z

Just watched the Woodward...

Rachel would have beaten Quality Road today... at 1 1/8 ...

He better run better in the BCC or he won't beat Zenyatta....

04 Sep 2010 6:00 PM
Jim C.

"Jim C., my answer is yes, because I think she's a better filly and an older filly. If she can finish 10 lengths ahead of Life At Ten she can beat the 3-year-olds. Would it shock me if they beat her? No. But if Rachel returns to even close to last year's form, she's a better filly."


I strongly disagree with your contention that Rachel Alexandra is a "better filly" than Blind Luck.  Certainly not in 2010 she is not.  I hate to say it, but I think your opinion is reflective of East Coast bias.  If Blind Luck were based on the East Coast, there would already be talk of her winning Horse of the Year.  Let's see a little over a year from now what Blind Luck has accomplished compared to Rachel Alexandra's first two years.  

Rachel Alexandra's current form is nowhere close to Blind Luck's.  And I am a little shocked to hear that you suggest that it is.  Based on what?  Beyer Speed Figures (which do not account for lost ground)?  And Blind Luck has already won at 9 furlongs at Churchill Downs this year.

In her entire career, Rachel Alexandra has not faced as formidable a filly as Blind Luck.  I love your columns and books, Steve.  But I think you are as wrong as rain on this topic (Rachel Alexandra vs. Blind Luck).

04 Sep 2010 7:33 PM
Jim C.

I have seen some leave comments above to the effect that Rachel Alexandra's 2009 campaign "was arguably the greatest campaign ever for a 3 year old filly, and certainly the most ambitious."  I dispute that statement, because I do not think it is factually correct.

First off, I agree that Rachel Alexandra's 2009 campaign was probably the "most successful" ever for a 3-year old filly.  And I also agree that it was ambitious.  But it was not the "most ambitious."

In 1988, Winning Colors ran in the La Centinela (ungraded), Las Virgenes (G1) Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Santa Anita Derby (G1), Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness (G1), Belmont (G1), Maskette (G1), Spinster (G1) and Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) (losing by a nose to Personal Ensign).  That's 9 Grade 1 races, including 4 grade 1's against colts.  It also includes three Triple Crown races (compared to one for Rachel Alexandra), and the Breeders' Cup Distaff (which Rachel Alexandra avoided; she was done in September).  

Oh, I forget, Winning Colors does not count; she was a West Coast filly.  

Like I said, I agree that Rachel Alexandra had a more "successful" 3-year old year.  But if Winning Colors would have been able to nose out Personal Ensign in the slop in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, a strong case could be made that Winning Colors had a more successful 3-year old filly campaign.

In any event, I'd love to hear Steve's thoughts on this issue.  It's remarkable to see all of this amnesia on the East Coast about Winning Color's 3-year old filly campaign.  And let me know the next time a filly is entered in the Santa Anita Derby, all three Triple Crown races, and the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic.  I daresay that if a trainer were to plan such a campaign in today's game, they would be putting their license at risk.

04 Sep 2010 7:45 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Jim C.

  I thought that was a bit strange also, people forgetting about Winning Colors campaign. It seems to me that I read quite a few times that Rachel's 3yo campaign was unprecented. Good posts. I would take Blind Luck over Rachel also, even though I still think Rachel is great. I think it is a very intriguing matchup. One that I hope we will see. We still don't know where Rachel is pointed to. Bob Z.- That would have been very interesting today if Rachel had defended her Woodward title. She could have challenged QR, maybe even won. She would have been at her preferred distance, and against a field that wasn't as strong as last years except for QR.

04 Sep 2010 8:52 PM
Matthew W

Now that she has lost three times...and they're probably not gonna try the Classic....why not go West with Rachel Alexandra? Why not try Zenyatta at Hollywood at 1 1/16?...I think she'd have a good chance to slow it down and beat Big Z--I mean, it would be a sporting gesture, to say the least, and there's really no other way they'll meet, unless they go in the Classic, and I just don't want to see her fading down the lane--just a thought...

04 Sep 2010 8:59 PM


The groom IS tiny. I never asked how tall RFO is. He's kind of average. I'll ask tomorrow, if I can!



Jim C.,

Good posts! You made some very valid points.

04 Sep 2010 10:10 PM

There is no east coast bias. Every time someone says RA won HOY because of east coast bias i laugh. No. RA simply had the best single year in 2009. I wish people would quit blaming this phantom bias when all they need to do is check the facts.

05 Sep 2010 12:28 AM

Dr D: in another blog you stated there's no room in horse racing for the term "fluke".  I have to disagree....the names Upset and Onion spring immediately to mind.  Perhaps even Giacomo.  MTB does not fit that name however.  Last year he raced his heart out...but was injured in the BCC.  3 top horses were injured last year, Friesan Fire, IWR, and MTB.  None have come back to their original form.  Even a jockey change couldn't alter a race if the horse can't do MTB in the Woodward.  I firmly believe horses have very good memories...and sometimes pain is difficult to forget.  

My neighbor has about 4-5 older TB's she uses in shows and as jumpers.  Old Bob was 10 when I met him 8 years ago, a tall leggy chestnut gelding with warm friendly eyes.  He loves attention. and interacts well with people.  At that time, she also had a fierce 6 year old bay who breathed fire, and liked to have his own way.  It took 2 to walk him to the paddock, and once there, he would run all afternoon and cavort, bucking and rolling across the meadow.  He was all shone through.  While standing in the barn (unfortunately in front of old Bob) I told her the bay was the best horse she had in her barn.  Later, the bay was sold because he was most difficult to train to be a show horse.  Here we are, 8 years later, and everytime I walk into the barn, old Bob still consistently flips me the his own horsey way (He always turns his back on me, and all I get to see is his rump).  Apparently Bob knew what I said, didn't like it, and still has not forgiven me.  It now takes 20 minutes to cajole him into facing me and taking a treat.  Now if after 8 years, Bob still remembers a few cruel words, how painful are the memories of a horse who faced a serious injury a year ago?  I don't believe MTB should keep being forced to try to outrun grade 1 horses this year.  Perhaps he needs more time to recover his pride, even if it's in allowance company for a while.  

Sorry about Abilio yesterday.  His best style is running in the lead, and they tried to change that yesterday.  I don't think he wanted to follow and get stuck in the crowd.  Somedays, you just have to let a horse do his own thing...much like Rachel A.

05 Sep 2010 11:02 AM

News flash!

Runflatout coughed this morning. The vet scoped him and he has another throat infection. He's been scratched from today's race. Disappointing, but you can't run a horse when he's not 100%.

So now, we have to get him truly well and start all over again. Del Mar wasn't in HIS cards. Could be a blessing! Oak Tree looks like the start of the next roller coaster ride... but let's hope he gets well FIRST.

Sorry you guys got all excited for/with me but this is a clear illustration of how difficult it can be to get a young horse ready to go, and to keep him there. (Sigh!) I'm learning...

05 Sep 2010 11:27 AM

NIce article, and yet again we have those doubters such as "THE PHANTOM" or people such as Duhru4real, sweetpnoy who I think are one in the same. They may state "facts" but hey are VERY DISRESPECTFUL about it. Last, with the "weak field" and "ducking" nonsense" I say this again we are not Jess and he knows the horse better than we do. Who cares if they didn't come to the BC races last year?! For the HOY what is;is.

05 Sep 2010 12:33 PM

Zookeeper, why did your colt scratch?  

05 Sep 2010 3:05 PM


Was Runflatout scratched again for today's 9/5 race? Did he pick up another bug?

05 Sep 2010 4:44 PM


I hope you'll consider doing an in-depth column about Mine That Bird and his challenges this year.

He showed a lot of early speed in the Woodward and ran out of gas, so now D. Wayne Lukas is talking about shortening him up. However, I recall Chip Wooley used to gallop MTB for 2 miles to build and maintain his endurance.

It's a puzzle as to why he's not doing better this year, one I thought would make an interesting vehicle for your writing talent.

05 Sep 2010 4:55 PM

What a game filly.  It broke my heart when after the race, it looked like Rachel wanted to go with the pony taking the winner back, like she couldn't understand why it wasn't her.  It was at that point that I thought, maybe they get one more race where she wins and let her go out on a good note.

Sure, a horse can get 10 furlongs but the race has to set up optimally for them and I don't see that happening in the BC for RA, especially if Quality Road is in it.  

That said, your remark asking Annette who'd she'd like to see Rachel bred to in SEPTEMBER was a bit much.  Having asked the question, and gotten a few responses, I'll play.

I respect Curlin but shudder at the thought of an RA/Curlin match up.  If JJ thinks that you only breed the best to the best(racing recors), he's wrong.  Pedigree and physical matches counts a lot.  According to True Nicks, this is a good pedigree match but pysically...ugh.

The stallion I keep coming back to, both for bloodlines and physical, both both of these great mares, but for different reasons, is Hat Trick.  Great miler from Japan.  Probably won't get a classic distance from the match though.  

The very interesting thing about a Hat Trick/Rachel match, is the mare line of both.  The female family is 1-o and both trace back to full sisters and sisters of War Relic. Hat Trick to Anchor's Ahead and RA to Speedboat, with enough other crosses of those families elsewhere. If mare lines are important, that's one to think on.

Back to the regularly scheduled programming...

05 Sep 2010 5:22 PM
Steve Haskin

Jim C, I would give you my thoughts, but your constant complaints of an East Coast bias has gotten tiresome. And if you believe I have an East Coast bias then why in the world would you want to know my thoughts.

05 Sep 2010 7:48 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  You call Giacomo's win a fluke. A lot of people call Super Saver's and Mine That Bird wins flukes. Isn't that 3 out of the last 6 Derby's? It sounds like the world's greatest race, The Kentucky Derby is an accident waiting to happen.

05 Sep 2010 8:28 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Really nice post. That is a heartbreaker when they run their heart out and think they have won. How about one that is DQ'd when they won big. How are they going to figure out what's going on? I'm sure Rachel thought it was a mile and an eighth race or less. "What the hay. You guys don't know what you're doing. I won that damn race. I should know. I've won enough of them." I suspect that she knew that she lost the other two this year, and had no business going to the winner's circle, but that extra eighth really threw her off this time. I think it's really advantageous when a top caliber horse can stick to one distance. Almost impossible I know, with the top races being at so many different lengths. It's easier for a claimer I think to always go 6f or whatever is their optimal distance. With all of the different distances, it's really critical to have perfect jockey and horse communication.

05 Sep 2010 8:37 PM

Steve : What was your take on QR's race in the Woodward ?  I believe he already peaked but wanted to get your take on it.

ZooKeeper I posted in the other blog but it was included with my other comments that he didn't like so it didn't get posted but I said, I'm sorry that RFO got sick again but I'm glad that they caught it.  I don't have to say it but take your time with him, the more you take care of him the better he'll be.

I also said that it would be really cool if he runs on Oct 2nd!  I'll be in HP to watch Zen set another record (3 LS in a row) and I'll get to watch RFO live! It'd be awesome!  It would make for a very very nice weekend of racing in the best racing in America...west coast style ;)

05 Sep 2010 8:46 PM
Jim C.

"And if you believe I have an East Coast bias then why in the world would you want to know my thoughts."


First off, I am interested because I think you (along with Steve Davidowitz) are one of the most knowledgeable journalists and historians of the Sport.  I also think you endeavor to overcome your bias.  :-)   My hats off to you for your principled stand on the 2009 Eclipse Awards voting.  And my wife, who is new to horse racing, read your book about the ornery John Henry, and thinks you are the greatest.  

Second, while I respect your opinion, I do think at times your view is tinged with regional bias.  

Your handicapping the Alabama was one example.  A careful video review and trip handicapping analysis of Blind Luck's past performances and Devil May Care's would not, in my opinion, warrant your position that Devil May Care was the better horse.  Blind Luck always fired, even when losing and closing into slow fractions, as in the Hollywood Oaks.  But the East Coast turf media was prematurely anointing Devil May Care the best 3-year old filly.  They did not know what they were talking about.  

Third, why am I not entitled to call out concrete examples of East Coast bias when I see them?  I think Winning Colors is a perfect example.   I think I am being objective: I did agree that Rachel Alexandra's 3-year old campaign was more successful.  But I think its fair to bring up WInning Colors every time someone contends that Rachel Alexandra had the most "ambitious" 3-year old campaign, which I do not think is true, and at the very least is fairly debatable.

Keep in mind that not everyone on the West Coast who complains about East Coast bias is an irrational zealot.  (I am a native Chicagoan, who grew up listening to Phil Georgeff, by the way).  There is a bias among the East Coast turf media.  But I do not simply hurl accusations.  I give concrete examples.  Just for fun, here's another example (Lenny Shulman, who recently had a good piece on the Sheets, may appreciate this):

In the Travers, Afleet Express runs 10 furlongs over the dirt at Saratoga in 2:03.28, and gets 105 Beyer Speed Figure.  In the Pacific Classic, Richard’s Kid runs 10 furlongs over the polytrack at Del Mar in 2:03.27, and gets a 95 Beyer Speed Figure.  So Richard’s Kid ran a faster final time over an inherently slower surface (polytrack), yet according to Beyer was 7 lengths worse than Afleet Express.  That is not logical.

06 Sep 2010 3:44 AM
Fran Loszynski

Steve on a lighter note.

I'm going to be a Polyanna right now. Hey everybody we were lucky this year to have two great mares like Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Thanks girls for a great racing season!

Let's see if Afleet Alex and Rachel breed-we get

"Afleet Alexandra"

If Afleet Alex and Zenyatta breed we get-Afleet Zen

How's that!

06 Sep 2010 8:49 AM

Since you're back, Steve, I have a question once again.  In early spring, many fine 3 year old's caught my eye, but there has been no news of them since.  So I still wonder, what has happened to:

Mendip....Buddy's Saint...Ron the Greek...Dave in Dixie...Backtalk...

Maximus Ruler...Dublin

...Conveyance...Endorsement.  Is Take Control training well or is he out?  I know Max. Ruler and Endorsement were injured, but there has been no further news on any of them.  Have you heard anything?

06 Sep 2010 9:23 AM

Zookeeper, yours is really the only comment I've looked for and read this morning as I was anxious to find out about Runflatout.  I'm sorry he had to scratch and keep you in the whirlwind of ups and downs, but in the horse's best interest, it's better for him to get truly well and completely over his throat infection.  You have a wonderful trainer who is putting him first and that is great.  Thank you for letting us know.  

Steve, my apologies for not reading the rest of comments and staying on topic, but thank you again for providing this venue for us, your devoted fans.  You are demonstrating so much patience, all the more to admire your graciousness.



06 Sep 2010 11:06 AM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Giacomo was 4th in The Breeder's Cup Classic that year, only 4 1/2 from the front. How does that support him being called a fluke for his Derby win?

06 Sep 2010 12:22 PM

For RA's best interest i think its best to do 1 of 2 things in no particular order:

a) retire her.

b) it appears RA's scheduling this year was totally messed up, it would best to turn her out this year & bring her back fresh next year. This way maybe we can hit 2 birds with a stone, being that maybe the Mosses will bring back Zen(hopefully) in 2011, it appears they are enjoying it & they want the fans to enjoy it and also that would be the best thing for racing.

06 Sep 2010 12:48 PM

Hi Steve, there's so many comments it's hard to go back to the two I left to check for similar comments. I did see your comments on how much Calvin and his wife love Rachel. I don't doubt that. And the remark about how Calvin uses the popper whip. I'm glad to hear that. But still, I counted about 20 pops on the last race and over that on the Woodward. In your opinion, do you think any horse needs that when they are trying so hard? I know many fillies in particular stop trying when they get hit. Calvin knows his horse, I understand, but I would really love to hear more of an explanation from him or someone who knows him as to why he feels he needs to pop her that much. I rewatched Zenyatta's last race yesterday and noticed that Mike did not even hit Zen, just waved it on her side some. Different horse I realize. Any more clarification would be helpful. I just want to understand more, and I did a search on the internet but I'm not coming up with much on the popper whips other than what they are. THanks for your time

06 Sep 2010 1:38 PM

Steve, don't print my just-submiied comment.  I sent it befire I was finished.  Sorry.  

I'm with you and the East Coast bias sentiment is getting very worn out.

06 Sep 2010 2:26 PM
Fran Loszynski

A letter to Rachel:

Well, you didn't win Rachel. Those big saucer eyes tried to melt our hearts again hoping for the finish line. But you know what? they still melted our hearts. What a beauty you are. If you were a human you would be a Marilyn Monroe or a Raquel Welch. I could watch you lose every race and still awe in your grace and power. You win a few, and you lose a few, but you don't give up on a horse just because they're a little beaten up. (a quote from where else but "Seabiscuit"). I hope you breed someday with Afleet Alex; I know I will be there to watch that foal race should that happen. To Steve Asmussen: you have trained one of the most beautiful mares since Ruffian. There are still races to win-go for it.

06 Sep 2010 2:38 PM


So you got zapped, huh? Happens to me sometimes. Even Mr. Haskin, at times, may have found me a little too hard to take. lol!

I don't make the decisions when it comes to RFO. But he's in good hands. The partnership & trainer are very kind. I trust they will do best by the horse.

Oct. 2nd sounds good to me! If it comes to be, maybe we'll get acquainted. :)

06 Sep 2010 7:05 PM
Steve Haskin

Jim C. I appreciate the kind words, and thank your wife as well. First, in regard to Blind Luck, it's called bad handicapping on my part, not East Coast bias. I have been high on a number of West Coast 3-year-olds despite my dislike of the synthetic surface. As far as Winning Colors, I happen to agree with you.

And regarding the Travers and Pacific Classic, while I agree that synthetics normally get lower Beyers, remember, the first two in the Travers were 6 3/4 lengths ahead of the third horse, while in the Pacific Classic, the first 6 horses were separated by 3 lengths, so it couldn't have gotten a high Beyer, because all those horses didnt deserve a high number. Watch the margins of the top 3 or 4 horses and you can predict which races get higher Beyers.

06 Sep 2010 7:06 PM

Mr. Haskin,

I didn't know that the margin of victory or the distance between horses at the finish had anything to do with the Beyers speed  figure. I thought the only criteria were the final time and the track bias. Did I misunderstand you?

06 Sep 2010 7:27 PM


Thank you for your concern. Hopefully he'll get truly over it and start sometime during the Oak Tree meet.

Dr Drunkinbum,

I'm with you on this "fluke" business. It gets my blood boiling and you know what happens then...


You're a sweetheart!

06 Sep 2010 7:43 PM

To Jim C.:

Really quick question that requires just an yes or no answer (if you can manage it).

Did Rachel Alexandra win the 2009 HOTY award simply based on East Coast bias?

06 Sep 2010 7:51 PM
Steve Haskin

No, Zookeeper, you didnt misunderstand. It is one of the things that is taken under consideration. If you defeat a horse let's say by a half-length who has run low Beyers, chances are he didnt improve that dramatically to get a high Beyer, so that is taken under consideration when giving out the number. Often the margin between 2nd and 3rd is a good indicator whether it was a legitimately fast race.

06 Sep 2010 9:01 PM

Mr. Haskin,

The more I find out, the less I get it... They were right: ignorance IS bliss!  :)

So, if a good horse beats an average horse by a neck, in fast time, on a slow track... Beyers says the average horse couldn't have improved that much so the good horse gets a lower (than expected) speed figure? Especially since the horse who ran 3rd is only half a lenght back???

Never mind, I'll revert back to ignorance! LOL!

06 Sep 2010 10:08 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  Yeah, I know what happens when you're blood is boiling. Even Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price tremble with fear and hide in the basement. Just kidding !!!!!!!!!!!!! You're a sweetheart.

06 Sep 2010 10:27 PM



06 Sep 2010 10:32 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Boris ans Vincent, maybe. But Peter would stick around. I think he would enjoy a good lashing. :)

06 Sep 2010 11:41 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  The 2004 Woodward is one of the most amazing races ever. Ghostzapper and Saint Liam duel with amazing fractions and final time. You can see it at along with many other great replays.

07 Sep 2010 1:29 AM
Jim C.

Afleet Alex said: " To Jim C.: Really quick question that requires just an yes or no answer (if you can manage it). Did Rachel Alexandra win the 2009 HOTY award simply based on East Coast bias."

Answer: No.  

Explanation: The East Coast enjoys the largest voting bloc, which accounts in part for the result.  But Rachel had an awesome 3-year old filly campaign.  No doubt about it.  I think any objective, unbiased observer would agree that, Zenyatta deserved, at the very least, a half-share of the Horse of the Year Award.  That is why I admire Steve Haskin for abstaining, and Rich Eng for splitting his vote, even thought the higher ups refused it.

On the other hand, were it not for the unjust result, we would not be experiencing the privilege of enjoying Zenyatta race this year.  My wife and I attended Santa Anita in March for the Santa Margarita, Hollywood Park in June for the Vanity, and Del Mar in August for the Clement L. Hirsch.  We have been able to see her really close up in the paddock.  The atmosphere is always electric, and everyone gets goosebumps when they see her.  It's just an amazing experience.  Every time.

07 Sep 2010 3:39 AM

Jim C:

I keep reading your comments on Beyer Speed Figures.  The only problem is that you seem to take the figures seriously. I see them as a form of entertainment.

Look at this:

Boys At Tosconova's best figure is 102. He then runs in 90 and wins a Grade 1.

Quality Road's best is 121. He runs in 106 and wins a Grade 1.

Discreetly Mine's best is 111. He then runs in 93 and wins a Grade 1.

If a horse can run up to 18 points below its best and win a Grade 1, what analytical purpose do these figures serve? I say they are nonsense.

07 Sep 2010 9:14 AM

Jim C.:  It's RachelAlex, not Afleet Alex, and thank you for the answer, even though I counted more than one word, LOL.

Great as Big Z is, I will always love Rachel--her 2009 year was amazing and she deserved the 2009 HOTY.

I only hope that her handlers will figure out the right thing to do with her.  It pains me to see her career post Eclipse being mismanaged.  She does not look happy out there on the track--and enough already with the whip, Calvin!

07 Sep 2010 9:36 AM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Thank you for the heads up on that website. Holy cow! Was that a stretch battle or what? Unbelievable! The heart of these two to keep battling after setting these fractions! It boggles the mind. Saint Liam a fine example of a horse who may have lost the race but could not be called a loser by any stretch of the imagination. Both of them simply awesome!!!

07 Sep 2010 10:05 AM

I am most disappointed in Zenyatta's connections for not bringing her to the Beldame.  They know that they just have to let Rachel Alexandra knock herself out of contention for HOY and they do not even need to come for the Classic.  They can coast on in to the title as there are no other legitimate contenders to the title while Zenyatta remains undefeated.

07 Sep 2010 10:38 AM

Zookeeper: So sorry Runflatout scratched.  Better for him, more butterflies for you.

Dr. D. You know I love you...but...BCC-"where he would face his old rival Lava Man as well as other top horses such as Bernardini and the eventual winner Invasor. Giacomo was never a contender in the race, but he closed well to finish in 4th."  I think the Kentucky Derby chewed him up and spit him out, even though he ran in all 3 legs of the Triple Crown.  I do believe he won only one race in his career after that, and was never a threat in any other race.  He wasn't as much a "fluke" as he was simply used up by the Derby.  Mine That Bird, on the other hand, ran in all 3 legs and finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Not a fluke...but this year, I still don't believe he has recovered from the psychological impact of his injury.  Would you be willing to pit him against horses like Invasor, Bernardini, and Lava Man?  I think not.  Keep in mind, a horse does not have to win to impress me....he just has to run well.  Mine that Bird can no longer run well, and they keep throwing him to the wolves in grade 1 races.  It's not fair to the horse.  

Me...I'm still upset over the 1978 Triple Crown because my favorite was Alydar.  Murdering a horse makes my blood boil, not the term "fluke".

Super Saver??   Perfect jockey, perfect ride...lots of luck.  I'm still waiting for him to show up far...not too much.  

Kentucky Derby...a 20 horse rodeo that has prevented us from having another Triple Crown winner...keep it at 14.  Right now, they just keep tossing in more horses who simply don't really belong there.  

07 Sep 2010 10:38 AM
Fran Loszynski

Thank you Zookeeper.

We're all lucky we can still watch Rachel A. and Zenyatta considering what happened in West Virginia and the beautiful thoroughbreds that died in the fire. My condolences to their owners and trainers and I feel so lucky I can go to the track tomorrow and see my favorites race. May the wind of Kentucky carry these racehorses' spirits.

07 Sep 2010 11:54 AM

Just feel I have to point this out, it's much harder for a horse to get a trip if they are on the pace. When a horse isn't certain to last a distance, it's prudent to hold them up, therefore conserving their energy for the extra furlongs at the end. So if Rachel Alexandra was held up maybe fourth or so in a ten furlong race, and think there's a very strong chance she would win. Remember that with Zenyatta, she conserves energy with her running style so can finish a race more strongly. If she was ever ridden close to or on the pace (theoretically) she may not stay either.

07 Sep 2010 1:10 PM


Now that you have put things in perspective (Alydar), I guess I better cool it. :)

P.S. I wasn't talking about your comment, but those of others who have used it to bash MTB who, last year, ran a heck of a TC season.

07 Sep 2010 1:33 PM

While Quality Road ran a good race and I am happy to see him win, my heart just broke for Mine That Bird.  I guess it was an experiment to see if they could change his running style but, my God, couldn't they do that in a less prominent race than the Woodward.  He is a closer!! All his best races he ran as a closer.  How do you think Rachel would do if she was held in the back til they made that final turn?  Not too well, I'm thinking!  And, I'm not too sure even Zenyatta could change her style and break and hold the lead wire to wire.  Doesn't it just make sense to use their strengths instead of trying to make them into something else?  That poor boy must be so confused.  He trains beautifully, so I can't believe he's in any physical stress; I think he just doesn't know what he's suppose to do.  He deserves better.

07 Sep 2010 2:25 PM

Giacomo had surgery for bone chips in a knee and an ankle after he ran in the Belmont. He had a long layoff after the surgery. I think he loved Churchill Downs much more than the tracks in California (speed-favoring dirt at that time). There was a great video of him at Adena Springs, which ran during the Triple Crown races last year, and again earlier this year. It was part of a series on former Derby winners (Smarty, Thunder Gulch, Monarchos, etc), visiting them at stud. Giacomo is really a glorious looking horse.

07 Sep 2010 3:05 PM

Ooops.  Accidentally hit send before I finished. End was suppose to be BUT NOT YET!!!  We are so lucky Rachel and Zen are both still racing - in one breath you hear "why do they retire them so early"  and in the next you hear "this horse (insert Name here) should be retired"  Aren't we just full of contradictions!!

07 Sep 2010 5:26 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Great post at 10:38am. I like the term aberration, or upset. I just don't think that other word is correct for racing. It's an ugly word for horses that run their hearts out. As far as Onion and Secretariat, I'm sure you'll agree that Onion was the much better horse. Huh?? Secretariat is the greatest of all time in my opinion but I'm not even going to call that race that word. All of your points from 10:38 make sense to me. The Derby chews up and spits out lots of horses. It's a terrifying stampede for the faint of heart. No, he had no chance against Invasor and Bernardini, but if he had one day where he managed somehow to beat them, then hats off to a great run, and I still wouldn't call it that word even with no chance !!!!!


   Great post. That was a nightmare for us MTB fans. He still has a great demeanor and if there is nothing wrong with him he still could win a race. It's frustrating. His comeback has been terrible. Karma? But the horse has to pay for it along with the trainer, and owners. It certainly appears that MTB has only one style of running that works. I'd be surprised if he was anything less than a 1 1/8 and longer runner. Run allowance and then a minor stakes with the running style that works for him. Thrown to the wolves in Grade One for his comeback is correct like Slew said.


  Thanks for the update. It's always good to hear that horses are doing well and being visited.

07 Sep 2010 5:40 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   That was a brilliant piece of work-Countdown-The Road Keeps Going. All points were right on. Your versatility, and observational skills combined with your writing skills is shockingly good. That piece was perfection.

07 Sep 2010 7:03 PM
Kauto Star

Not held back a la Zenyatta, because that's not her style, but in a stalking position. That would preserve her speed, as I honestly feel too much effort was used to outgun Life At Ten, therefore setting her up for a closing horse. A better strategy would have been to rate a couple of lengths behind Life At Ten, then go for home coming into the stretch.

08 Sep 2010 7:26 PM

Rachel lost the Personal Ensign after dueling with another fantastic horse that we know can get 1 1/4 in Life at Ten.  Yet, Life at Ten finished far behind Rachel in the Personal Ensign.  Rachel hasn't ran up to her top form the two times she has ran at Saratoga, indicating that she doesn't care for the surface. Persistently was undefeated at Saratoga.  It's a deep tiring surface and many horses don't care for it.  That is why it is called the graveyard of favorites.  

Let's go two races back to the Fleur De Lis where she ran faster than Blame at the same distance on the same day and at the same track as the Stephen Foster.  Was she not in her top form then?  I think that she was.  If she can run faster than Blame at CD, when she wasn't even all out, doesn't she deserve to be put in the BC Classic?

Rachel runs like a monster at CD and I don't think she is done yet.  I'm also not sold that she can't get 1 1/4 when she didn't like the track the two times that she has gone over 1 1/8.  She won one of those races in the Preakness.  

Rachel lost her first two races because they rushed her back before she was ready.  I'm not going to fault her for losing the Personal Ensign at all.  I knew that she wasn't as good at Saratoga going into the race.

If she runs well next time out and is 100%, then there is no doubt in my mind that she should be in the BC Classic.  If she gets beat, then so be it, but I still believe in her and I believe that she has a great chance to win.    

10 Sep 2010 9:32 AM

Fran, just wanted to say thanks for remembering the horses lost in WV.  Yes, we do need to appreciate how fortunate we are.  Thanks!

11 Sep 2010 6:55 PM

I wish someone would answer this question?    Zenyatta's owners won award for being the best owners for her for 2009 and for their region,  Why didnt Jess Jackson win any of those awards for RA for 2009?

Has reallity finally set in?

12 Sep 2010 2:46 PM

There is NO FAULT with Rachel.

Don't retire the horse, RETIRE THE TRAINER!!  CLEARLY, Steve Asmussen is not doing his job well, and his crew is NOT inspiring RA to do her best.

What really astounds me is why it takes 3 losses for people to realize this -- RA needs a HAL WIGGINS to train her, if you expect her to get back to championship form.

HAL WIGGINS is great for fillies -- from Youtube videos and interviews, I can tell he treats his fillies with respect and adoration.  He actually inspires them to work harder.  Can't say the same about STEVE A. and SCOTT.  They are both assholes, and ego-maniacs who treat fillies with disdain and ignorance.  


25 Sep 2010 7:19 AM

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