Rachel and the Woodward

Another Saratoga meet had passed into history, and all eyes were now on Belmont Park’s Super Saturday. But the one star who would have truly made it super was missing. Rachel Alexandra, racing’s reigning monarch had days earlier been forced to abdicate her throne and was now preparing to depart for another life.

The autumn leaves, in different shades of browns and yellows, were already falling in upstate New York. The Oklahoma training track was quiet, seemingly a million miles away from the cheers that greeted New York‘s own, Haynesfield, following his stirring victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. A little over an hour earlier, Life At Ten, who had finished more than 10 lengths behind Rachel Alexandra in the Personal Ensign Stakes, was being led into the winner’s circle with little fanfare after a workmanlike victory in the Beldame Stakes, a race Rachel had been pointing for.

There would be even less fanfare several days later as Rachel bid farewell to the racetrack and embarked on her journey to Kentucky and life as a broodmare. There were no trumpet calls, no banners waving, no cheering crowds. Those days were gone. It is unfortunate that Rachel’s adoring fans never got a chance to give her a proper goodbye. The last sounds Rachel should have heard were the cheers that had been so familiar to her last year and on occasion this year.

Instead, she left Saratoga in silence. It had been some 13 months since those old rafters rocked like they had never rocked before. Thinking back to that emotion-filled September afternoon when Rachel Alexandra left part of herself on the Saratoga stretch, it was as if her 2010 campaign never happened. Misguided from the beginning, it surely will fade from memory with time. But even in her narrow defeats, Rachel never stopped giving her all, battling to the wire against foes she would have left reeling the year before.

The clouds that enshrouded her 4-year-old season will quickly dissipate, bringing clarity to a 2009 tour de force that likely will never be equaled by a 3-year-old filly.

And for as long as racing fans flock to Saratoga in droves each year, that final triumph in the Woodward Stakes will remain frozen in time, as will the deafening roar that greeted Rachel Alexandra following her gut-wrenching victory, which would eventually claim not only the victor, but those who dared to challenge her.

As 97-year-old racing legend John Nerud pointed out. “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.”

The skeptics will point out that runner-up Macho Again and third-place finisher Bullsbay were of lesser quality, and defeating them did nothing to boost Rachel’s reputation. What they don’t realize is that the horses who entered the starting gate to face Rachel in the Woodward were far different than the shattered fragments that remained after they looked Rachel in the eye.

Macho Again went into the Woodward having won the Stephen Foster Handicap and New Orleans Handicap with rousing stretch runs and was a fast-closing second to Bullsbay in the Whitney, run in a sharp 1:48 flat for the 1 1/8 miles. Bullsbay had finished a close fourth, beaten 1 ¼ lengths, in the Stephen Foster and had won the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs. In the Whitney, his explosive of turn of foot, in which he went from 11 lengths back to the lead, was one of the highlights of the meet.

Also in the Woodward was Asiatic Boy, winner of the U.A.E. Triple Crown, second in the Dubai World Cup to Curlin, second in the Stephen Foster to Macho Again, finishing ahead of Einstein, and second in the Suburban Handicap. Another in the Woodward field was Past the Point, who finished second, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Horse of the Year Curlin in the previous year’s Woodward.

All these horses went into the Woodward coming off a win or a second. All made their moves at Rachel at some point, and none were ever the same. This was a race that gutted Rachel and all those who challenged her. Rachel gave every ounce of her being, turning back one challenge after another in testing fractions, and who knows in the long run how much of her heart spilled out onto the Saratoga track that day.

It was her bravery in battle at the end of one of the most ambitious 3-year-old campaigns in the history of the sport that truly defined her greatness and set off the wave of emotion that greeted her after the race and the pandemonium that engulfed all those standing on the racetrack.
 
It was that same bravery that had her trainer, Steve Asmussen, weeping in his wife Julie’s arms, as he buried his head in her embrace. When his oldest son, Keith, said to him, “I’ve never seen you cry at the races,” Asmussen replied, “I never needed to.”
 
And it was that bravery that had her exercise rider Dominic Terry bawling behind his sunglasses and walking around in a daze, repeating, “She did it…she did it…she did it.” The following morning, he still was “physically and mentally exhausted.”
 
Noted veterinarian Dr. Mark Cheney said, “You don’t see many horses livin’ that could have won that race.”
 
Even the vanquished became caught up in the enormity of Rachel’s achievement. “She had everything thrown at her and she overcame it all,” said Graham Motion, trainer of Bullsbay. “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.”
 
Motion spoke as he and his wife Anita were driving away from the test barn and heading back to their barn a short distance away. Remaining behind was their 12-year-old daughter Jane, who was waiting patiently outside the gates of the test barn with camera in hand.
 
“She’s not worried about my horse,” Motion said jokingly. “She wants to stay and see the filly.”
 
All Jane wanted was one photo of Rachel Alexandra. “I just want to show my friends,” she said.
 
Rachel Alexandra will forever remain a part of Saratoga history. Prior to the Woodward, there were signs all along Broadway, reading, “Rachel Alexandra: Run Like a Girl.”

Saratoga mayor Scott T. Johnson proclaimed Sept. 5, 2009 “Rachel Alexandra Day.” Two days before the Woodward, Rachel received a huge ovation when she schooled in the paddock, as a horde of photographers, cameramen, and onlookers followed after her like a pack of paparazzi. All Asmussen could say was, “She’s a deserving diva.”
 
On race day, fans began lining up to secure their place around the paddock and along the path leading to the paddock several races before the Woodward. As the race approached, the cheers could be heard well off in the distance, signifying Rachel’s imminent arrival.
 
“I’ve walked over for a lot of big races – the Dubai World Cup, the Triple Crown races, last year’s Woodward,” said assistant Scott Blasi. “I have never felt that kind of adoration for one horse. I’m talking about people 10 deep on both sides walking to the paddock, and all they want to do is get a glimpse of her. If anyone thinks people don’t love horse racing they should have been in my shoes walking to the paddock.”
 
Asmussen added, “I’ve never seen them lined up like that. It was like a soccer game where everybody is pressed up against each other to get a look. When we walked Curlin over last year it was a big deal, but it wasn’t anything like this. They were three and four deep for Curlin, and they were at least 10 deep just to get a peek of her.”
 
The race itself was amazing in that just about every horse in the field took a run at Rachel. First it was 2008 Belmont Stakes winner Da’ Tara, then his hard-knocking stablemate Cool Coal Man, who was coming off a 12 ¾-length romp in the Albert the Great Stakes. It was apparent from the start
that Rachel had the proverbial bullseye on her back, and one by one, the darts were being hurled at her.
 
After a brutal opening quarter in :22 4/5, track announcer Tom Durkin bellowed, “There’ll be no free ride for Rachel Alexandra. They’re making her work for every step today.”
 
In the stands, Jackson’s bloodstock agent John Moynihan, like many, had a sinking feeling. “I put my program down and put my head in my hands,” he said. “All I could think was, ‘How could this have happened today?”
 
When Da’ Tara and Cool Coal Man began their rapid retreats following a half in :46 2/5, Past the Point took his run at Rachel, the three-quarters in a testing in 1:10 2/5. Rachel thwarted that bid, and then came the big final assault. Bullsbay, who was so explosive in the Whitney, pulled up to her flank turning for home, as Asiatic Boy and Macho Again moved in for the kill, expecting to encounter a softened up Rachel in the final furlong.
 
Rachel was set down by Calvin Borel, who hit her five times right-handed and then three times left-handed. She turned back Bullsbay’s challenge, but here came a fresh Macho Again, who had found a gaping hole at the top of the stretch. The charging gray stormed up alongside Rachel, who was now being barraged with a series of 13 desperate right-handed whips from Borel. Macho Again kept coming, but Rachel kept finding more. The crowd urged Rachel to hold on, their hearts pounding with every stride.

At the wire, it was Rachel Alexandra by a head. The place went crazy. Despite her early efforts, she still was able to close her final eighth in a respectable :12 4/5 to complete the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 1/5, earning a 109 Beyer speed figure – this coming after a grueling campaign that saw her run a 108 Beyer in the Kentucky Oaks, a 108 in the Preakness, a 111 in the Mother Goose, and a monster 116 in the Haskell Invitational.

As Rachel was led back to the barn and the crowd began to quiet down, Durkin announced, “Well, folks, if your heart can take it, we’ve got two more races.”
 
Asmussen walked back with her and was able to reflect a bit more on what she had accomplished: “It’s hard enough to be brilliant once in a while, but every race? Oh, my God, she’s been doing it since mid-February. She showed she’s truly a champion today.”
 
As darkness fell, assistant trainer Blasi tried to put everything in perspective. “She’s absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “There’s no comparing her to anyone. They all compare to her now. What she did today, you will never see anything like it again.”
 
Nor are we likely to see anything like the 2009 Rachel Alexandra again. In a way it is sad we never got to see Rachel and Zenyatta meet. But maybe it was destined that these two shooting stars were put here not to collide, but to be gazed upon with wonderment, traveling on parallel paths.

One of these stars is gone, and the other is preparing to light up the skies as they’ve never been lit up before. Then, she, too, will be gone. Until then, one can only say their goodbyes to Rachel Alexandra by sharing memories of a magical season that ended on an unforgettable afternoon at Saratoga.

273 Comments

Leave a Comment:

RachelSatterfield

Thank you for giving her the sendoff her owner should have.

I will never forget 2009 and I will look forward to the Rachel/Curlin offspring to come.

09 Oct 2010 9:49 PM
sodapopkid

I don't know about anyone else, but the more I hear about Rachel and her 2009 season, the more I despise her connections.   It really puts a light on her dismal 2010 season.    You can see why she was such a sad looking horse after JJ bought her and worked the crap out of her.

I would expect others feel the same as I do.

Prime example of a beautiful filly so mismanaged.  She could have been running for another year had it not been for one man's obsession with GREED.

09 Oct 2010 9:51 PM
DonW

Sorry Steve. The punishing ride by Calvin Borel meant the end of Rachel's career as a great runner. Sure, they won the Woodward. But you will admit she was never the same after that. And the excuse about not running the Breeders Cup because of the artificial track was just that, an excuse. The horse was exhausted and, smart animal that she was, would not take that kind of whipping again. The owner/trainer did the right thing  by resting her, but she never came back to form. Was she great? Certainly. Could she have gone on to even greater things? Most probably. But we'll never know, thanks to the Woodward.  

09 Oct 2010 9:56 PM
Jordan

Thank you Steve. What a beautiful article. I am a big fan of Rachel's, and what she did on the track in 2009 will never be duplicated again. She was simply amazing, and her races left me breathless. Her speed, power, and heart were unbelievable, and I will always remember what she did on the track. I am sad to see her go, but I am happy I was able to see her run. I wasn't alive when the great Ruffian showed the sport what greatness is, but I am happy to have the memories of what "Rachel Alexandra the Great" did, and I will hold onto these for the rest of my life. Thanks Rachel.

09 Oct 2010 9:56 PM
Bill Daly

A fitting tribute to a great filly. What else can be said?  I doubt we will ever see her kind again.  Thanks for the memories.

09 Oct 2010 10:03 PM
Mokey

Thank You! I was there that day and it was amazing. My legs shook as I wanted her too win and come home safely. It was a great race.

09 Oct 2010 10:04 PM
cma

Great story.  I saw Secretariat win the Preakness and I was at Aqueduct when Dr. Fager went better than 1:34 carrying 134 lbs.  I saw Damascus run.  But none of those races were better than Rachel's Woodward.

Now we get to see Zenyatta.  If she does it, the Big Three of racing history will become the Big Four.  And she will not be fourth in line.

09 Oct 2010 10:07 PM
D. L. Paris

Your post brought Rachel's accomplishments and Woodford win back to life again.  

Thanks!

09 Oct 2010 10:08 PM
txhorsefan

Thank you for this eloquent, flowing tribute to Rachel Alexandra the Great.  She will be missed.  It makes me much sadder to reflect again on the price she had to pay for our pleasure in seeing her courageous win in the Woodward.  It was never a favorite race for me because I felt it took so much out of her.  For me her most memorable race will remain the Oaks  because she seemed to be running for pure joy, for the fun of it, the excitement of the speed.  Sure, that's anthropomorphizing the horse, but it will be the race that defined her essence in my memory, in my heart.

09 Oct 2010 10:13 PM
racingheart

Oh Steve!

That was beautiful!

I was crying & nodding in agreement throughout the entire article! She was an incredible gift in 2009. I myself have never witnessed that from a filly & she just absolutely overwhelmed me. Every race was just one more unbelievable accomplishment after another. & the Woodward? I was absolutely reeling after that race! I was watching it on TV & taping it while I held the phone up to the television so that my sister in Maryland could here what she could not see. We both screamed & shouted & cried afterward & shared our joy as she jogged back to the winner's circle... one last time in 2009.

As you said, this year's campaign was just too confusing & muddled to comprehend. BUT, there was no misreading Rachel's heart. She left me no doubt that she had the same fire, the same grit & the same desire that she had during her glory days! For whatever reasons we will never know, she just didn't have the legs. But she still flashed moments of her greatness, & I reveled!

I see such depth in her eyes. So much more than what glows on the surface. I read that after she was broken at Diamond D Ranch she was turned out for 60 days in the pasture. While the other horses grazed in the fields, Rachel stood at the fence overlooking the training track. Watching. Waiting for her turn again.  

It is so sad that she slipped away from New York with no good byes. She deserved so much more. So very, very much more. I never thought that the one time I saw her at Dawn At the Downs last year would be the ONLY time that I would ever be in her presence - not even knowing at the time that she was about to become the horse that I would hold closest to my heart from that week forward.

Fare thee well, dearest Rachel.

Thank you for all you gave, & you gave us your all.

Shine on.  

09 Oct 2010 10:16 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve

   You really put Rachel's 3yo season in perspective for me. I didn't fully comprehend the magnitude of her achievements until now. Her talent was magnificient and overpowering until The Woodward when the warrior inside of her took over and left everything on the battlefield. Her Waterloo in retrospect but what an amazing day that was. You're right. We forgot one very important reason why it was such a glorious victory, because all of her competitors to that point had proven to be champions. She hasn't been the same since and they haven't been the same since but Rachel was the winner, and she's still a winner. Thanks for reminding us of her greatness that easily overshadows a confusing 2010.

09 Oct 2010 10:18 PM
Sheflieswithoutwings

Steve,

 Thank you SO much for all your wonderful writing on the subject of racing's greats!  And thank you also for bringing to my attention the fact that, not only has Jess Jackson denied this grand dame a good season (which she very well might have acheived were she handled more smartly), but has also denied this mare & her fans the going away that they deserve!  Zenyatta was "semi" retired to a HUGE fanfare in CA, only to come back and race again the next season (thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Moss).  Why not do the same for Rachel?  There will never be another like her, no.  As racing's best fillies tend to slip through the cracks as broodmares (because their owners don't allow ANYONE to visit them... yet we are encouraged to see their studs...)I do wish the Jacksons would let us say goodbye to our champion.  Farewell, beautiful girl. May your babies be blessed with your heart, if not your speed & stamina too.  

09 Oct 2010 10:21 PM
Woodswoman

Steve, yet again you have captured not only the facts, but the feel. This is a moving tribute for the extraordinary feats that Rachel Alexandra accomplished as a three-year-old filly. Her owner didn't bother to give her the champion's send-off from her fans that she deserved but with this article, you have. Bravo not only to Rachel, but to you.

09 Oct 2010 10:23 PM
Lisa

I watched that race on TV, and by the end I was standing and yelling for her to hang on! My dogs thought I had gone crazy. Zen is my favorite but anyone one who watched that race had to know that they were watching an unforgettable  experience. I do not care who you pull for; anyone with an ounce of sense knows what a defining moment that that was. She was incredible. When I heard that they had retired her I couldn't believe it. And Steve I do agree, she earned the right to go out with more fanfare. I agree her 2010 season will soon become wisps in the wind, and her 2009 season will be her crown. I also believe that she left part of herself at the track that day. As they brought her back to the winners circle I thought to myself she has given all she has to give. I will really miss her crooked blaze that signified such a bold and courageous filly flying down the track taking on all comers.

09 Oct 2010 10:31 PM
DrinkingRacingFan

No one can put racing's greatest moments into words better than you, Steve. And despite some peoples' nasty comments, Rachel Alexandra did not dissapoint in 2010. Here was a horse who had nothing left but still gave her all in every race; win or lose.  To those that have to constantly bash either Rachel or Zenyatta...they're both better than you!

09 Oct 2010 10:46 PM
ALB

Wow, you are truly a gifted writer. You bring such emotion in your articles. I am completely speechless. Please keep them coming. Thank you!

09 Oct 2010 10:52 PM
Fan of Rachel

We vacationed in NY last Aug, wanting to see Rachel in the Haskell.  After our reservations were made, flying in from Missouri, we found out she would be running in the Woodward.  Also had tickets for Oaklawn Apple Blossom, which didn't happen between Rachel and Zenyatta.  Wish we could have seen her in person.  What a heart!

09 Oct 2010 11:02 PM
gailg

Rachel truly had an amazing 3yo season. I love her and will miss her. I love Zenyatta too and will be rooting for her in the BCC. I'm glad these fillies never met on the track as I would have felt sick at seeing either lose. Now each one will be honored and remembered as the great individuals they are. Both of them deserve all the praise and accolades that come their way for their accomplishments--both doing all that is asked of them and then some. They are two very different fillies with their own histories that we will look back on with memories to be cherished for a lifetime. We will never see the likes of either one again--they are legends in their own right. I will be watching for their foals in the future with baited breath and hope that they stay sound, healthy and happy. Rachel may be gone, but never will be forgotten. Zenyatta--best of luck in the BCC. Win or lose, you'll never be forgotten by this fan.

09 Oct 2010 11:07 PM
Paula Higgins

Just beautiful Steve. I have to tell you, it just about made me cry when I saw pictures of her being taken from her barn for the last time to leave for Kentucky. It also made me mad. I couldn't believe no one was really there to send her off. She should have had a send off from Churchill Downs at the Breeders Cup, whether she ran or not. It was heartbreaking to me to see her leave like this. Your wonderful piece certainly helps to make up for that. Her Woodward was one of the greatest races ever. No discussion. She was all heart and guts at the end. A truly brave horse who gave it her all and then some. I will never forget Rachel. Her 2009 ranks her up there with the greats and Zenyatta in my opinion. This is coming from a diehard Zenny fan too. Thanks for this wonderful tribute to her.

09 Oct 2010 11:08 PM
BobbieB

I am proud , and humbled at the same time , that you understand and can relate so forcefully what Rachel Alexandra the Great accomplished.

Bravo on this column and your knowledge. Thank you,

09 Oct 2010 11:08 PM
CJTMenotomy

I was fortunate to see this brilliant comet in her last race.  Nothing can prepare you for the experience of standing in the shadow of greatness.  Rachel Alexandra appeared calm, regal,   waiting to enter the starting gate. Her poise seemed almost otherworldly.  She was majestic.  The results do not convey the sheer power and force of will of the grueling duel that enabled her to put away her main rival only to be surprised at the last few yards.  Stars shine even when we cannot see them, Rachel Alexandra's light is now in the firmament of racing history.  

09 Oct 2010 11:13 PM
racingheart

One more thing-

I know that she is Jackson's horse.

But she was OUR horse too. All of us who loved her & never lost faith in her, which I think is more than can be said for Jess Jackson. They just put her on a van & took her away.

From us.

That, my dear Rachel fans, was wrong.

My heart breaks tonight. & it goes out to Rachel. I will never forget how she made me soar.

A horse doesn't care how much you know, until he knows how much you care.  ~Pat Parelli

We Love you, Rachel Alexandra.

09 Oct 2010 11:14 PM
ruffianruns

I don't know what to say except Thank You.  I will never forget her spectacular 2009 season, where she was brilliant race after race.  I will never forget her 2010 season, where she never gave up trying.

Thank you for singing her praises.

I will miss you Rachel Alexandra!

09 Oct 2010 11:17 PM
Nancy

Wonderful article Steve. The Woodward was an unbelievable race - with the exception of Rachel,  every horse reversed their postion from first call to last call. They came at her in waves and she repelled each charge digging in deeper showing us more of heart and courage to win. A win for the ages by a once in a lifetime filly.

09 Oct 2010 11:21 PM
stevebiscuit

Only two things stood between me and Rachel Alexandra being my favorite horse: 1) Rachel was just a yearling when I started following Zenyatta and 2) Jess Jackson. Had she never been sold and kept in the masterful care of Hal Wiggins it is likely she'd still be racing today with as much fire in her heart as we saw last year.

Jess Jackson's campaign, as "ambitious" as it was, proved why no filly will ever do what Rachel did again...because the campaign, especially the Woodward, gutted her, leaving only traces of what once was during this year's campaign. Only an owner with greed mistaken for "ambition" would ever subject their filly to such a campaign, no matter how taxing it  might be in the long run. Every horse has a breaking point, and Rachel reached it as she crossed the finish line in the Woodward. I believe that had Rachel never changed hands, it would have been next to impossible for even the staunchest Zenyatta fan not to love her equally. Hal Wiggins probably would have kept her in filly races and because he doesn't share the same prejudice as Jess Jackson for synthetic surfaces, for Rachel had won at Keeneland, it's extremely likely that she and Zenyatta would have faced off at some point, possibly in the Breeder's Cup Distaff, because in that scenario, Zenyatta wouldn't need to face the boys, all she'd have to do is face Rachel in order to win Horse of the Year. So as memorable and emotional Rachel's campaign was last year, I can't help but think of what might of been a long lasting career, with as much magic as Zenyatta's. That, in my mind, would have been better for racing.

09 Oct 2010 11:22 PM
draynay

Rachel is the greatest 3 year old filly ever.  What she did at 3 will never be done again in my life.  I enjoyed every minute and will never forget 2009.  Thank you Rachel.

09 Oct 2010 11:22 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

Thank You! I felt like I was back there watching this amazing race again.  The most exciting race I have ever witnessed in person, hands down!  Funny story, after the race walking back to my car, there was a horse walking back to the barn.  I hurried my steps, and, sure enough, it was Rachel.   I had taken so many photos and videos with my camera, the batteries were just about gone, I was able to get two photos of Rachel.  While out of focus, they are the two I will cherish the most.  A day I will never forget.

09 Oct 2010 11:22 PM
Kekira

I have to say that was just beautiful Mr. Haskin. I got to see Rachel in the flesh and have pictures from that day too at the Preakness. You might remember me as the girl you met by the stakes barn with the horsemen's relations woman and her grandmother. I remember before I left the stakes barn (didn't get to see Rachel there) I did see Assmussen and who I think was Dominic Terry watching a race on a tv. I told him good luck as I left and looks like she didn't need luck that day. hehe I'll never forget Rachel Alexandra and have been a loyal fan since I heard about her the week before the Oaks. I will always love Rachel and miss seeing her run dearly. All I can hope is that Mr.Jackson and a willing track gives her fans one last time to see our hero.

09 Oct 2010 11:33 PM
Kat

What a wonderful send off.

She was beautiful.

09 Oct 2010 11:41 PM
MonicaV

Steve,

Thank you for this beautiful farewell to a great horse.  Thank you for vindicating her brilliant 3 year old season.  This was a great filly in every sense of the word.  I have been sickened by those who insist that she beat nobody and was not a great horse and worst of all the continued sniping at her, belittling of her monumental achievements and most of all, declaring her HOY a sham and nothing but East Coast bias.  I don't understand that sort of viciousness directed at such an amazing, giving animal.  Remarks like she only managed to beat Macho Again by a head.  Yes, after posting blazing fractions in her EIGHTH race!  Rachel was only THREE and accomplished so very much and fought harder than any horse I've ever seen.  I just don't know how anyone cannot see what a gift she truly was but then that is their loss.  How sad.

09 Oct 2010 11:42 PM
Loretta

Thank you so much Steve for writing this for Rachel. She deserved this "written applause". I was at Monmouth Park to see her win the Haskell, and again to see her win the Lady's Secret this year. I was right at the fence as she was being brought into the tunnel to get ready, and as she passed, I said "Go Get'em Girl"! I swear to you this day, she turned her head and looked me in the eye! I was looked upon by Rachel Alexandra! She reminded me so much of my beloved Ruffian, thank God her career did not end the same way. Good Luck girl and I can't wait for your "lightning foals". Thanks Steve for her tribute.

09 Oct 2010 11:42 PM
Karen in Texas

Steve, thanks so much for this eloquent farewell tribute to Rachel. It is a touching way for us to remember her and to say goodbye.

09 Oct 2010 11:44 PM
Mark

I saw her run in the Oaks and Preakness last year and made a special trip to see her in Saratoga. It was probably the most incredible race I've ever witnessed. Afterward many people were weeping. I've be going to horseraces for 30 years and have never seen a more emotional display, both on and off the track. Thanks for a great article, Steve.

09 Oct 2010 11:46 PM
pmolina

macho again and bullsbay are good horses, not great, same as mtb, listen folks she was not that good. dont cry she never won a BC race and here legend will still grow.

09 Oct 2010 11:54 PM
Maureen F

Amazing.

"But maybe it was destined that these two shooting stars were put here not to collide, but to be gazed upon with wonderment, traveling on parallel paths."

I wish the masses could embrace this idea. Miss you, Rachel.

09 Oct 2010 11:57 PM
MTBFan(still)

Bless you, Haskin. This is a grand read. My view of Rachel's Woodward run is just the view of a starry-eyed young woman from Texas running blindly into the life of a new career-world and needing an idol and story, but it seems at least one person has some of the points of the reasons for my belief. She was running for all she had. Regardless of what her training was like, who her companions were, or happened after, SHE was Rachel Alexandra. Run, Rachel, Run. And Haskin, I suggest you get some therapy, you seem to be having a little trouble getting over the departure of this last little star. :D

10 Oct 2010 12:06 AM
ROBINM

Thank you Steve for describing so well the magnificence of Rachel's  Woodward.  The race has been denigrated by those less knowledgable who claim her competition was lacking in talent. Not only do you give her opponents the credit they deserve, you  accurately describe how any lesser horse could not have survived the constant pressure and testing fractions of the race.  Indeed, in a way, Rachel did not survive, as she came back a different horse this year.  It seems she did leave a big piece of her heart on the Saratoga track that day.    The Woodward put the explanation point on an incredible season.  No Sir, we will never see a more glorious campaign by a three-year old filly.

10 Oct 2010 12:06 AM
The Equestrian Vagabond

I was a skeptic when that word "Great" was thrown around early on when it came to Rachel and Zenyatta (for if you mention one, you must mention both!) - because nowadays that word is so carelessly tossed out when a horse wins one or two classic races. But both of them are the greatest mares I'll ever see in my lifetime and it's been a privilege to be brought to tears every time they've run. Sad that Rachel didn't get the Grand Farewell she deserved and we'd have all loved to see, but you did a beautiful job right here. thanks.

10 Oct 2010 12:07 AM
Susie

Beautiful "obit" for Rachel.  Thank you.  She deserved better than that quiet, bewildering ending Jackson decided to give her.  Such a shame for her and her fans.

10 Oct 2010 12:17 AM
RDP

Thank you so much for this, Steve. I'm going to miss her so very much. I hope that life after racing is very good to her. One of the reasons I've been so sad about her is because it's the beginning of the end. She's left racing, and soon Zenyatta will too. Zenyatta is gearing up for the Big One, which is also the Last One. I can't even fathom how I'll feel when Big Z is done, but life goes on and hopefully racing will find new stars to take the mantle from these two wonderful ladies.

10 Oct 2010 12:26 AM
julieo

wow.   Well said.   In achieving the most amazing season ever by a 3 year old filly, Rachel left her race and her heart on the track.   How many gallant thoroughbreds would rather die than give in?   Ruffian, Go For Wand, Dark Secret...the list goes on.   How fortunate that we will be able to see Rachel's babies run and remember the champion who was their dam.   Great article.

10 Oct 2010 12:27 AM
Anncat

I will always be grateful that Rachel Alexandra did NOT race against Zenyatta.  There would have been no winner.  Too much to lose.  Excuses for the loser and resentment against the winner.  Far better this way because we can always dream that our favorite wins the contest.

Let them duke it out in the breeding shed.

10 Oct 2010 12:29 AM
jayjay

Awesome piece again Steve.  I wish other writers can write half as good as you.  I've stated before I'm not a big fan of Rachel but now that she's retired and after reading this blog, I can't help but feel that Woodward thrill that most enjoyed at the time reading your article.

Do you know if Scott was with her when she left Saratoga ?  Any chance you can have a chat with Scott ?  

10 Oct 2010 12:31 AM
alice

rachel alexandra is simply the best.  you'll never see another 3 year old filly perform the way rachel did.  she had so much heart and determination.  i will miss her in racing, but i can't wait to see what she and curlin produce.  it should be amazing.

10 Oct 2010 12:31 AM
Brian Appleton

Beautiful Mr. Haskin, you put into words what so many of us could never explain. What an amazing time to live through, I will by saying to my grandchildren I lived to see Rachel Alexandra run.

A stunning tribute to the champion and a thrilling, emotional reminder of the greatness she lived out.

10 Oct 2010 12:38 AM
babygooze

Lovely article. It leaves me as speechless as the great Rachel Alexandra.  Thank you for capturing in words what I have been feeling in my heart.

10 Oct 2010 12:39 AM
joe the dude

WHAT A WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE, AS USUAL!

10 Oct 2010 12:50 AM
Paseana

Haskin, there is no way I can keep my eyes dry reading this piece.

She is one of the greatest 3yo fillies ever to grace the track, and no matter what she does in the breeding shed, she has a transcendental legacy that will live on.

She brings a whole new meaning to the word "Special".

10 Oct 2010 1:18 AM
Boston Joey

Steve.  Great insights, good commentary about Disney's approach and exaggerations, good perspective, I think, about the film.

BUT an earth shaking error in your initial review, and reference to the unforgettable movie "Kentucky."

POSTMAN was the HERO of the piece, not the villain. Don't you remember the ditty:

"Postman worked in forty-eight,

Goin' to the races, goin' to the races,

Postman worked in forty-eight,

Goin' to the races, now!"

10 Oct 2010 1:30 AM
mj hawk

Steve, you always write great articles, but this is one of your best.

Thank you for reminding me that what Rachel did was extraordinary in every way.  I knew it, but you made me know it again and feel it again.

This wasn't just a one-hit wonder. Rachel was one of the best three-year-old fillies to ever grace a racetrack, and her 2009 season was, arguably, one of the best ever. Maybe even THE best.

Your description of the Woodward said it all.

Sad to say we can't have a chance to say goodbye. But even though Jackson et al should have given us something special to remember her by (see the way Zenyatta's connections do it!) her season  did not end with a whimper.  Nothing could supersede the season she had last year. She's Horse of the Year for a reason.  

Zenyatta has the brilliance, and may be as talented as the greatest horses of all time.  And I am for Zenyatta all the way. But Rachel showed us her heart. We owe it to her to show her our own hearts, and to thank her for the gift she gave us.  

10 Oct 2010 1:35 AM
Susan R

Absolutely beautiful! It is a fitting tribute for a great horse.

10 Oct 2010 1:59 AM
The Deacon

Hard to say anthing Steve that could top that story. You're writing was as visual as perhaps being there for the race itself. I hope the Princess has a long and healthy life, and I also hope that she has a very successful career as a broodmare.

I will just say this, that when a filly or mare beats colts in a major stake or handicap race it is truly a big deal. Why?  Because it just doesn't happen very often.

10 Oct 2010 3:10 AM
diastu

Damn, you spin an emotional tale, Steve. I am so sorry she was retired in such an ignomious way, with no fanfare - emphasis on "fan". I feel both anger and awe. Anger for the human behaviors and decisions; awe for how this incredible mare persevered inspite of them. I truely hope she will be happy and content in her new life, but a part of me doubts the great ones ever really get over the routine, the attention, and the roar of the crowds.

10 Oct 2010 3:19 AM
SLICKO

RACHEL DID THE RUNNING IN THE WOODWARD,BUT JACKSON AND ASSMUSSEN WITH CHAMPAIGN IN HAND TOOK THE BOWS.REMEMBER THEM.WHEN AWARDS ARE GIVEN OUT YOU KNOW THE STORY....

10 Oct 2010 3:56 AM
Abbie Knowles

Thank you Steve for this blog which made me cry! You are such an emotive writer!  

No way should Rachel have gone to embark on her new career with no fans to cheer her on her way. Jess Jackson did Rachel and her fans a great disservice there! Surely it would have been possible for her to parade at Saratoga? Cigar was paraded at Churchill Downs and Madison Square I believe! Rachel deserves no less!

Why can't Rachel Alexandra be paraded at The Breeders Cup so she can get the huge ovation she deserves and so that her fans are allowed to show their appreciation?

God Bless

Best wishes

Abbie

10 Oct 2010 4:49 AM
Andrew in Alaska

I do'nt thnk many folks really realize what a great filly Rachel is/was an she will always shine in my eyes, cause she was a front runner.  She clipped off great fractions that to me is hard to do being a front runner or just off the pace.  Coming from behind is hard but not as hard as leading the pack an with fast fractions like she had.  Maybe Rachel an Curlin can turn out a triple crown winner...goodbye Rachel , I'll be looking for your youngsters in yrs to come.

10 Oct 2010 5:43 AM
Stacey

Amen

10 Oct 2010 5:44 AM
Karen in NY

Steve,

Thank you so much for a beautiful article about Rachel. I am still mourning her loss and your words brought tears to my eyes. The silence from the JJ camp is deafening. What is going on? I still have hope that they plan to give her the final farewell that is given to a Champion. I was there at Saratoga watching her workout and she gave me goosebumps with her strengh and grace. She is like no other filly I have even seen. I do agree that she deserves retirement as she really has no more mountains to climb. But

her fans want to see her again and adorn her with Roses and see the little girls cheer her on. She deserves that and more. I still have hope that day will somehow happen. Lets get the fans to organize a Rachel day! Lets give her the final tribute she deserves.

Perhaps it is the timing of her departure that offers some challenges. No doubt it is Zenyattas year and I do not want to take anything away from her. But after the Breeders Cup lets bring them both back for a farewell to the two best fillies

of all time. Maybe thats what JJ is thinking? I can only hope as the silence is deafening and she deserves so much more.

10 Oct 2010 5:54 AM
Frankie S

looking forward to the much-anticipated, and if everyone stays healthy best Breeders Cup Classic in distant memory.  It will be Zenyatta's race to lose, or should I say it will be a rider's race and only Mikey can lose it for her.Her star should shine bright that day.

10 Oct 2010 6:00 AM
njchris

Beautiful Steve. I will never forget being there that day. Miss you girl. XOXOX

10 Oct 2010 6:05 AM
Tony@wweld

Great story Steve,

Thanks for reviving her greatness.

Scott and Steve know that they've trained the horse of a lifetime and that came after Curlin who also was a special horse. In my 42 years of watching horseracing I've only seen a similar situation once beforet. That was the Riva Ridge Secreteriat team with beack to back spectacular years. Steve we are blessed to have been part of these great accomplishments. Thanks for make me relive them.

10 Oct 2010 6:55 AM
Tracy

Wow! Thank you for this column.  I am a huge fan of all the ones that lay it on the line (and even some that are just characters)  They are flesh and blood and deserve respect for what they have done.  They are not in control of who owns them or who gets in the gate with them, they just do.

She just did, over and over and she had a Horse of the Year campaign that she had no control of.  I do wish we had had more information concerning her retirement, but hey we are only fans.  

I will certainly miss her as I will miss the great Zenyatta, Quality Road and all the ones that will be retiring after the Breeders Cup.  We will have to look for new stars to follow.  I believe it will be quite a while before we see another Rachel or another Zenyatta, at least we got to see them and appreciate what they have done, sometimes in spite of their connections.  They give it all without question!

Thank you Rachel.

10 Oct 2010 7:18 AM
Linda Callaghan

Well done as usual but this one is very special, like its subject.  She was one of a kind. The end of her racing career seems somehow heartbreaking because of the lack of closure that came with it.

10 Oct 2010 7:55 AM
Rachel

Thank-you Steve, thank-you...she's gone and we didn't get to say goodbye.

Why wasn't she given a champion's send-off? If not for her grooms, hot-walkers, stall-muckers, trainers and we fans who loved her so much, then why not for her? Why wasn't there a chance for us to cheer and celebrate her one more time, for her to hear the crowd's roar that she knew and, in race horse way, understood? ♥

10 Oct 2010 7:59 AM
CBman

Well put steve. couldnt agree more

10 Oct 2010 8:14 AM
Slew

Amen, Steve.  An accurate reflection of my feelings that day.  For everyone who has tried to knock her competition that day, I've always maintained that they were tough battle tested,well-muscled veterans.  Watching that final stretch with over a ton of muscle in Bullsbay and Macho Again bearing down on Rachel, was like watching two semis bearing down on a Porsche.  That race defined who Rachel was, and that race destroyed who Rachel was.  If only foresight were half as brilliant as hindsight, we might still have our heroine to cheer.

10 Oct 2010 8:36 AM
Gay-C

Yes, the 2009 Woodward was something for the ages. I was lucky enough to have been one of that crowd of people and I screamed my lungs out during the entire stretch drive, afraid that Rachel might break down with the effort. By the finish, my head was about to explode as she crossed the finish line first. That moment was the most thrilling sports moment of my entire life, and I am grateful to ave been one of the witnesses to it. I'll never forget her.

10 Oct 2010 9:07 AM
Melissa

Great article Steve. I loved Rachel... Still do, always will. I'll never forget the amazing memories she gave all of us. I hope she has a long, happy, and healthy retirement.

10 Oct 2010 9:17 AM
Lydia

That was wonderful, Steve.  It amazes me that people need to be reminded that what Rachel did as a three year old filly was very special.  We'd expect to hear the kind of noise that came from the apron and stands at Saratoga the day of the Woodward from more than 100,000 people waiting to see a Belmont and Triple Crown winner, but not from a much smaller crowd in a smaller venue.  That place was rocking, and I will never forget it.  Absolutely deafening!  

10 Oct 2010 9:24 AM
JT76

I think you've outdone yourself Mr. Haskin..and perhaps everyone else as well.. Thankyou for this.

10 Oct 2010 9:30 AM
RachelFan

wonderfully said, it nearly made me tear up, Alexandra the Great is gone from the track, but not from her fans hearts

10 Oct 2010 9:34 AM
Patricia Diers

I raelly feel Jess Jackson should get Rachel to the Breeder's Cup to say goodbye to her fans.   She was the greatest thing to happen to racing last year and deserves that standing ovation.  To just shuttle her to some farm is not right.

10 Oct 2010 9:36 AM
Giddyup

Somethings in life - a rainbow, a child's first steps, Zenyatta and Rachel are best experienced and appreciated as divine gifts. All analysis is superfluous.

10 Oct 2010 9:36 AM
Patricia Guthrie

I loved your blog today. It got me thinking about RA. I saw all her races on television and kept shaking my head in wonder.

I wonder (no think) that last race

was the culmunation point of "burned out." The point where

you work so hard for such a long time and achieve your goals, there aren't any more goals to achieve.  And, you're burned out.  Just can't do it any more.

I believe if Jackson and his crew had wanted to retire RA there would have been all the hype and glamour of Curlin and then some.

Something happened. RA just needed to say "stop."

Pat

10 Oct 2010 9:42 AM
Patricia Guthrie

Oh yes, and God bless RA. I hope she produce many beautiful babies and loves the rest of her live. God knows she deserves it.

10 Oct 2010 9:43 AM
tabasco223

thank you for this. what is important is to remember how amazing her campaign and races were last year.  A season that wont be equaled for many years.

10 Oct 2010 9:44 AM
pineyhillhorses

Very often I watch Horse races and cheer for a certain Horse, not as often I even get a tear in my eye- when I have seen something truly spectacular. This was the case with all of Rachel's races last year- especially her Woodward. This article has brought on the same emotions including the tear in my eye. We will probably never see another 3 year old campaign like this again- she still is and always will be Rachel Alexandra "THE GREAT". Just as Rachel- with no doubt- deserved Horse of the Year last year, this article- with no doubt- deserves an award. Thanks Steve for your great writing and your obvious love for the sport.

10 Oct 2010 9:46 AM
Linda

Steve, you truly deserve a Pulitzer for this story.  I am crying my eyes out and typing this at the same time.  Rachel deserves a movie and you need to be the screenwriter.  My true thanks.

10 Oct 2010 10:05 AM
Steve Haskin

Wow, so many comments already. Thank you all. It's great to see Rachel's accomplishments are still so special to everyone, despite her 2010 campaign. I will try to address as many as possible. Let's hope we see her one more time at Churchill Downs.

10 Oct 2010 10:12 AM
old timer

Thank you, Steve. You expressed my feelings about that day and about that filly exactly. I was there, lost my screams in the roar, and cried afterwards, as I haven't since Ruffian. It was a mix of happiness that she won and fear that she had left too much of herself on that track and would never be the same. I cursed Calvin for the beating, believing she would have given just as much on a hand ride and would feel she had been punished for that giving.I guess he was thinking he couldn't let her lose, but I'm not in his shoes, so who knows. I hoped against hope that I was wrong. I pray she is happy now to relax and have babies but I wish it hadn't ended this way.

10 Oct 2010 10:13 AM
mitzie diva

thanks for the send off that you gave a great filly. i'm glad that zenyatta and rachael didn't meet they have their own paths to travel and both should be remembered for their great hearts. i don't think much of the guiding forces behind her but thats that. i also don't think much of the curlin rachael match up. i would like to suggest that sea the stars or galileo would really be great match ups. as for rachaels legs being the reason for her retirement i just think they didn't want to chance her not winning again.

10 Oct 2010 10:21 AM
Debra G

Thanks, Steve!  I really hope people "get it" about Rachel.  They want to diminish her accomplishment in the Woodward by asking who did she beat? though it was never about who.  It was always how.  I was there and I know I have never seen and will never see anything like it again.  This filly is a warrior princess and her feminine fighting spirit is the manifestation of the Bedouin war mares whose blood dances in her veins.  Who she beat has as little to do with the miracle we saw that September day as her 2010 campaign has to do with her Horse of the Year 2009 campaign. I am not in agreement that those stallions she defeated were nothing - they were hard-knocking racehorses that had some major wins and placings under their belts and get it through your heads people - Rachel was a little girl amongst horses when she won that race.  Personally, I am going to revel in the phenomenon that was Rachel and thank my lucky stars to have seen her at Saratoga, at Churchill and at Monmouth.  Those who want to denigrate the beauty and bravery of this filly's accomplishments are missing out on a rare and enriching peak experience and that is surely their loss.  So goodbye my glorious Rachel, may we meet again and meanwhile - in pastures of green - run like a girl!        

10 Oct 2010 10:35 AM
Mike Relva

STEVE,

Don't know who could expressed it better,thanks. Totally agree,only wished RA would've received what she deserved. Bravo.

10 Oct 2010 10:39 AM
Mike Relva

STEVE

I've only had one article printed in a newspaper my entire life. You have a great gift.

10 Oct 2010 10:42 AM
texaszippeee

Somehow you always manage to express what fans are feeling.  What a wonderful tribute to Rachael.  I am sorry, too, that she was taken away from us so suddenly without a chance to tell her good-bye and congratulations for all she has done for horse racing.  

10 Oct 2010 10:48 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful horse

10 Oct 2010 10:58 AM
NancyP

Steve, You brought tears to my eyes recapping Rachel Alexandra's stellar year.  I have watched her Woodward on-line, but your description above said it more eloquently and lovingly than film could.  She will always be remembered, as she is truly Great!  As you wrote and we could witness on the film - she left her guts on Saratoga that day.

It really saddens me that JJ and Asmussen did not see it fitting to return her to Belmont for a farewell on JCGC Saturday - the racing fans there loved her.  On the day of the Mother Goose you could not get near the walkway to see her as she came to the paddock from the barns.  Normally I could find a spot in the spectator section of the paddock to see her and snap my pictures, but it was impossible due to the crowd all around the paddock area.

Hopefully, some how they (JJ and Asmussen) get the message from all of us, that she should have a farewell presentation at Churchill on the 6th of November in the middle of the afternoon and let her hear the roaring of the crowd at her presence. She so deserves it.  It would perhaps lift her Spirit to know we so loved her for her brave and courageous sacrifices.

Long live Rachel Alexandra!

10 Oct 2010 11:04 AM
Linda in Texas

I read this article 10 minutes after it was posted. There were no comments. I turned off the computer at 11 PM and still no comments.

Not wanting to be the first i waited until this morning, finally 79 comments/tributes posted by many i do not see often and that is so nice.

Steve, i wrote a post but as i reread it, it was like i was writing a comment on a death and

i deleted it.

Because Rachel is very much alive, her heart was tested like no other filly since Ruffian, whom i saw race. She gave her all, and what Rachel lacks in soul she makes up for in heart. Listen to her heart. Listen to her eyes, she accepts our glowing compliments and

the racing Gods will never let her be forgotten. Ever.

She also would probably be saying, "do not forget me, I ran for those of you who came to see if i was really real."

"I am here with you, and you have my heart in yours."

"When thinking of me, forget the bad and remember all of the good."

Thank you Rachel Alexandra. I now have witnessed 4 of the greatest fillies ever that i have been privileged to follow in my lifetime.

In alphabetical order:

Peppers Pride(Perseverance)

Rachel Alexandra (Heart)

Ruffian (Spirit)

Zenyatta (Soul)

Thanks to all of them. True Gifts

to all of us each with their own special traits.

Thank you Steve.

10 Oct 2010 11:17 AM
sherpa

A beautiful, fitting tribute to a truly awesome filly, Mr. Haskin.  Pure poetry ... both the subject and the writing.

I wish Mr. Jackson could be cajoled into giving Rachel a proper sendoff by her fans, if only by leading the Post Parade for the first race of the BC.  She deserves so much more than an unheralded van ride to Stonestreet.

10 Oct 2010 11:36 AM
seatariat

Beautiful article Steve!

She deserved a big send off for everything she gave us. Thank you for honoring her. Hopefully her connections will still give her fans an opportunity to say good-bye.

10 Oct 2010 11:40 AM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Haskin, This story is one of my all time favorites pieces of writing about Thoroughbreds.  I can barely believe how beautifully it was written.  With great precision you put Rachael Alexandra to words in a way that transcends time.  Like her 2009 season this piece is timeless.  You polished the memory of her Woodward win to a blinding glow.  The comments that people have written have been very moving.  Thank you.

10 Oct 2010 11:40 AM
Rachel

Thank you Steve, I cried through most of your blog.  I too was there that day up in the Turf Terrace restaurant and I have never experienced anything like that day.

The entire restaurant was on its feet scream and stomping, you could feel the building shaking, even before the horses left the paddock.

My heart breaks that the owners ruined her 2010 campaign and then retired her so suddenly with no explanation.  Rachel and her fans deserve more than that.  Rachel's fans deserve to see her one more time to say goodbye as much as Rachel deserves to hear those cheers and applause and the love her fans have for her.

She is truly a champion and deserves to be retired like one!

10 Oct 2010 11:40 AM
Lauracrown

Steve,

Thank you for such a stirring tribute to Rachel Alexandra and for such a detailed description of her Woodward Stakes! I will always love her and never forget her!

It would be wonderful if her connections would arrange a special appearance somewhere so that Rachel's fans could cheer for her and say goodbye properly!

10 Oct 2010 12:01 PM
fanofallthree

I'm not going to dwell on being upset or discouraged with how/why Rachel was retired.  Mr. Jackson does things his way.  He makes no explanations; nor does he need to.

I take away from Rachel what SHE gave to ME, and it was her ALL.  When her body failed her, she ran on heart.  She never, ever once embarrassed herself.  No one need hang their head in shame because she was as fabulous in defeat as she was in victory.

To those of you who think she was gutted in the Woodward, take a look at the gallop out.  That's not a gutted horse.  She may have been tired, but she wasn't gutted.  To those of you who think she was Laffit Pincay whipped Sham in that race, do you know that they used padded whips at Saratoga for the meet.  20 lashes with that "weapon" was like being lashed with a strand of stiff Christmas ribbon.

I'm of the opinion that the long lay off was what seriously affected her 2010 campaign.  If she was recovering from an injury, that may be a different story, but is there any proof of that other than speculation?!~

All I know is we got to see her, to experience her, to relish vicariously in her victories.  She's a bright, golden thread woven deeply into the tapestry of Thoroughbred greats.

I take away from Rachel all that she gave - not necessarily what her human connections gave.  But, judging by how she was treated and revered at Oklahoma Track those many mornings I went to see her, there was a whole lotta love and care for her.

Thanks, RAITCH.  And, thank you, Steve, for yet another wonderful word painting.  You do them so well.  

10 Oct 2010 12:05 PM
Livesoutwest

There has been a lot of criticism of Jackson and Asmussen for deciding to go in the Woodward, a race that some claim "gutted" Rachel.

Maybe it did.  Or maybe like Winning Colors, she just wasn't as good at four as she was at three.  Some horses excel as they grow into heavier, more muscular bodies.  With others, it robs them of some of the quickness they used to their advantage when they were lighter.

I also think it was a mistake for Rachel to just stand in her stall eating and getting out of condition for such a long time, and then rushing back into training to try to meet an unrealistic deadline for the Apple Blossom.  That was Asmussen's fault and nobody else's.  I doubt it would have made a difference as far as returning to her 2009 form, but she would have had a better 2010, and maybe those narrow losses to Zardana & Unrivaled Belle go the other way.

But I get tired of hearing what "villains" Jackson and Asmussen are.  They love their horse as much as Moss & Shirreffs love Zenyatta.  They're human beings, and they made some bad calls.  Who hasn't?

10 Oct 2010 12:06 PM
Emily27

Thank you so much for this article. I had tears streaming down my face during it:( It was definitely needed; I was feeling like she was being sent off so carelessly, with barely anyone noticing. This will leave everyone with the great memories of her, and reminded us just how amazing she was. I hope no one ever forgets

10 Oct 2010 12:11 PM
Dani

The Woodward was perhaps her defining moment. Her raw talent, her courage, her will to win. However one disects that race and how she came out of it, she still remains a most remarkable and unforgettable horse. I keep thinking back to the press release and Jackson's words that she was being retired to a less stressful and happier life.  Are the answers really behind those words? Despite the bullet workouts, was she truly a stressed out and unhappy horse?  We may never know the full truth.  If they retired her because she was, then it was the right thing to do, though I, as most everyone else thinks, it was a very undeserving way to handle it for both horse and fans alike.  I look at Barbara Livingston's photos of her final walk between her stall and the van - no one about, no one to cheer her on and remind her how special she was and is. Is that how they really meant to send her off? I just can't believe after the way they paraded Curlin around at the end of his career that they should practically steal off in the middle of the night with Rachel. Still, we have the videos of her races to keep as a reminder that she was a shining star in a sport that needs heros. She was a hero for me and I will never forget what she made me feel everytime I saw that proud and regal beauty whether standing still or racing her heart out. She is a true champion and always will be.

10 Oct 2010 12:14 PM
MEP

Beautiful send-off. Thank you Steve.

10 Oct 2010 12:18 PM
alphaecho

A wonderful tribute to a GREAT champion. She was a fabulous talent who proved her greatness by triumphanting over an ambitious 2009 campaign, therefore no need for criticism of anyone. She is alive and healthy and has and will continue to have the best of care by all those connected with her. I am lucky enough to have witnesssed such a great accomplishment, just wish I could have seen her in person, I live on the west coast.

10 Oct 2010 12:24 PM
Richard

One of the saddest realities of our sport is that superstars like Rachel come along so rarely and then are too quickly gone. She set the horse racing world on fire in 2009, God she was fun to watch. Steve, you have done her justice with your article. Too bad her owner did not think enough of her fans to give her a proper send off. Rachel never let us down. Jess Jackson sure did.

10 Oct 2010 12:25 PM
Ann

I agree SOdapopkid, and etc.. You can just tell by the way some horses act that they don't want to be around certain people.

10 Oct 2010 12:31 PM
Rachel O

Beautiful article, Steve. Many of the comments have brought me to tears this morning.

I didn't have the privilege of seeing Rachel Alexandra in action, but how I would love to see her at the Breeder's Cup if JJ would just deign to allow us--on both days, please--since some of us can only be there on Saturday.

Of course that is undoubtedly too much to ask, because Jackson has been thumbing his nose at us, and at Rachel, too, for quite some time now. Her backdoor exit certainly demonstrated JJ's resentment towards her and whatever else or whoever else. I had a very bad feeling about RA's future when he bought her, and my intuition was right on. What a perfect example of "Money will not buy everything."

10 Oct 2010 12:34 PM
TradingPlaces

I think the perfect day to give Rachel a send off would be the Sunday after the Breeders Cup. It would be a fitting way to end what will be a spectacular event, an exciting year, and a one for the ages career by a great filly. I doubt people wouldn't come out for her if they decided to stay the weekend in Kentucky. It was her home base and the site some of her most dominating wins this year and last. I hope they give the fans a chance to see her one last time.

10 Oct 2010 12:36 PM
Paula Higgins

Draynay, you are right, she was the greatest 3 year old filly in recorded history, bar none. She deserved HOTY. I have no problem with her connections with the exception of one thing: they should not have retired her the way they did without the applause and recognition she deserved. Steve, I don't know if you talk to Rachel's connections but maybe someone could float the idea of her going to Churchill Downs for a farewell appearance. Maybe it would be more for us, but I think she should hear the cheers of the crowd one more time. These two girls (Rachel and Zenny) will never be seen on the track again, I want them to go out with lots of love, win or lose. To everyone that posted, these posts are just wonderful, full of love, and they gladdened my heart.

10 Oct 2010 12:48 PM
seb

Thank you for a great account of a great occasion in our sport.

It is absolutely the case that Mr. Jackson's ideas for reforming our sport center on increasing the extent to which the owner of a talented horse should be able to call the shots, forcing racetracks and other potential clients of the revenue generated by the animal's appearance (which is why she won't show up at Churchill to be paraded, at least not without an appearance fee).  His efforts this year to force racing associations to bargain for Rachel's appearances expose his misunderstanding of our sport.  Unlike Mr. Jackson's other trade, the qualities that make a racehorse great cannot be bottled, any more than they can be reliably passed on genetically.  I will always treasure the boldness with which Rachel was campaigned as a three year old.  I will always hesitate about the way in which Rachel as a brand was used by her owner as a means by which to attempt to further his hobby horses about deference to owners and revenue.  The sad fact is that without Rachel's stunning ability her management would never have been as twisted up in secondary agendas as it was.  Not greed, more like runaway pride.

Fortunately hundreds of thousands of us are proud of Rachel and proud of what her quality testifies about the sport and the breed even in these troubled times.  Mr. Jackson can come along with us.

10 Oct 2010 1:05 PM
zenyatta mondatta

I hope this is the last "Goodbye" to RA. She didnt die, she was retired.   She is still living and breathing.   Careless Jewel was retired to,  Funny,  I dont think anyone cares, Right?  

Its a shame old JJ has put himself right were he needs to be. in the dog house with the fans,  Thats what happens when you put the cart before the horse.  

Yes, Steve, Zenyatta is getting ready to light up the skies like never before, she has one more hurdle to go, and to her, it will be just another race.  she may have to put a few boys in their places,  but this girl is just the one to do it.   Zenyatta has more heart and determination than any horse I have ever seen.  She is truly not from this world.  

10 Oct 2010 1:10 PM
Zookeeper

I'm still holding up hope that Churchill Downs and Mr. Jackson will do right by this magnificent filly and give her fans the chance to say Goodbye in the manner she deserves.

I'm afraid I can't join you in celebrating the Woodward (as I see that race as the one that ultimately took her from us) but I definitely can add my voice to the many others who have expressed their love and admiration for Rachel Alexandra the Great!

Her finely chiseled features, her unusual blaze and her sad eyes make Rachel one of the most recognizable equine faces of the racing world. Her free running style and her heart made her beloved and unforgettable.

Thank you Rachel for the joy and amazement your brought to our lives, you were so utterly UNIQUE ... may you live a long and happy life in the lush, serene pastures of Kentucky.

Your name will become LEGEND and those who were fortunate enough to see you run, will remember always that once there was a Regal Filly who ran like the wind...

10 Oct 2010 1:14 PM
JAJ

Fanofallthree,

Are you joking?  Borel whaling on her in the Woodward and the Preakness is the equivalent to being lashed with a "strand of stiff Christmas ribbon?"

I would like to see you stand for one lash of the "stiff Christmas ribbon" that is Borel's whip!

I will never forgive Borel for his use of the whip on a filly that obviously was giving her all, and I will never forgive Jackson and Asmussen for not firing him after the Preakness or at least curtailing his excessive use of the whip.

10 Oct 2010 1:15 PM
Hans Boon

I am a great admirer of RA and think that she was badly mis-managed this past season. Even as she was going into her first start this season, she was reportedly "about 90% back in form." Then why start her?? Also, viewing her great runaway wins of '09, we can see that she is a stalker, waiting just behind the front runners and then swooping past them to run away in the stretch. Her only "difficult" races in '09 were the Preakness and Woodward when Borel misguidedly took her to the front from the beginning,using her up and setting her up for a stretch run by a fresher opponent. I think he just became over-confident in her.It is like the Assault/Stymi meetings in '46, cured by replacing Assdault's jockey to Arcaro, who knew how to wait for the right moment with his stretch runner. The same should have been done with RA, and I think she would not have had such a spotty '10 record. That is finally off my chest!

10 Oct 2010 1:19 PM
Karen

Thank you, Steve Haskin, for the excellent memories!

For those who would have liked to say goodbye to Rachel in person, see Barbara Livingston's tribute. It is the next best thing to being there.

drf.com/.../goodbye-girl-rachel-alexandra-heads-toward-new-life-0

10 Oct 2010 1:28 PM
Bet Twice

Beautiful article.  A wonderful tribute to a great filly.  

10 Oct 2010 1:41 PM
Christine

Steve,

I was at the Woodward that day, and being a part of that crowd is something I will never forget.

Her 2009 campaign was amazing, such that I created a video montage of called "The Historic Campaign of Rachel Alexandra" on Youtube. It took me many hours, but I felt it was owed to her for such courage, and it was necessary for her detractors to see all of her races in a row with the achievements listed as well.

I seem to be in the minority, but I wouldn't trade that campaign for anything. Yes, if she took an easier route she may still be running, but we never would have seen something as unique and memorable as those series of performances. I'd much rather see that than a series of boring, expected wins. Of course I'm not happy she didn't return to top form, but 2009 is in the books forever, and I sure do enjoy watching the replays.

And unlike most people, I thank Jess Jackson. Between Curlin and Rachel, I hadn't had that much fun being a fan since Cigar. Seeing horses challenged and tested is what defines their greatness to me. I applaud the guts it required to take the path less taken. And I feel he owes me nothing...it is his horse. Not mine. I'm just a grateful fan who enjoyed every second.

I am heartbroken she is retired, but at least she is safe and sound.

I love you Rachel! Thanks for the memories girl!

10 Oct 2010 1:54 PM
MarilynH

Great article.  Rachel deserved a good send off and you gave it to her with this tribute.

10 Oct 2010 2:00 PM
Meydan Rocks

Steve,

You encapsulated our sentiments on ALL levels with this piece.

Thank you!

10 Oct 2010 2:17 PM
Norma M

Wonderful article.  Very emotional for me.  With the Secretariat movie and the death of Pleasant Tap the whole weekend has been emotional.  All this reflection has made me think about what constitues greatness.  I am not being sarcastic, but as a devoted racing fan, I am curious as to what criteria is considered to use that word.  Don't misunderstand, I believe Rachel Alexandra to be one of the great ones, but it seems that word gets thrown around a lot.  Is it a compilation of times and wins measured with strength of competition.  Can a horse currently racing be "great" or do we have to wait until the successes of their progeny can be evaluated.  Is there a formula that can factor heart and fortitude along with sheer athleticism or one that can evaluate public sentiment.  Are the great ones categorized solely by people like Andy Beyer or do the children that wait patiently just to catch a glimpse of a goose stepping champion and never, ever forget it get a vote.  All I know is when the truly great human athletes end their careers they are taken out of the game early so they can get that last standing "O" and feel and hear the admiration one last time.  They certainly aren't walked in silence to a van and carted off into oblivion.  She earned the right to hear it one more time and not have to work for it.  Thanks Steve.  You got it right.

10 Oct 2010 2:21 PM
Chicago Jo

Thanks Steve for such a well-written recap that casts (for posterity) the race with all the superlatives that it deserves.  

For those who say the race 'gutted' and 'ruined' her and lament that Jackson was driven by greed (of honor or money), please be careful of hindsight bias.  No one knew the race/pace would play out as it did.  She would have more easily handled any 1 or 2 of the challengers but it was the fact that they came one after the other that was somewhat unanticipated and so grueling. (especially Da'Tara who was ultimately eased having no business running forcing fractions as fast as he did and was later seen in OptClaiming ranks).

With facts known summer of 2009, I really felt the Woodward was an 'elegant' solution to guaranteeing Horse of the Year for Rachel who was not going onto the Breeder's Cup. And, incrementally building her legacy (which we hoped would build all through 2010).  

Her Haskell was stunning, she was not overly-pressured, and it was held in early Aug.  No logical person would have suggested ending Rachel's season then.  So then, what final race was the question? The Woodward was the best answer.

Either the Personal Ensign or Beldame would have been a natural showdown race for Zenyatta and Rachel - but Zenyatta wasn't coming east. Without Zenyatta, the Beldame would have been anti-climatic as a final race. Beating older females at the classic distance would have been better, but the risk (distance) vs reward ('only females') calculation was not quite right. Better to tackle 10 furlongs with a fresher, stronger rachel in her 4 yo season (one would have assumed in summer 2009).  

Meanwhile, beating older males would be considered monumental and the Woodward was easier (and shorter and sooner) than the JCGC.  

As for the Travers, Quality Road was considered an emerging monster, folks feared he could run the Travers, JGC and Classic table - and if so, could beat out Rachel and Zenyatta for HOTY. [We didn't yet know that QR might have trouble at 10F and SB had just been trounced in the haskell).  Either Rachel's owners really believed they had nothing to prove against 3yo colts or they regarded Travers as a higher risk/lower reward placement in which to build her legacy [longer distance, potentially vs. the most inherently powerful horse in training(QR), not as dramatic as older males].  Probably the latter, since they are not naive.

Jackson wasn't being excessive to try to ensure HOTY/give Rachel one final year-end stage upon which to shine.  He (and others) truly believed she was the most brilliant horse of 2009, so why not ensure she get honored as such with a final capstone race?  So, the Woodward was seen as an better placement than the Travers (more rest after haskell, shorter, no QR) and the JCGC (shorter, no QR), and PE (older males) and although it was never really a consideration that she'd run in the Breeder's Cup anyway, ending the season in Sept should be seen (rationally) as easier on Rachel than prolonging her training longer to even run in the Ladies Classic - which came up stiff enough, never mind the Classic. Remember too, that some criticized Jackson at the time the Woodward was selected for 'ducking' stiffer races.

In retrospect of course, this 'gut-wrenching' race does define her greatness over and above her other races for all the reasons Steve so eloquently describes. and she may have paid a price (through injury or mentally).

But no one knew in advance that it would be that way...

10 Oct 2010 2:28 PM
Mahuba

I remember at the time of last year's Woodward, Jackson and his connections were being hailed as the best examples of sportsmanship around.  Everybody was so thrilled when she was entered in the Woodward! And she was favored by the fans---I didn't believe she could win it--especially after the demanding year she had--No three year old filly had ever won that race against elder males-- before her.  I also remember a lot of comments on how masterfully her connections how planned her season.

Time changes everything.  Perhaps she was "gutted" by her three year old season; perhaps it was the long layoff or the fact that she just didn't have the edge she had last year.  Regardless, none of us (including her connections) can see the future--or predict how she would be effected by her amazing season last year.  I, for one, feel honored just to have seen it--I also feel grateful that I got to see her amazing feat in the Woodward!  She is safely retired (hopefully) now without breaking down---I was around when Ruffian raced, and I remember all too well her breakdown.  I'm very grateful to have experienced Rachel's career!  And I am glad she got her chance to show her greatness--thanks to her and her connections.

(I never thought I'd see the day when I defended Jackson!  He really grates on my nerves--but give credit where credit is due!)

10 Oct 2010 2:53 PM
Alexandra

Love you RACHEL ALEXANDRA. You will always be one of the greatest females in the sport of kings. Or should I saw queens. Happy retirement and hope get to parade on track to say your final goodbye to racing.

Love you lots

Alexandra Winnipeg Manitoba Canada

10 Oct 2010 3:15 PM
CV

Steve,

What a beautifully written tribute to the brilliant filly Rachel Alexandra. Like you, I hope her connections see fit to parade her at Churchill Downs, perhaps her favorite track.

10 Oct 2010 3:21 PM
fanofallthree

Reply to JAJ re Calvin's use of the whip on Rachel in the Woodward.

Please read this article -

sports.espn.go.com/.../story

I'd be the first one to jump on Calvin or any jockey for the overuse of the whip.  This new padded whip is altogether different.  He probably used it as many times as he did because she wasn't feeling a thing.

Not wishing to make this into a hostile debate.  

Thanks, again, Steve for yet another wonderful tribute to another wonderful horse.

10 Oct 2010 3:46 PM
Linda/Maryland

Steve, Thank you again for your expert prospective on Rachel. It is a shame that her owners do not have the respect for her that you have.

She definately was abused by Jackson and his crew and they didn't even have the respect to allow her to go in a respectful manner.

I personally will stay away from any horse JJ owns in the future. He thinks the horse and the fans mean nothing. He is in it for his ego.

10 Oct 2010 4:14 PM
zenyatta mondatta

I agree with Trading Places about RA parading (provideing JJ alow it) I think it should be done on Sunday, Not on Friday or definitly not on Saturday,   This is a very emotional time for her fans and others,  I think alot of resentment is still in the air.  Seeing RA being paraded on either of the BC race days and seeing her when she should be running in the races.  Its not to good to do it on those two days.

Emotions are going to be running to high on either one of the BC race days.   I think she has been cheated out of the chance to run in them.

Anyway,  thats not fair to the other horses that are running in the BC races,  Thats like "raining on their parade"  sort of speak.

When we need to be giving them our support we dont need to be whining over seeing RA being paraded.  NO,and its not fair to RA when people are going to be upset that she isnt in there.  

They need to have that Sunday or another day as a special day just for RA and her fans.

10 Oct 2010 4:21 PM
FernieFernFern

I wish Rachel Alexandra the great farewell from our view and wish for her a long life to come.  

We may never see such a great race  mare so in that way we have been privileged to share her.

BUT, they way she was retired (not taken from us because we did not own her) epitomizes what is wrong with horse racing. Whenever we get a great horse or mare or filly, all too soon they are taken away - why do fans want to invest emotionally with an athlete which probably will vanish in a year or 18 months?  Rachel has two great bullet works and the next day out of the blue is retired.  No reason, no nothing - she does deserve a farewell - not for us but for her.

Adieu Rachel - we all have loved you.

10 Oct 2010 4:23 PM
Paula Higgins

That's it. I just read Barbara Livinstone's tribute to Rachel and I am choking back tears. Scott Blasi may do this for a living but saying "goodbye' to Rachel must have been gut wrenching. I may have to find a new sport. I just hope for Rachel that she is treated like the Queen she is and given lots of candy (I hear she loves the stuff). ITA Chicago Jo, that no one knew ahead of time that the Woodward would take so much out of her. I don't want to blame anyone for her 2010 season. Her 2009 season was spectacular and I am grateful for it. As for Calvin Borel, I do not believe for one minute he would deliberately hurt any horse. Those whips aren't whips in the true sense of the word. Fo starters, the ASPCA of which I am a member, would never tolerate it.

10 Oct 2010 4:25 PM
LauraS

Absolutely beautiful Steve.  You captured the "meteor" that was Rachel Alexandra perfectly.  She was an outstanding ambassador for the sport last year and will be missed. The woulda shouldas have become never-weres and we are all left wanting.

BTW, Chicago Jo, John Shireffs has been quoted as saying that travel arrangements for Zenyatta to race in the Beldame had been made and were only canceled when Rachel was pulled for the year. They didn't see the need to ship cross-country for a race that wouldn't settle anything.

Like I said, woulda shoulda and now never-were...

10 Oct 2010 4:26 PM
cdr

Once again, as several have said, you managed to brilliantly say what so many racing fans and those that were in the business were thinking.  I always thought the Woodward was a terrible decision on behalf of her new connections.  She had done enough already.  While the race was being run and seeing the fractions, I was thinking that she couldn't possibly keep that up.  She somehow did and like you said, she left her being on the track that day.  Her retirement with no chance for a tribute or the fans to have a last look makes no sense and it never will.  She may have gotten hurt in that last bullet work and she is so loved, while it may be Mr. Jackson's business, we all have a right to know that she is okay at the very least.  Zenyatta's connections have always protected her.  Rachel deserved better.

10 Oct 2010 4:38 PM
Oldie

Thank you Steve.  I am heartbroken she is retired, but so very relieved she retired without a breakdown.  I thought last year she should have had some pasture time (I think sometimes a horse needs to just be a horse for a while), but presumably everything Jackson decided to do was for a reason, whether fear of injury or need to heal one, or even security concerns, which I think were mentioned last year during her campaign.  It is possible the same concerns led to her quiet departure.  I can't help giving all the people around her the benefit of the doubt.  I hope she is safe, well, and happy and has a wonderful rest of her life.

10 Oct 2010 4:39 PM
one rachel fan

Bravo!!!

Well done, Rachel.

Well said, Steve.

10 Oct 2010 5:16 PM
JAJ

Fanofallthree, I race at Woodbine, so am quite familiar with the whips you are talking about.  Believe me, the horses feel them.  My trainer has one horse that if it is hit by the new "noisemaker" (Kent Desormeaux) or "marshmallow" (E. T. Baird) will simply quit.  That particular horse--all heart if you don't use a whip--definitely feels the whip.

You watch a rider swing those whips over their head--at least at Woodbine the riders are fined and given days for raising a whip over their shoulders.  They are a fiberglass whip covered in duct tape and cloth.  I dare you to get hit by one swung by an incredibly strong jockey.  They are not nothing.  Certainly they are an improvement over some whips which were very close to covered wires, but they are not a non-event for the horse.  

10 Oct 2010 5:17 PM
Abbie Knowles

The fans of Rachel Alexandra do have a voice. Maybe if we lobby hard enough and make enough "noise" they can be persuaded to parade her at the Breeders Cup so she gets her ovation! Rachel surely deserves that! Horses have feelings too. I would hate Rachel Alexandra to leave the track unheralded! After all the pleasure she gave us she deserves better than that!

I hope she has a long, happy life as a broodmare and breeds many wonderful racers!  But please let her fans say goodbye properly!

God bless you Rachel and all your loyal fans too!

Abbie

10 Oct 2010 5:36 PM
Kat

Chicago Jo - Jess Jackson ran his horse, Kensai, in the Travers, a race with implications for stallion value.  

10 Oct 2010 5:44 PM
Cleone

Thank you, Steve, for a fine tribute to a magnificent filly.  I will always feel privileged that I was present at her Preakness and saw her run.  

10 Oct 2010 6:03 PM
Sylvester

Enjoy your retirement Rachel.  You'll never be forgotten and a stall in the Hall of Fame awaits.

10 Oct 2010 6:32 PM
Mousse

I've often wondered if Jackson is computer savvy and reads the many posts and comments all over the internet and really understands the level at which fans adore Rachel and hold him in such low regard.  As his health declines one would think that he would have used Rachel's popularity as a tonic or an elixer and feed off the adoration accorded her.  Such a wasted opportunity for himself and the sport.

10 Oct 2010 6:54 PM
Karen2

This is the most beautiful thing I have ever read. I was emotionally invested in Rachel Alexandra. Even in defeat she took my breath away. I always felt she left her heart on the track that day. I will miss her. Thank you Steve...for the words of respect she deserves.

10 Oct 2010 6:59 PM
Barbara W

Thank you, Steve, for this beautiful column. I actually had no idea that Rachel had been so summarily dismissed without a word to her fans or a ceremony to honor her. I was so upset and angry that I actually had to get up and leave the computer for a while to compose my thoughts.

As a fan hopelessly in love with Zenyatta, I know there is room in my heart for both. Rachel absolutely deserved better  than this from her owner, who appears to care for nothing but himself. How can he be such a great "sportsman" if he cares nothing for the fans who love his horse?

I, for one, am glad that Zenyatta and Rachel never met. Neither is a loser. I hope and pray Rachel fans will be cheering for the Big Z in the BCC. One day on down the road, their children may carry on their competitive spirits. And won't that be a sight to see?

10 Oct 2010 7:02 PM
Mary P

That race was the hardest and most heart wretching race I've ever seen.  She was pounded and met every challenge as I cried for her.  She won but the cost was so high.  I watched the rest of her races between my fingers, holding my breath, praying she came out uninjured and healthy.  I wish her the joy she gave me.  I can still still see her in the Oaks and Preakness when I close my eyes.  Instead of the roar of the crowd, she will hopefully hear the joy of babies nickers.  Thank you Rachel.  Thank you Steve.  She is truly a gift.

10 Oct 2010 7:04 PM
Lexie C

Steve,

No one can move me to tears with writing the way you can! Bravo!!! I so wish her fans had been able to give her the Farewell she so deserved!!!!

Farewell Rachel!!!! You will never be forgotten!

10 Oct 2010 7:34 PM
LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

I sincerely hope that Rachel Alexandra enjoys her new life and is a happy and loved horse.  She will forever be etched in all our hearts forever.

She deserved much more recognition that she got near the end.  There should have been a parade and a retirement sned off at one of the tracks where fans could bid her farewell and let her hear all the cheers and roars for her just one last time.  Not doing that was a disgrace!

My Love & Blessings to the beautiful Rachel Alexandra till the end of time!

LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

10 Oct 2010 8:01 PM
shuttleworth

Rachel Alexandra had a magical 3 y.o. campaign that no one can ever take away from her. As time goes by, she will be seen for what she is - a legend...

Rachel, thank you for all of the great moments, your will to win, and your beauty and grace...

Mr Haskin, thanks for the memories, and presenting a proper perspective about RA.

10 Oct 2010 8:06 PM
OldDog

Thanks again, Steve.  Thank you very, very much.

10 Oct 2010 8:11 PM
MK

Steve, bless you for helping me recall the glory of that magnificent race.  Thank you also to the many posters here that share my terrible sadness and confusion about RA's 2010 campaign.  I was fortunate to stand along the rail just past the finish line in Saratoga that day.  My gut knew that the race took it all from her as I saw her run past to cool down.  It was a terrible recognition and I felt guilty that I had somehow asked her to push herself over the limit.  

I am very upset with Jess' management of her career.  I can only think of the many "might have been's" then try to focus on the positive: she is healthy and sound as she retires.  To shuttle her off to KY without fanfare nor give us all a chance to say thank you once again is hurtful and beyond disappointing.

Thank you again for your beautiful words.  

10 Oct 2010 8:27 PM
ofelia

Your right about the Woodward; it gutted her. She is a champ and has nothing left to prove. I hope they let her relax and learn how to be a horse again before they breed her. I am looking forward to her babies. I hope she passes that great heart on.

Here's to you Rachel!

10 Oct 2010 8:51 PM
Convene

Thank you, Steve, for placing such a beautiful final crown on the head of racing's reigning queen. As one comment above pointed out, she is Jess Jackson's filly but she is also ours, the fans who love her and cheered for her and were honored by having been alive to see her glorious gallop into history. It would have been considerate of her connections to allow us all to say our goodbyes and wish her well as she rode away into the proverbial sunset but, for whatever reasons, that was not to be. I find it sad that so many have seen fit to turn away from her because she did not come back this year as the same filly. Taking nothing away from the lady in the west, Rachel's 2009 campaign was indeed the stuff of legends and many of us will not see her like again. Thank you from this ancient fan and once-upon-a-time participant for sending her to her new career as she deserves: honored and revered for all the unique things she is. A happy retirement, Rachel. May you pass along to another generation some of the special qualities that made you - if just for one season - racing's queen.

10 Oct 2010 9:48 PM
frank lewkowitz

as one of the owners of bullsbay,your article was awe inspiring i am proud my horse was a part of one of the unforgettable moments in horse racing. as a young man i saw kelso nail malicous on the wire in the whitney but this was an equally great moment

10 Oct 2010 9:55 PM
monteb27

The fact is when a horse lays it out like that it hurts, and to lay it out like that race hurts real bad, and i simply think that she was not willing to go to that place ever again.  She was a great horse, maybe the best filly ever at 9f or less.  As great as she was...i still think big Z runs her down last year at 10.

10 Oct 2010 9:55 PM
michelle

beautiful article, Steve.  Thank you for so eloquently putting Rachel's obvious greatness into such powerful words.

10 Oct 2010 10:10 PM
Aluminaut

Karen,

Thanks for the link to Barbara's Livingston's photos and tribute to Rachel Alexandra.  

Steve H,

Thanks again for the great writing. Your explanation Rachel's accomplishments in historical perspective around Eclipse Award time was an eyeopener for me. I shared with a couple friends, and they respectfully sat and listened while I read off of your blog so they could "get" the HOY campaign.

Again, I'm looking at the Woodward through different eyes and I'm seeing more than Macho Again closing relentlessly on a tiring Rachel.  I see her fight on and win.

After looking at the photos, do you think she is ok?  

11 Oct 2010 12:03 AM
david h.

Finally someone points out the Woodward as one of the greatest races of all time and you, Steve, did it beautifully. I remember telling my girlfriend about the race when I got to her house, we were both in tears when I finished and my recap was just a fraction of how masterfully you described it. I believe Borel hit her 25 times and she responded but at a great cost. I was hoping they would retire her then because breeding season was only a few months away. She had nothing left to prove and the longer she stayed in the hands of Asmussen the worse I felt for her well being. Unlike some people I'm glad when a horse retires early. Funny Cide ran for years after his exciting 3yo campaign and NOBODY cared. Not to Monday morning QB but if you know horses a race like that usually finishes them. The Woodward should have told her connections that was all she had. Thank God she survived and we can look forward to a baby by a Preakness winner out of a Preakness winner. Thank you again Steve Haskin for one of your, make that anybodys, best articles yet on the great horse Rachel Alexandra.

11 Oct 2010 12:48 AM
Freetex

Watching the Woodward just tore me up.  

Reading your article Steve, did the same all over again.  I am printing your most eloquent words once again for my racing binder.  I never want to forget the greatness of Rachel Alexandra.

Thank you.

11 Oct 2010 2:22 AM
AngelaFromAbilene

4035.9. Use of whips.

(a) No whip shall weigh more than one-half pound. No whip shall be used unless it has affixed to the end a closed popper made of leather or other material approved by the stewards, not less than 1 1/4 inches in width, and not over four inches in length, and be feathered above the popper with not less than three rows of leather or other material approved by the stewards, each feather not less than one inch in length. No whip shall exceed 31 inches in length. All whips are subject to inspection and approval by the stewards.

(b) In all races where a jockey will not ride with a whip, an announcement shall be made over the public address system of such fact.

(c) Although the use of a whip is not required, any jockey who uses a whip during a race is prohibited from whipping a horse:

   (1) on the head, flanks or on any other part of its body other than the shoulders or hind quarters;

   (2) during the post parade or after the race except when necessary to control the horse;

   (3) excessively or brutally causing welts or breaks in the skin;

   (4) when the horse is clearly out of the race or has obtained its maximum placing; or

   (5) persistently even though the horse is showing no response under the whip.

(d) Correct uses of the whip are:

   (1) showing horses the whip before hitting them;

   (2) using the whip in rhythm with the horse's stride; and

   (3) using the whip as an aid to maintain a horse running straight.

www.racing.state.ny.us/.../Sec4035.1-4039.22.html

There was nothing at all wrong with Mr.Borels use of the whip in this race.  In fact, had he not used it, he could have been fined and/or given days.

What we saw in the Woodward was a horse that ran all-out.  When she gave everything she had, she reached down and found just a little more (gutted it out)...and got to the wire first.  Seldom does a horse do this and come back from it, especially a filly.

11 Oct 2010 7:29 AM
AngelaFromAbilene

Slightly off topic:  What is the M/L that Mr. Jackson is the undisclosed buyer of Sydney's Candy?

11 Oct 2010 7:39 AM
Maggie

Thank you for a wonderful article!  My eyes and face are soaked with tears.  Rachel, I will miss you, but I hope you live a long, happy & healthy life.  You deserve it!  I will NEVER forget your greatness!  You are the best!  Love you!

11 Oct 2010 8:11 AM
bb47

Beautiful article Steve, I cried through the whole thing. I will miss Rachel but the vision of her in a beautiful pasture is pretty good!

This whip issue is complicated. I prefer riders who find a way to get the most out of their horse without using much whip. I believe Julien Leparoux is one of those.

11 Oct 2010 9:31 AM
Rachel

"Mom, why is he hitting the horse so much?"

"To make it go faster."

"But Mom, what if the horse is already running as fast as it can go?"

"Then I guess it may just break its heart..."

11 Oct 2010 9:56 AM
Buttonboy

Thank you, Steve, for another lovely article. I was at Rachel's Woodward, & I cried after the race. And I just did so again.

11 Oct 2010 10:25 AM
kathleen o

Fanofallthree,  I came from the horse show world, and in the breed classes at Arabian shows, horses were excused if there were visible whip marks.  That's at the show, what happens at home is something different.  The fear is put there at home.  At the show, they're whipped while wearing heavy blankets.  No marks, terrified horse.  So you see, whips don't just inflict physical pain.

11 Oct 2010 11:18 AM
Carla

What a wonderful story down memory lane. I think it was in the best interest now that RA and Zen never meet. This way the fans for RA can say she would have won and Zen fan can go on for her. Personally I would have loved to seen the two girls race but only if both were at their top form. Last year think RA was and this year its clear that Zen has become some sort of beast. I guess in the back of my mind I always say things happen for the best and whos to day that had their paths met that maybe we would not have seen neither as both girls would have ran their hearts out..........

The only sad part I felt was it seems that many people lost their love for her as if she was washed up athlete..........for those who felt that way I think after reading the interview with her past trainer......think that said it all she put her heart out and gave us something that will never been seen again in the Woodward and yes seems to me he was right it took too much out of her.....who knows maybe in 3 years we will be talking about the Zen vs RA off spring against each other.

11 Oct 2010 11:24 AM
Jimmy R

There are those of us who believe that Bullsbaby who was really a better miler and Macho Man left something on the track their previous race and that led in particular to Macho Man's defeat. Two tough races in a row for both of those and they never recovered. It only took one tough race to gut Rachael and break her will as we knew it. Alltogether a remarkable year against less than remarkable opponents. Thanks for the memories Rachael, you'll go down in my book as a pretty good horse for one year anyway.  

11 Oct 2010 12:06 PM
DaisyMae

I hope the fans continue to get updates on Rachel's new life.  Good-Luck

11 Oct 2010 12:21 PM
WWSTP

Thank you Steve, for the beautiful farewell and acknowledgement that Rachel so clearly earned and deserves.  For so many of us she has been an inspiration, and despite the fact that she did not seem to be able to come back to form this year, she has remained an inspiration in every attempt she made.  It's a shame that she goes from the track with so little acknowledgement from the industry as a whole.  How does this happen…such history making, such unheard of before accomplishments from a 3 yr. old filly, and no fanfare?...no industry wide tribute or thanks?…no decent respect shown this incredible Horse of the Year?  How quickly greatness is forgotten or dismissed!  I KNOW what I witnessed in 2009, and I am still in a constant state of awe.  I feel so privileged to have been alive to see, to witness, to love the unprecedented journey of the history smashing greatness of Rachel Alexandra!  Now, and with a heart full of thanks for all she has done, I wish her peace and joy in pastures and in play as she moves into this next part of her life.  She IS the Filly of the Ages, and she'll always be held in love....never to be forgotten!

11 Oct 2010 12:36 PM
Funny1991

Rachel Alexandra was my favorite horse ever, I have been a huge fan of Curlin and Zenyatta but Rachel Alexandra captured my heart with her never give in attitude. It reminds me of my horse (Raven) the way she gives it her all and still wants to give more. Right now my mare is preg. and the foal will be named in honor of you Rachel. You are the one of the greats of all time. Hope you have a good life running around in the fields.

11 Oct 2010 12:56 PM
TradingPlaces

Angela,

Jackson would not have pulled Candy from the Derby. I'm betting it's Darley.

11 Oct 2010 1:10 PM
SMTDL

Thanks Steve for an eloquent and fitting salute to the great Rachel Alexandra.You wrote it as a true fan of the sport and one with understanding and knowledge of the history and traditions of the sport.I am more disppointed at the zealotry of certain fans that still disrespect her accomplishments than in seeing her untimely retirement.It is sad that so called horse racing fans use words like fraud ,hype,disgraceful,etc when speaking of her and claiming she was just not that good.You did a good job of fairly assessing her Woodward competitors.For a 3 yo filly to win this race is remarkable in itself.When you look objectively at the horses in that race and the running times they had posted before, plus the way this race was run,it was like a teenaged HS girl running alone against an all male College relay team ..and winning!!! I would also point out that  almost all of last years 3 yo filly/colt classic/G1 races as well as east coast G1 races for older males were run faster than this year.Many claim the competition is so much better this year,but Blame,Quality Road,Looking at Lucky,Blind Luck,Devil may Care etc. were all slower than Rachel,Bull's Bay,Macho Again,Summer Bird,Mine That Bird,Gabby's Golden Gal and Careless Jewel in the same races.I know runtime isn't the whole story but it certainly shows Rachel didn't always have easy competition.When she did she won by 20 lengths and ran near or better than the stakes records! Has any 3yo colt won the Preakness,Haskell and Woodward in the same year? I'm sure that has happened but I couldn't name any myself!She did have a tough campaign by today's standards and because she ran against males 3 times.She ran over 9 miles of competitive racing and was undefeated which was 60% more racing than her biggest HOTY rival who only raced males once.Anyone that says she didn't deserve HOTY or was overrated need only hold their breath and wait patiently to see her accomplishments duplicated! It will not be anytime soon if it ever happens!!!!

11 Oct 2010 1:25 PM
wanschural

I just watched the race again--extraordinary.what a great filly. A little disturbing to see how much Mr. Borel uses his whip, however.

I think the manner in which she was retired is such a shame. There should have been a reason given, first of all. And secondly, how about some fanfare for such a beloved champion?

11 Oct 2010 1:48 PM
jayjay

AngelaFromAbilene : I think it's around 8/5.  I'm pretty sure it's Godolphin though or one of the Sheiks from the middle east buying him.  They like fast horses over there.

11 Oct 2010 1:54 PM
Marci

An angel, a gift and a dream come true. If another like her comes along, I pray she is in good hands. I am feeling so sad. I would really like to know if she is well. This whole thing is so strange.

11 Oct 2010 2:34 PM
jayjay

JJ was able to move races and raise purses when he wanted it.  Everyone accomodated his needs when it came to Rachel.  The fans flew and drove in to see her.  I just can't think of any reason why Jackson would pull this kind of circus, without giving her fans a chance to see her, to allow her to see her fans cheer her.  Somehow let her know that she has a lot of people that loves her.  If Jackson is too sick or too busy, he should make arrangements for Scott Blasi to make the last appearance possible, after all, Scott was the one that really knew her, the one that really took care of her and the only one from that team that was close to her.

It would be nice to see her parade during the Breeder's Cup, one last time at her hometrack.

11 Oct 2010 2:39 PM
Fahad Malaikah

Steve,

Thank you so much for writing this beautiful article.  It gave me goose bumps and brought tears to my eyes.  Since she hasn’t yet received a proper sending off, I hope you will permit me to share some of my memories of Rachel, which I had also posted a while back on the Albany Times blog.

I began following Rachel Alexandra’s illustrious career since she won the Fair Grounds Oaks.  I truly fell in love with her after watching her win the Kentucky Oaks, unfortunately from a television screen many miles away in Washington, DC.  To this day, I am convinced that had she run in the Kentucky Derby, she would have ultimately gone on to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed, and the first female Triple Crown winner in history.  As a DC resident, I desperately wanted to make the relatively short trip to Baltimore for her historic Preakness victory, but I was forced to go to Florida by my fiancée to visit my future in-laws for the first time.  While I wish that I could have gone to see Rachel live, I don’t regret visiting Florida, as my fiancée’s father, who as it turned out was a horse racing fan who liked Mine That Bird, passed away about a month later.  I enjoyed talking horses with him and given that I was very confident about Rachel’s prowess and adamant that she would win, I also enjoyed rubbing in Rachel’s victory a little bit.

For Rachel’s next start, I was ready to take my first trip to Belmont for the Mother Goose, but unfortunately I was forced to stay in DC yet again with a prior engagement.  I was taking summer classes for my master’s program at Georgetown and I had to take a very important test that weekend.  When Rachel’s connections opted for the Haskell, I was finally free of other obligations and took my chance to drive to New Jersey in the awful weather with my fiancée.  Despite the weather and the long ride, we had a great time that day which was topped off perfectly with Rachel’s smashing victory.  I vividly remember watching her in the paddock and then scurrying back to my grandstand seats to watch her in the post parade.  I remember that devastating move that she made turning for home when she left Summer Bird and Munnings in her wake, and I still remember being hoarse for a couple of days afterwards from screaming at the top of my lungs as she charged down the stretch.  I also made the trip to see Rachel this year at Monmouth in the Lady’s Secret.  I must say that I really enjoy the Monmouth atmosphere, and although it was sweltering hot that day, it was worth every mile driven and every drop of sweat bled to see Rachel in person for the third time.

My most memorable Rachel experience came in the “middle jewel” of my “triple crown” Rachel-viewing experience, when I had the honor of watching her win the Woodward.  Even though I was raised around the racetrack, it was only my second time visiting Saratoga and my fiancée’s first.  Hands down, Saratoga is my favorite sporting venue.  In Saratoga, it is still all about the racing.  We drove to Saratoga the night before the Woodward and woke up early to have breakfast on the track, watch the horses train, and purchase our grandstand tickets.  We took a tour of the backside, which my fiancée loved, particularly given the sight of Allen Jerkens.  After our tour, we went back to our hotel for a brief rest and then headed back to the track for a spectacular day of racing.  The weather was great and the atmosphere was filled with buzz and excitement for what was to be one of the most memorable and historic moments in horse racing history.  What made this day even more exciting for me was that it was September 5, my birthday.  I started the day off fairy calm, but my anticipation and nervousness increased exponentially as the race drew near.  I really wanted to watch the Forego Stakes from the grandstand, but I figured I should head down to the paddock early to get a good spot to see Rachel and get some good pictures.  Wise decision! The paddock viewing area was lined with fans about eight or nine rows deep, but fortunately I got a spot on the rail.  After seeing my equine mistress (don’t tell my fiancée) up close, we hurried back to our grandstand seats.  Not long after, Rachel unseated Calvin during the post parade.  I remember getting very nervous about this and thinking that it was a bad omen.  Nonetheless, I was still very confident, although my heart sank a little when I saw the first quarter-mile fractions.  Truth be told, I began cursing at Calvin and Zito.  I recalled how Zito had spoiled two Triple Crown bids and knew beforehand that his horses might put pressure on Rachel along with Past the Point.  When they turned for home, I just remember seeing wild-eyed Rachel out in front with that tall, head held high, gazelle-like way of moving that she has.  My confidence soared again, knowing that this was truly a superhorse.  Although Macho Again was bearing down on her from the outside for the length of the homestretch, I knew right then that we were witnessing an historic race for the ages.  As she crossed the wire, I breathed a sigh of relief, cheered, hugged and kissed my fiancée, and then cried like a baby.  Her victory was truly the best birthday present I had ever received, and as conceited as it may sound, I felt like she had laid her heart on the line just for me.  I remember telling everyone around me in the stands that she was without a doubt the “horse of the year” right then and there.  It was truly a special day, one that I and my fiancée will recount to all of our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

11 Oct 2010 2:40 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, everyone, for all your great responses and kind words. And thanks, Fahad, for sharing all that. Now you can go back to your fiancee and give her your undivided attention.

11 Oct 2010 2:52 PM
Darla

Love Rachel.....and I love her sire too......Medaglia D' Oro!!!

11 Oct 2010 3:19 PM
myrtie567

Maybe JJ should stick to wine.Rachel was crushed,used up and thrown away.Your heartfelt story was a beautiful goodbye to a beautiful champion.Thanks Rachel, and thank you Steve.

11 Oct 2010 3:26 PM
TerriV

This has got to be the most emotional, heart-wrenching, beautiful piece you have ever written.  The heartbreaking picture of Rachel leaving in silence is just more than I can take.  She was cheated at 4 but no one can ever take 2009 away from Rachel or those of us who love her still.

11 Oct 2010 3:32 PM
Zarkava

*moved to tears*

Beautifully written!!!

11 Oct 2010 3:54 PM
Christine

Jimmy R's snide remark is unappreciated. A pretty good horse for one year anyway? This guy knows nothing about racing, and the horse's name was Macho Again...not Macho Man Randy Savage.

Get a clue please. Rachel was much better than "pretty good." This is a place for her fans to post. I've heard enough unfounded remarks about her to last a lifetime.

11 Oct 2010 4:57 PM
Tom Holmes

Why is it Z fans always have to leave their two-cents. The article was about Rachel, and yet we here about Z. Eventhough, I am not a JJ fan I will take the Rachel 09 campaign over any of Z's campaigns, we truely found out what greatness is!!! With Z my never know. Just a reminder, Rachels accomplishments as a 3year old were done before Z Ever set foot on the track to begin her career. With that being said I respect Z but not the connections. We may never find outhow great she could be.

11 Oct 2010 5:08 PM
Bellwether

GOOD STUFF BOUT A GREAT HORSE...ty...

11 Oct 2010 5:39 PM
Barbara W

I must be the only one on this blog who did not realize that Stonestreet Stables is owned by JJ. How very convenient for him. He owns the sire, he owns the mare, no stud fee involved. He will control Rachel's every move. She will never be out from under his thumb.

When I went on the website and clicked on "Our Team", guess whose picture popped up. JJ's. Guess there is no real team--only him.

(Steve, I will understand if you don't print this. It's just that most horse people are so nice that it's shocking to meet up with one who has no class.)

11 Oct 2010 5:52 PM
Lynn

Lovely...brilliantly written!  Thank you!  And thank you Rachel!!!

11 Oct 2010 6:00 PM
Rachel O

Tom Homes,

Stop complaining. VERY few posts mention Z. Just what's your problem?

11 Oct 2010 6:34 PM
Rita

First let me say thank you for the nice tribute to Rachel. For singing her praises, ringing her bell and just all the great things you wrote about her. I just think it was a shame it had to be you that did this instead of her owners and connections. To send her off without nothing!After all she did for them and her fans. Her fans will always love her and never forget her as that day at the Woodward she left everyone a memory she left her heart.Thanks again Steve I knew you would do something fitting.

11 Oct 2010 7:10 PM
Zookeeper

As I write this, there have been 177 comments posted to this blog. I have seen ONE that was not warranted and I have read all of them. It has been a beautiful tribute to Rachel Alexandra written with love and admiration by the many, many people who appreciate all horses. Do not let the voice of a naysayer drown out the celebration of Rachel's talent and heart that permeates 99.999% of the thoughts and feeling expressed on here. The exception still doesn't make the rule.  

11 Oct 2010 7:25 PM
Cheryl G

Very well written Steve, it's been extremely emotional for us hard core Rachel fans.

You said it perfectly in your blog. I do believe that Rachel spilled too much of her heart onto the Saratoga track that day.

Rachel is definitely one of a kind.

11 Oct 2010 7:38 PM
Zookeeper

Sorry, there were Two unwarranted comments. The second was actually worse than the first.

Gate-Keeper, the Huns are sneaking in the fort!!!!

11 Oct 2010 7:47 PM
Steve Haskin

Zoo, sorry, a couple did sneak by, but, trust me, there were others that did not.

11 Oct 2010 8:23 PM
Zookeeper

I believe you Mr. Haskin. I was in awe that everything posted was so wonderful... I forgot (momentarily) that you shield us from the nonsense. Thank you!!!!

11 Oct 2010 8:32 PM
My Juliet

   It took me @ a wk after hearing @ The Champs retirement for the shock to wear off. Now I can say I'm ok & at peace with it. Rachel A worked hard every race, gave her all, such heart & courage each time. She didn't just win the races, she did more than enough, each time. That's her quality that I think attracted her loyal fans to her, fans who continued to love & admire her as a 4yr old. Now she gets to chill & relax while the others have to work hard in a few wks, after which they follow her into retirement. So Rachel A beats them all this year!!   ha,ha  :)

Her many loyal fans are already planning their visits to see her.

Rachel Alexandra the Great.

11 Oct 2010 8:41 PM
NancyP

Steve - Do you, Lenny, Sandra Biles, Stacy Bearse, or Marla Bickel have personal connections with management at Churchill Downs to float the 'Farewell to Rachel Alexandra' idea so many of us have been requesting?  Perhaps they could put it forth and bring pressure on JJ to do it?  A 15 minute break in the middle of the card on BC Saturday would be best, as attendance will be very high on that day. The twin spires will rise up with the cheers for her.

Friday might be okay as attendance might be decent.  If there is any racing on Sunday the crowds would be too small and she deserves the full 'Blast'!

Fahad - Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful Rachel Alexandra memories with us.

All of us who have seen her in the flesh running her race will always remember her until our light is snuffed out.

11 Oct 2010 8:44 PM
Dianne

Good, Finally!  

We'll just sit back and see if we ever see a filly or anything come close to her in our lifetime!

What a gift to see her run!

11 Oct 2010 9:01 PM
Marie

Today I watched an American classic movie (1946) and it had a simulated Preakness Stakes as the climax point of the movie.  It brought to mind the importance of that historical race to thoroughbred racing, and reminded me of this blog that I had just read.

To think that Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the historical Preakness Stakes in 85 years, and the first horse ever to win from post 13.  Those are records that span across generations, and will remain for many more.

I'm glad that Mr. Jackson and his connections recognized what talent she had, and gave her a chance to showcase it to the world. He probably knew it was leading to a point where no other 3yr. old filly or mare has or will ever duplicate a year like Rachel Alexandra's 2009.

I am very aware that many horses have been retired after a successful 3 yr old campaign (ex: Sea the Stars, the great Secretariat).  I am also grateful that she was brought back this year. That said, I and many of her fans would really love a chance to personally say 'Happy & Safe Retirement Rachel Alexandra! You rocked our Horse Racing World!'.

11 Oct 2010 9:39 PM
Mike Relva

TOM HOLMES

As a true Zenyatta fan,this blog isn't about her.

11 Oct 2010 9:49 PM
Mike O

Thank You Mr Haskin!Years from now people will ask me if I was at her Woodward.It was the most thrilling race I have ever been too.Rachel had ever reason to lose that day.Every reason to fold,Every reason to say this is too tough for me.But she did not give up. She dug down to the depths of her soul that day.That is the heart of a true champion. That is greatness.Rachel never finished up the track.She went for it each and every time she went to the track.Thank You Rachel for a lifetime of great memories.You will be always my favorite racehorse.

11 Oct 2010 10:12 PM
Dona

I was not a Rachel fan but I admired her accomplishments. I have too much disdain for her connections to allow myself anything else. She didnot deserve to be vanned off so quitely and uneventful. Shame on them for not arranging something for her and her fans. Be realistic, did you truly expect anything else. Wham bam thank you mamam and they're gone. Shame on the tracks also for not trying to do something on their own. Or did they? Was it a case of not thinking or was it because of who her owner is? I don't know the answers but I do know the tracks out here in California have honored many a champion in just such a manner. Who could forget the thrill of seeing Snow Chief paraded before the race named for him. Or Lava Man and yes, even Zenyatta in 2008 at Hollywood Park. Seems like a lot of people have been very remiss when it comes to Rachel getting her just rewards from her adoring fans.

When it comes to the ride from Borel, I have voiced my opinion before and I haven't changed my mind. I, for one cannot bear to watch that race again. I find it utterly heartbreaking and do not think winning the race in that manner was worth destroying her will to win. I think Borel broke her heart that day. She was giving him everything and he still asked for more. No, whipped her for more. Want to see a great jockey win with a horse in an unbelievable race, that hardly touched his mount? Watch the 1987 Breeders Cup Classic with Bill Shoemaker aboard Ferdinand and you will see a champion giving his all with just a hand ride. I know some horses need to be reminded or corrected and even urged on but if they're giving everything, trying their best, then what's the point.  

12 Oct 2010 1:26 AM
zenyatta mondatta

NancyP,  Why parade her on Friday or Saturday when people are already going to be upset that she is robbed from participating in the BC races herself?  It only makes some people more upset.  I say  parade her on that Sunday after the BC races, because if everyone cares about her like you say they do,  then they sure wont mind making another trip out to see her on Sunday.  It can be her special day with her fans.

12 Oct 2010 6:15 AM
Fran Loszynski

You're right Steve. She deserved a Secretariat, Seabiscuit, farewell, a parade. When they allow fans to visit we fans should go- let her know she is loved and remembered. Her farewell from the track is in our hearts.  I would like to see her mate with Afleet Alex.  I know she is probably destined for Curlin but hey! her second date?!!! She's a romancer and as I have said it before she is Marilyn Monroe, Rachel Welch, and Halley Berry rolled into one! What a beauty.

12 Oct 2010 8:31 AM
Slew

Steve, it appears you have groupies at HRTV too.  Enjoyed the interview.

And to anyone who says RA had only one great year...go back and watch her runs this year.  So she didn't have that ultra kick, but she still ran her heart out in every race.  She never embarrassed herself.  Her times were good, as were her Beyers.  She kept improving as the year went on.  To be retired so suddenly and ignominiously has cut into the heart of Rachel's fans...and all racing fans.  In an interview on HRTV, Barbara Banke did say a farewell ceremony might be in the works.  I hope so.

Rachel Alexandra ran in 19 races, and gave us her best in every race.  What more can we ask for?  

It would be nice if we could skip all the negative comments about her connections, and just celebrate the heart of a champion.  Thank you, Rachel Alexandra, you gave us more than we could ever ask.

12 Oct 2010 9:06 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

zenyatta mondatta

   Sunday sounds good. I think it would be one of the happiest days of Rachel's life. Have the fans and adoration, but not have to run. She never again wanted to feel the way she did during and after The Woodward, or the way she felt at the end of her last race. I'm one that believes she had enough and didn't want to run another race. I believe that Rachel wanted to retire, and that it was the right move, but the wrong explanation, in that the fans deserved a better one with more depth. I don't really get why someone from the barn can't give a decent interview to enlighten everyone. It's rude. Rude, rude, rude for a champion of this magnitude who has brought so many new fans to the game to be whisked away with so little explanation. Some of those fans aren't coming back. Not because Rachel is retired, but because of the way it is being done. Get out there and face the world, and tell us what a great champion she is and why she needs to be retired.

12 Oct 2010 9:29 AM
Dona

I agree with those that say no to the Breeders Cup day for Rachel. Jesse Jackson does not deserve that honor. He turned his back on racing last year for his own reasons not because Rachel couldn't run on the Santa Anita surface. It would be a slap in the face to those that tried in vain to get him to reconsider. No, Rachel deserves better, a day set aside for just her.      

12 Oct 2010 9:29 AM
Richard Patrick

I WAS THERE!

That's all that needs saying.  

And I have rewatched that race at least once a week for the last year.  

12 Oct 2010 9:30 AM
Sarah

Thank you for a beautifully written article, so wonderfully evocative of the essence of Rachel as a sublime racehorse. The Woodward was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen and so was the crowd reaction when she won - I will always remember the saying that she raised the rafters at Saratoga. I wish I had been there to witness it but reading your article put me right there.

We were lucky to witness her feats that probably will be unrivalled. And I have felt that way for a long time, just lucky to have seen all she did and to be able to travel to see her Preakness triumph. That was one of the biggest thrills I've ever had at a race track, and I remember how the petals from the blanket of Black-Eyed Susans clung to her coat after, looking like jewels adorning the mantle of a queen. And that seemed so fitting.

Thank you Rachel for giving it all and again best of luck in your new career. I too am sorry there was no public goodbye - it seems wrong that a horse so loved shouldn't have one, but it was not up to me (obviously).

I'll miss her.

12 Oct 2010 10:34 AM
sodapopkid

No,  I say wait a couple of weeks after the BC races before having RA a retirement parading.  It will be much better a couple of weeks later, It will put more emphasis on Rachel the horse and not RA the racehorse that wasnt running in the BC races.    I think since she and Zenyatta will be retiring this year, once the BC is over with the emotional standpoint of the BC will be gone.     Therefore, making it much more of a true farewell RA deserves instead of a bittersweet emotional farewell.   She deserves her own day and her own time, not sharing it with anyone else.

I think JJ owes her and her fans that.

I am a diehard Zenyatta fan, but I know RA deserves to have her own day and her own time to shine.

12 Oct 2010 10:52 AM
ruffianruns

Today I am mailing a card to Stonestreet Farms to say my goodbye to Rachel Alexandra.  I am also suggesting that Rachel Alexandra have a proper farewell party so she can feel all the love and admiration her fans feel for her.

I found Stonestreet Farms' mailing address at this link:

www.stonestreetfarms.com/contact.htm

12 Oct 2010 10:54 AM
KevinL

Very well put, Slew. I have limited experience to draw from but the Woodward will always stick in my mind as one of the great performances. Curlin in Dubai, Zenyatta in the 09BC, of course Secretariat in the Belmont are the days that Horse Racing needs to generate new followers. These days the Superstars come and go before a following can be developed. When Zenyatta is brought back, or Curlin, Rachel, it is an opportunity to build the sport that needs to be capitalized on. If RA was not entered then she could not have amazed and thrilled us as she did. Salute her as she leaves the battlefield, whether her human partners have your respect or not, this was an amazing athlete.  

12 Oct 2010 11:10 AM
RachelAlex

Dear Steve,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for that wonderful article and tribute to Rachel.  I was there for the Woodward and it was truly magic.  As one of her die-hard fans, it was difficult for me to see her falter this year, but I will always have 2009 and that race to remember.  She will always be Rachel Alexandra the Great, as Tom Durkin called her at the end of that wonderful race.

12 Oct 2010 11:52 AM
TradingPlaces

Sunday is the best day. It avoids the not showing to the BC to race contreversy yet would still take place on BC weekend, yet it would be like the final act. Maybe a lap around the track, a nice gallop then having Borel parade her in front of the grandstand one final time. As I said it would be a fitting way to end the BC event, the year, and the career of a great champion.

12 Oct 2010 12:03 PM
XJC

Calvin should've just let her lose instead of beating her like that. She looked terrible during and after that race, which took away the glory of her winning. The Haskell was her best race. She won easily and beat the great Summer Bird. That's what she should be remembered for.

12 Oct 2010 12:40 PM
wilde

Thank you for this lovly article.  Rachel deserved this so much. a picture of her loading on the van would have been nice for her final farwell from NY to KY.  I so wanted to see her retire after she ran in the ladies classic.  Its quite a let down for me that she will not be there.  I pray that Lotta Kim (in foal now for a full brother or sister) will light up our hearts as well as Rachel has. I'm hoping that the owners will post a picture of Rachel in retirement...that would be a wonderful picture to see...Again thank you for this article..It was wonderful to read.

12 Oct 2010 1:59 PM
j.d.

at least jess jackson had enough sense to not run her against males again. he did the right thing by retiring her and should be given credit for that. and he did give a reason for retiring her, because she's not going to be able to equal or top what she did last year. and maybe he will give her a sendoff and let the fans see her before she goes to the farm. there's still time, so stop criticizing him. he doesn't owe anybody anything, it's his horse.and if people wanted to see her so bad they already saw her when she was racing.

12 Oct 2010 2:38 PM
wilde

Great article! Hal Wiggins and Calvin Borel love Rachel...If Hal Wiggins and Calvin had stayed toghter on Rachel, we would still see her now and she still would have been horse of the year in 2009.  She would have been managed by a true horsemen and a jockey that loved that Mare.  Calvin never truly over hit the mare.  He didn't connect everytime, just showed her the whip or made the move to hit her but never connected. I ride and you can look like you are hitting them but your not.  Calvin adored that mare....You have to remember all of Calvin's comments about that mare that he said, to truly know he adored her.  I just wish she had stayed in Hal Wiggins hands..I will miss this mare and look forward to her foals. Rumor has it, Curlin, is not the stallion for her.

12 Oct 2010 2:50 PM
Zookeeper

I still think that Mr. Jackson will allow Rachel's fans to celebrate her in a retirement parade. However it will be at a time and location of his choosing. So I'm following Ruffianruns' lead (once again) and writing him a note to respectfully request that he does so. He may already have something in the works (optimist that I am) but if he doesn't and we flood him with requests... it may sway him. The address for Stonestreet Farm is:

3530 Old Frankfort Pike, Lexington, KY 40510

There was no e-mail address, so IF you really want to see it happen, make the effort to send a note but remember that you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  :)

12 Oct 2010 4:00 PM
Rita Robinson

Rachel should have a farewell party at the Breeder's Cup and maybe pictures made of her and Zenyatta together, maybe a dance around the track.  That would be cool.  Jackson has done a great disservice to the racing industry by slipping her away like she is something to be ashamed of.  She should have a great party and farewell parade at Churchill, where she first romped into our hearts and greatness at the Oaks.  

12 Oct 2010 4:17 PM
Pam S.

Steve,

Can't say I'm a fan of the Woodward, but I AM a fan of your eloquent tribute to the much-loved Rachel.  She sure isn't fading from people's minds -- in fact, it seems like there is more support every day for some sort of farewell appearance.  

I have read that sometimes when retired horses come back to the track they get kind of wound up, thinking they're going to run again, and it's not good for them.  That would be the only reason I can think of not to give Rachel's fans one last chance to cheer for her.  I agree with sodapopkid, it shouldn't be at the BC.  There will be enough going on then and she should have her own day.

I was really hoping Rachel would compete at the BC, but the "team" must have looked in her eyes and seen that she just didn't want to.  Maybe that's all the explanation there is for her retirement.

12 Oct 2010 8:53 PM
Russell maiers

Super job describing that race Steve, as always you put us right there. Gosh that was really good.

Let's say I am assuming her owners are pretty normal, good, caring people. Like all of us writing in this blog think of ourselves. Remember I am assuming! Yes she left her guts on the track that day and it takes time to recover especially after that race. You do remember Affirmed after the Belmont? Tired as a horse could be, left his guts on the track and life went on. We could name countless horses who had a similar race right?

So  Steve  and fans quit saying her 2010 year was a lousy disaster, or portraying it that way.

Now the hard part, you ask why she was retired Steve?

Remember I am assuming the owners are normal, good, and caring.

Same reason they tried to push her to early to run against Zenyatta.

Because we as fans and you as a writer demanded it. We put all this crappy pressure on them and when she did not win every race the way WE had it drawn up we demanded she be retired. We should be ashamed of ourselves the way we influenced her 2010 career.

Humans will eventually give in, like the Zenyatta deal, and the horse now sucks and is sad so it's over.

That is what the owners did, it's that simple.

Her year was going so good and it is so bad to hear all this junk. So win the Beldame and then the Ladies Classic or even take a fifth in the Classic and she sucks?

We as fans demanding horses run more years and then do this to this horse? Gee John never got beat and Big Red and Onion?

What the he'll happened to third off the layoff?

Anyway maybe her owners are big jerks and I am wrong and just maybe we as fans and writers got exactly what we demanded and deserved.

12 Oct 2010 10:27 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

ruffianruns

   What a go getter you are !!! I think you can run the biggest project of all time.

zookeeper

  Good job !!!!

12 Oct 2010 11:11 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zookeeper

  I think you can attract flies with wine too. How do you know he's going to read it?

Rita Robinson

   Exactly. I think that maybe Rachel left for Kentucky in the middle of the day, but the only vision I have is her being whisked away in the middle of the night, and it was a moonless night. They lit a match to get her safely into the van, then quickly blew it out. "Now let's get the 'ell outta Dodge." She had a camouflage blanket on and a fancy hat. "Is anyone following us?"  "No, I don't think so boss. What am I gonna do if anyone asks me any questions when we get there?"  "You like your job?"  "Yes sir."  "Then a zipped lip, or you'll be muckin' stalls for 24 hours without a break, then I'll fire ya."  "Boss, how can you see where you're goin' without the headlights on? I can't see a dagnabbed thing."

13 Oct 2010 12:13 AM
Kat

Just a side note since so many Rachel fans are here and I don't know how many know this - Rachel is the only living foal from Lotta Kim (she is, as previously mentioned, in foal with a full sibling).  Lotta Kim is a difficult mare and Rachel was rejected as a foal.  I assume she was raised by a nurse mare (rather than humans), but perhaps you know more about this, Steve?  Does Rachel have a surrogate mother somewhere that cheered her on?

13 Oct 2010 1:27 AM
ColetteMarie

Yes, the Woodward was an awe inspiring race. BUT, it was so not worth it. That race or lack thereof wouldn't have changed the fact that she is the greatest 3 yr. old filly ever.I truly believe but for that race, she'd still be racing @ top form in 2010. Can you just imagine if she had as long a career as Zenyatta? How awesome that would have been. I think it could have been, except for that one race... the Woodward. In that light, the Woodward quite possibly destroyed something way better than that one race ever was. That's why I get a knot in  my stomach when I think of that one race... when Rachel came back so spent her head was hanging way low. That's the day the fire dimmed. I can only imagine what we would have seen if Rachel had been managed as well as Zenyatta, who @ 6 is still very healthy & very happy racing. How sad that we will never know what could have been. I betting it would have been way better than that one race, the Woodward.

13 Oct 2010 5:09 AM
Steve Haskin

Jayjay, we're on the same wave length. I posted a link to that video on my Facebook page yesterday. It's great, and I love hearing John laughing behind the camera.

13 Oct 2010 9:15 AM
Zookeeper

Dr Drunkinbum,

Mr Jackson probably won't read the mail but he will be told about it. It can't hurt and it gives Rachel's fans something to do besides moaning and groaning on a blog (me included). It's very hard to imagine that Mr. Jackson will not allow Rachel to be cheered once again by her adoring fans. I say HE'LL DO IT. Besides, who can resist Ruffianruns when she sets her mind to get something done? :)

Have you guys been watching the rescue of the 33 miners in Chile? What an incredible story of fortitude and determination!!! Each time one of them is brought up to the surface my heart is filled with joy and relief. (Sorry about digressing but I just had to sing the praise of everyone involved in this unbelievable rescue effort. It renews one's faith in humankind!)

13 Oct 2010 10:43 AM
starmoth

Thanks for some great writing on a great filly.  You made my heart pound almost as much as it did during the actual race.  You gave Rachel the send-off she deserves!

13 Oct 2010 1:02 PM
Deb

I still would like to see Rachel do something else with her life besides the life of a broodmare but money is involved and money rules racing.

Maybe when you are done with the mommy thing Rach, they will allow you the chance to experience other aspects of riding for fun.

13 Oct 2010 1:58 PM
ruffianruns

Kat - Thanks for telling the group about Rachel Alexandra being rejected by her mama and her only living foal.  That's one of the reasons I love her so much.  I always pick the runts and the underdogs!  RA was raised by a nurse mare according to a BH article by Esther Marr, but I don't know the name of her nurse mare.  I hope Lotta Kim has an easier time with her new baby.

Zoo and Dr D - Thanks for the support.  I've always been a rabble rouser of sorts, but mostly for good ends [I think].

Steve - I love the video that jayjay posted, too.  Glad you like it.  I guess Liza G. Fly was there the day before us.  John's laugh is so wonderful.  I'm so jealous that she got a kiss!  I would have fainted if Zenyatta had given me a kiss like that.  I'm a singer too, I should have asked to sing that song to her!

Oh, and the Chilean miners' story is pretty incredible.  I completely get the renewed faith in two leggeds!

13 Oct 2010 2:19 PM
KMNYC

You just reminded me why I purchased a very large framed picture of "Rachel Rules" 2009 Horse of the Year cover.  She deserved it!!

I am saddened by her 2010 campaign  but am more saddened not being able to see her have a GREAT send off.  You know Zenyatta will even if she doesn't win the BC Classic.(Yeah Right!!)  I will just have to buy another very large framed Zenyatta picture (hopefully 2010 Horse of the Year) to hang right next to Rachel.  Two of the greatest mares of all time.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES GIRLS!!  

13 Oct 2010 3:10 PM
Bellwether

THEY JUST RAISED THE HELL OUT THE BAR ON A PRETTY GOOD YEAR...PLEA$E...A FREAK SHE I$...SHOWCA$E HER @ THE BREEDERS CUP...LONG LIVE THE KING!!!...ty...

13 Oct 2010 3:52 PM
ruffianruns

I completely agree with Bellwether!

13 Oct 2010 7:14 PM
Zookeeper

ruffianruns,

You may be the only person on this website who understands what the heck Bellwether is talking about. Bravo! It's all "bellwethertalk" to me... but if you agree with it, it must be good!!!

13 Oct 2010 8:00 PM
NancyP

Zenyatta Mondatta - I say Friday or Saturday, because I don't think it will upset people more and it would bring a lifting of spirits to see her, I don't view humans as being that  fragile in this situation! I think her human connections owe a show of appreciation to her fans and most certainly to her.  She deserves a thundering ovation - which she would not get on a low attendance Sunday after everyone is spent by the two day Breeder's Cup events!

It will not take away anything from the days races, or its star equines!  It will be a win win for all involved.

13 Oct 2010 10:33 PM
Windy City

Up until now, I wasn't even able to talk "Rachel". The news of her retirement stunned me, and the way it was handled - broke my heart.

I was following her since Pocahontas S. and by her win in Martha Washington I knew that I'm going to give my son's middle name after her... She just had something special about her that I even can't put into words; some kind of an aura, a breeze of eternity, look of the eagle. Something that catches your eye, respect, makes you feel that you are just witnessing something extraordinary,great. Now, after two years with Rachel, I know that all of the impressions I had about her are the pieces that build the Great Champions.

I followed her all the time. When I was in labor I watched Rachel's races replies on the laptop, that was the only thing that calmed me down. I was little "unlucky" because I was having my son on April 5th 2009 and that was the day she run in Fantasy S. Fortunately my son was born around noon on that day and I did get a chance to watch the race. I will never forget that time of joy from having a baby in my arms, my husband by my side and Rachel in the race replay on the laptop :-) I really learn a lot from her - never give up, always try your best and nothing is impossible. And I really accomplished something impossible, I convinced my husband to depart from our family tradition of giving middle names after grandparents. Our son's name is Oliver Alex :-)

I don't expect Mr Jackson to care about other people (why would he anyway) but I expected him at least to respect Rachel fans....I guess I'm little naive. It really doesn't cost much! Would it hurt him to at least let the fans say Good Bye one, last time? I have a feeling that he just swiped her under the rug, and all loving fans with her. He just treats her like a thing that's no longer needed; when she was on the top of her form he would talk poetry about her. When she is off, he just throws her out like an old pair of shoes. That's totally lack of respect to Rachel and people who love and supported her. The way she departed was more devastating and awkward than all of her defeats combined together. You just don't treat Champions like that...!! It tells a lot about Mr Jackson. I'm very peaceful person, but I would crucify him head down, and leave him for 24 hours.... There will never be another horse like her; her accomplishments had engraved Rachel's name in the racing history forever. You are a true Champion Rachel, you will be greatly missed!

P.S. I can stop but wonder if Mr Jackson did try to buy Zenyatta?? :-)

13 Oct 2010 11:46 PM
Aluminaut

Off Subject:

Wow Steve!  What a great write-up on Musket Man.  As soon as I heard he was going in the Classic, I was thinking about him and Lookin' at Lucky, (the hard luck guys) and there it is-- you mention them running in mid-pack between the front runners and the closers.

Back to Rachel......

14 Oct 2010 1:52 AM
Linda

Great piece on a great horse.  Have been a fan (and a state racing commissioner) for too many years to admit -- and I've never encountered a horse such as Rachel.  Jess Jackson has done a lot of good for horse racing, but he didn't do much for Rachel's 2010 season.  Hopefully he'll learn from this -- but there isn't a whole lotta time for that.

14 Oct 2010 2:12 AM
Bellwether

PASSION BABY PASSION!!!...ty...

14 Oct 2010 4:57 AM
passing thru

I used to have the replay of this on my DVR, but I finally deleted it when I decided I couldn't watch Borel beat the hell out of Rachel in this race. She was never the same after that, in my opinion.

14 Oct 2010 6:52 AM
sodapopkid

Windy City,  I can only imagine what RA life was like sitting in a barn stall for 6 months.   I can say one thing,  I wish all these race horses had a loving barn like Zenyatta has.  YOu can tell she is the queen of her barn.

14 Oct 2010 6:56 AM
Slew

Steve, as much as I love Musket Man, he seems to stay in the "always a bridesmaid.." group with First Dude.  I'd say Kinsale King in the dirt mile, Zen in the Classic.  Gio and Goldie dueling in the turf mile.  

Ruffianruns: I would just like to know if you and Bellwether found the same Absinthe bar, because no one else has any idea what he's saying.  ;D

14 Oct 2010 7:40 AM
RachelAlex

Dear Steve,

I have been wondering about this and wanted your honest opinion.  Do you think Rachel will eventually make Hall of Fame?

Thank you.

14 Oct 2010 8:47 AM
JAJ

Steve,

While I agree with your premise that maybe Rachel's fans deserved a better explanation than they got, I have to disagree with a large number of fans who take this as if it is a hurtful thing to do to Rachel.

Rachel is a racehorse, plain and simple.  She doesn't give a hoot about the love we have for her.  She is only interested in the very mundane things in life--exercise, food and some attention from the people close to her.  She certainly isn't going to care one way or the other that fans get one last time to shower her with their love.

I do agree that it was very uncaring to her loyal fans for JJ not to give more information and perhaps a farewell ceremony for Rachel.  My suspicions are that she was hurt in her last work and JJ is not saying for whatever confused motives he has.  I don't blame him for not parading a lame horse in front of her rabid fans--can you imagine that backlash?

Maybe she wasn't hurt, and JJ came to the realization that she just wasn't the force she was at 3.  Remember his grandiose plans of a series of races between Zenyatta and Rachel?  He must be a very disappointed man.

Some horses just don't improve from 3 to 4 and Rachel seems to be one of them.  There is no shame in that.

And there is no shame in her losing that extreme will to win after such a grueling campaign.  None at all.  Most horses learn to not lay everything down every race and to take care of themselves.  That's what smart horses do.

I do think last year took too much out of her both physically and mentally.  There had to be a reason she was laid up at the track as long as she was.  Normally a horse is sent to the farm to recover mentally and physically after a grueling campaign.  I think it was a stupid thing not to send her to the farm after such a difficult year.  She seemed to never recover mentally even though she ran well, regardless of what many thing--and make no mistake, she ran good race after race in 2010, just not the scintillating races of 2009.

I think it ridiculous for the fans to suggest Rachel be paraded on Breeders Cup day.  The filly has never once run in a Breeders Cup race, why should Breeders Cup give her a send off especially after all JJ's foot-in-mouth comments JJ made over the past couple of years in regards to the Breeders Cup?

Rachel has gone to a farm to be let down.  She will have to transition from a tightly wound racehorse, to a broodmare after years of never being free in a paddock.  It is a big change for her, complicated because she goes to the farm racing fit.  It is not in Rachel's best interests to be shipped back to a track for a farewell ceremony.

Rachel is not feeling any slight.  Hopefully she is well on her way to being turned out with other mares and just being a horse.

14 Oct 2010 9:48 AM
Bigtex

Steve, a wonder article indeed!  I still maintain, from the Kentucky Oaks through the Haskell, that Rachel Alexandra was the best horse on the planet at that time.  I would have been confident in her had she raced Zenyatta or Sea the Stars.  Perhaps, I may be dreaming, that Jackson will find a Cigar-type venue/event to bring Rachel to for a deserving send off.

Wonderful article, also, on Musket Man in your Countdown to the Cup.  You made a very compelling case.  Mike Smith can win it again on Zenyatta but they can't sit as far back as is usually the case in this Classic.  I have so many Trifecta scenarios in my head with this race that I'm beginning to "See the Stars"!  This may be one that Musket Man finally puts it together.  Haynesfield repeats his last effort, oh boy!  Lookin at Lucky is no longer a boy.  He's all man and is poised to win.  Quality Road gets his best surface, pace and he's looking to set a stakes record.  It goes on and on and on.....!!!  Do they give Gio Ponti another chance?  Will Blame come down the stretch like a rocket like he did in the Foster?  On and on and on....!!!

14 Oct 2010 10:14 AM
Steve Haskin

RachelAlex, the Hall of Fame is a no-brainer. I wouldnt want to be up for the HOF that first year, because Rachel and Zenyatta are locks to get in together.

Windy City, Jess Jackson and Zenyatta would have been as compatible as peanut butter and picked herring.

14 Oct 2010 11:34 AM
Zookeeper

I'm not a fan of Jess Jackson. From afar, his personality does not appeal to me, but I think that the level of critism he's getting right now is quite unfair.

I'm positive that he had no intention of hurting Rachel at any point after he acquired her. His nature is difficult for us to understand and accept, but it is what it is. At his age, I don't think he will change, just to please us.

In spite of my initial negative feelings towards him, I'm fairly certain that if I got to know him I might like him a lot better. Rachel Alexandra will be royally treated in her retirement. The fact that we are disappointed, in the way it came about, does not entitle us to demonize the man who took the decision and executed it the way he did.

Sometimes, we turn our pain and sadness into anger. It's easier to handle. We can find the "guilty party", yell and scream and hurl insults at him. It helps...  momentarily but, in the long run, it isn't a healing process. Much better to let the sadness wash over us and let it recede slowly, by itself, as it always does... if we let it.

Mr. Jackson is not Satan incarnate. He's a proud man who makes mistakes, just like the rest of us.

We always clamor that "the horse must come first", maybe that's what just happened with Rachel's abrupt retirement. Let's give the man the benefit of the doubt, even if his ways are baffling to us.

14 Oct 2010 11:56 AM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

"...peanut butter and pickled herring." LOL! I can't think of a better way to describe THAT mismatch!!!

JAJ,

Once again, I love your logical, cool & collected perspective. Well said!

14 Oct 2010 12:31 PM
Linda in Texas

Big Tex -Agree with you that Mike Smith cannot sit back as is his usual m.o. for The Breeders Cup. I don't think my heart can take another race like her last one. That is the one thing that has been heavy on my mind. It is like a hanging chad sort of thought. Strategy is the only thing i worry about regards Zenyatta right now. I know great racing minds are trying to map this out before the race.

Also Windy City - now that is a true fan to orchestrate the birth of your son to coincide with Rachel's race. And BTW, your son and i have the same birth day, April 5, Aries i might add, the same as Zenyatta!! Her's is April 1.  

And thank God and all the ships at sea that Mr. Jackson did not and does not and never will "own" Zenyatta. I'm willing to stake my life and my reputation when i say that NEVER EVER EVER will Mr. Jackson even be able to entertain the idea of 'buying' Zenyatta to 'own.' She is "shared" with all of us and i think the Mosses got it right.

Besides, i think after Zenyatta is finished racing she should go to college and get a degree!!!

JAJ - agree with you totally that to parade Rachel at the Breeder's Cup is not the best time for all of your reasons. A good time will present itself later, surely, maybe, hopefully. And you mentioned that Rachel is going to the farm to unwind, she didn't look like a tightly wound racehorse walking out of her stall and to the van to me. But maybe you have seen her since and know different. Thanks for your post.

Bless you and thank you, Rachel Alexandra, now and forever.

And as always, thank you Steve.

14 Oct 2010 1:05 PM
Linda in Texas

Zookeeper - you were writing your post just as i was writing mine. So i did not see yours til after i sent mine.

I agree with you also. i am trying to let the sadness wash over me but it isn't receding fast enough.

At 70, i don't have as much time as many others and i have always been impatient with everything.

Hope i did not offend anyone, i was simply replying to other posters. i try to look at  situations from all angles and sometimes my view is skewed. Thanks

14 Oct 2010 1:19 PM
John T

What I always find intriguing when

a good horse like Rachel Alexandra is being judged most are inclined to not only judge the horse,but the

people connected with the horse.For

me I always put the horse before the cart, the horse being the horse of course and the cart being

''The Two Legged Wonders'' connected to the horse.

On an update on Frankel

 It,s the most talked about 2 year

old race in England for a long time

the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes to be run at Newmarket on Saturday when

Frankel puts his 3 race unbeaten streak on the line.Also in the field is Dream Ahead winner of the

Group 1 Middle Park Stakes and the unbeaten Godolphin colt Saamidd whom the Godolphin crew nickname

Pegasus.There are others in the field with a chance so this is the race that is going to tell us were

Frankel fits in.

14 Oct 2010 1:37 PM
Windy City

Zookeeper,

I wasn't trying to "find a guilty party" to scream and yell or blame and insult. I was just expressing my utter disappointment with the way JJ treated her after he realized that she is not on the top of her form and decided to retire her. I'm 110% sure that Rachel will live a royal life at his farm. But would that hurt him to send her off in little bigger fashion? If she is lame, then tell everyone that we'll get the chance to say good bye in 2 months or so. My impression is that he doesn't care about the fans, he just doesn't need us anymore. When Rachel was racing JJ needed fans and their support, so he was nice. When she is done racing, he just doesn't need to care anymore. That's how I feel. Is it selfish? Maybe. I'm not arguing if that was good or bad to retire her, I accept owner's decision and I don't elaborate on it. Horse always should come first. And trust me, I did let the sadness to wash away before I wrote any comments. I did let Rachel go. I still think that JJ shows respect only to people when it's convenient for him to do so...

Also I was being sarcastic on JJ buying Zenyatta :-) I couldn't imagine worse match! Mr Haskin described it perfectly :-) "...peanut butter and picked herring" :-))))

14 Oct 2010 5:00 PM
DD

Beautifully done!! Can't say enough about Rachel.  I use her as an example to students in my class.  Her determination and drive prove to be a true inspiration to young students.  They all love her, and I can't wait to share your account of her incredible year. Last year, my 5th grade students read an article by Steve and then wrote persuasive paragraphs on who should be horse of the year.  Even though they loved both mares, Rachel won their vote!    

14 Oct 2010 9:31 PM
ruffianruns

Maybe I did find the same absinthe bar, because again, I completely agree with Bellwether!

Peanut butter and pickled herring, huh?

Zookeeper - You rock.

John T - I've been reading about Frankel.  I'm rooting for him in the Dewhurst!  Sounds like it's gonna be a great race.

14 Oct 2010 10:27 PM
Aluminaut

Zookeeper,

I totally agree with your comment about Jess Jackson and how maybe she was retired because the horse "comes first."

Rachel is very high strung and I would worry about her being paraded at the Breeder's Cup.  She'd probably think she was going to run.  The excitement might be too much.  I also believe that the timing would be inappropiate.

Kelso was paraded in 1983 with Forego and John Henry(who was actually running in the race) in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.  A few days later he died.  I think it was colic.  

When the brought Snow Chief to parade before the Snow Chief Handicap a couple years back he looked great.  His people said that he got so excited because he thought he was going to race.  I think he was 24 or 25.  They said it would be the last time he led the post parade.

It might be best to let a little time pass, and let Rachel's connections decide what's best for her without rapidly judging their actions.  I know it's hard to let Rachel go so soon.  

15 Oct 2010 12:15 AM
Slew

Gee...Neko Bay, bred by J. Moss retired to stud.  Zenyatta owned by J. Moss has one more race, then will be bred.  Hmmmmm?  Never thought of that combo...but it sounds like a good idea.

15 Oct 2010 8:00 AM
jamo333

all i can say is wow. this is a wonderful article. she will always have my heart in win and in loss.  she never had an off day, she gave her best every time.  we could all try to do that :)  i love zenyatta and i have always admired ruffian but this is the greatest filly of all time

15 Oct 2010 9:53 AM
Zookeeper

Aluminaut- I was there also when they paraded Snow Chief at HP. He looked so good, I couldn't believe his age. Gorgeous nearly black stallion. Prancing around like a young colt. How lucky we were to be there!!!

Linda in Texas- You couldn't offend anyone if you tried. :) I'm not far behind you, as far as age is concerned, but for me time is flying toooooo fast.

Windy City- Anybody who can manage what you did while delivering a child, has the right to think and say whatever she wants! lol!

John T- My fingers are crossed that Frankel does it again. Thanks once more for the heads up!

ruffianruns- The feeling is mutual.

Slew- Better go closer to The Source, A.P. Indy by the one and only SEATTLE SLEW.

15 Oct 2010 12:15 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Connections: We'll let Rachel tell us if she wants a parade.

Rachel: Parade !!! How can you talk about a parade at a time like this !! Don't you realize that this is the third day in a row that Curlin hasn't called, or emailed, nothing !!!! You don't think he's seeing someone else do you?

15 Oct 2010 12:47 PM
Linda in Texas

Neko Bay and Zenyatta, he's 7, she is 6. Looked at his pedigree and it is loaded with some very important names all the way back to Northern Dancer. Then, not in order my forever favorite big man Seattle Slew, Storm Cat, Bold Reasoning, Dr. Fager, Mr. Prospector and the list goes on. Zenyatta shares the Native Dancer connection in her bloodline along with some super not so shabby names herself, even Mr. Prospector. I think that would be a very interesting match.

Wonder if you are right Slew?

Could be an interesting match as Zookeeper suggests with A.P. Indy also.

Seeing Neko Bay winning The San Pasqual, he looks to be built much the same as Zenyatta however their heads are shaped differently.

And Looking at the photo of Neko Bay i see he is a dark bay/brown just as Zenyatta and 'Chances Are' that 'A Little Midnight Madness' between those two would no doubt produce a foal with a spittin' image of both. Would come down to the length of the white mark on their head as Zen's is long, Neko Bay's is small!

With the off spring to look forward to from both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, we are lucky indeed to be witnessing what will no doubt be cussed,discussed, appreciated and studied for generations to come. Aren't we all lucky to be alive and watching it all happen?

Zookeeper, the other day i had a brain 'blast' for lack of being able to use the real word i usually use among close friends, that a name for your next horse to keep company with RUNFLATOUT could be CRUISE CONTROL. You sure wouldn't want to call one STICK SHIFT?  i looked up the Cruise Control name to see if it has been used before and i did not find it. Just a thought. Take care friends.

Thank you Steve.

15 Oct 2010 1:57 PM
Linda in Texas

Well Dr. D - there you are, i was wondering if someone needed to send the gendarmes to check on you and almost mentioned it in the post i just sent. I had missed reading your great posts and sense of humor.

Glad to know you are "up and able to take a little nourishment" and check in !!! A friend used to say that when asked how he was. He was very dry witted and i found it funny and never forgot it.

Rachel has been off the radar screen and out of the public domain for over a week. Does anyone know where she is now? I guess they could even be hiding her from Curlin. Wonder where Curlin is too.

15 Oct 2010 2:04 PM
Zookeeper

Connections: No, he's not seeing someone else. At least not right now. Maybe around Mid-February...

Rachel: Then why isn't he calling me?

Connections: His feelings are hurt because some people said ugh! at the mention of his mating with you.

Rachel: What's mating?

Connections: Never mind!

15 Oct 2010 2:29 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Linda in Texas

   I'm able to eat some saltine crackers as long as they're soaked in rum for two hours first. Yes, I'm able to muster the strength to crawl out of bed, and mosey into the kitchen for a tad of nourishment to keep my strength up. Just enough to get out a blog here and there, then back to bed to dream about The Classic.

15 Oct 2010 4:36 PM
old timer

All the JJ haters: pleasse remember why he bought her. Her original owner would not race her against the boys. She would never have had the chance to have that glorious 2009 campaign had JJ not become her owner. We would never have known how great she was. I hate Borel's whipping, and the mismanagement of this year's campaign, but we all make mistakes. I suspect they believed she was so great that 90% was enough early this year. Maybe the reason was that they saw her as a stressed out mare this year despite the bullet works. We just don't know. It would be great if they would give her a celebration, somewhere, like Kelso at Saratoga many years ago, but that would be for US, not her. She knows what she is.

15 Oct 2010 5:24 PM
Woodswoman

Thanks, Ruffianruns, for thinking of me at the Lady's Secret even when you couldn't locate me because Hollywood Park had changed my seats. I was silently cheering for all of you who got to meet Zenyatta and her connections that weekend. The good news is that I was just a few yards above the finish line and winner's circle, and that was special seeing Penny Chenery there.

Steve, although this blog clearly started as a moving and much deserved tribute to Rachel Alexandra, I am in awe of the amazing community that has evolved from this and your other blogs. I don't post much, but rest assured I look forward to every column AND the responses.

I am delighted that John Shirreffs has announced Zenyatta's daily schedule prior to her departure for Kentucky. I am determined to get myself from the San Francisco Bay Area to LA to see Zenyatta graze on a Saturday afternoon and work on the track Sunday morning some time this month.

However, I confess I have no clue how to get into the backside at Hollywood Park. Everything from knowing who to talk to, to finding where the heck the entrance is. When I went to the Lady's Secret, it was the first horse race I'd been to in person in 34 years!

16 Oct 2010 12:59 AM
Linda in Texas

Woodswoman - if you will simply Google: Hollywood Race Track, California, it will bring up that site. Click and Scroll down to the very bottom of the page and in small print you will see SITE MAP. Click on that.

When that page presents itself you will see 2 columns of information, on the right side of the page halfway down it says VISIT HOLLYWOOD, click that, and listed under that will be a map showing the racetrack. Keep clicking and it will give a map of the roads surrounding it with a list of where everything is within the confines of the park.

If you are unable to find where the 'backside of the track' is i am sure that when you arrive to park you could ask the attendant which entrance you should approach to be closest to that particular area. Or call the office to speak to someone who might be able to help you.

I used to fly a lot going to meetings all over the country and the first time i drove to DFW airport i was mortified at the size. Soon after i got a computer and could access the maps of the complex and find all the terminals. Looking at the racetrack is not unlike searching a road map or finding terminals at airports.

Hope this helps, but most importantly, i hope you have a

wonderful time! If i didn't live so far away, i would be there often. Maybe someone who has been there will answer your query with more detailed information to help you. Hope this helps a little.

I agree with your comments about the wonderful folks who post on

Steve's blog. You will learn so much from them as they come from not only fans of racing but actual owners, jockeys and people who have been in the business a long time. BLOODHORSE.com then STEVE'S BLOG go together like cream and sugar in my morning coffee to start my day.

Take care, Linda

16 Oct 2010 10:24 AM
John T

Frankel has done it,he has won his first Group 1 to-day in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.His time for the 7 furlongs was even faster than older horses running in a Group 2 the race before that

and the winner of that race Red Jazz was a close third in the Group

1 QE 11 at Ascot so we are talking

about a great racehorse in Frankel.

Unbeaten in four starts as a 2 year old the best price you can now get for him in the first English Classic,the 2000 Guineas next May is 4/5.

16 Oct 2010 10:35 AM
Bigtex

Here is what will make this year's Classic one for the ages...

If these top colts are running their best race on the same day in this one race, and Zenyatta is digging in with all she's got (a la Rachel in the Woodward) like she never has had to before and coming down the stretch you can't tell who's going to get the perfect head bob at the wire........HOLY HASKIN, BATMAN!!!

16 Oct 2010 12:10 PM
Zookeeper

Bigtex,

And the head will be Zenyatta's!!!

17 Oct 2010 1:30 AM
Slew

Linda: How could you?  You left out Secretariat. (Giant's Causeway, Storm Cat)  The stud fee for Indy would be much higher since the Moss' don't own him.  They do own Neko Bay. (Has he been syndicated?)  

Dr D: glad to see you back in the mix.

Old timer: Hal Wiggins already stated he would have run Rachel against the boys, later in the season...and he would have taken her to the Breeders' Cup.  I do believe his campaign would have been more beneficial to Rachel herself.  She will be sorely missed from the track.  

It was so difficult in 2009 to determine how RA's and Zen's styles would have worked on the same track against one another.  Zen, a bit lazy and hanging back, would slowly build up momentum, and her giant stride would glide over the track like a gazelle. (amazing considering her size).  Rachel would cannonball down the track on the lead with all her heart, and so often reminded me of Seattle Slew in the way he always took control of the race from the get-go. It was a warrior's charge, devastating the competition.  Rachel did the same, and never gave up in any race.  I think she should hook up with Bernardini instead of Curlin.  The beauty and conformation of their foal together would be undeniable.

17 Oct 2010 9:24 AM
RachelLover

Hi all and Mr. Haskins - I thought I would pass along this tidbit of information I received late on Friday afternoon, 10/15.  The day I heard of Rachel's retirement, of course I was devastated and I was frantically trying to find out information about whether she would be allowed visitors once she settles in at the farm.  I sent an email that day to the Stonestreet Farm PR department but genuinely assumed I would never hear from them.  Believe it or not, I received the nicest email this past Friday from Lesley Howard who indicated to me that while Mr. Jackson and Ms. Banke have always maintained a private broodmare farm (most do) they would be changing that status once Rachel arrived on site.  Apparently, they are in process now of figuring out a visitor's policy and once Rachel is on site and the policy in place, Rachel will be made readily available to her fans!  Ms. Howard also indicated Rachel is not due to the farm until mid-November; she will be staying at Churchill Downs until that time.  Which leads me to believe there may be a "farewell" for her in the works sometime during the Breeder's Cup.  Hurray!  I hope this bit of information helps others like me who were pretty sad about the possibility of not getting to see Rachel.  I'm ever hopeful to see a proper send off for her while we're at the Breeder's Cup but if not, I'm already planning a trip to Lexington next year to see her up close at the farm.  Have a great day, everyone!

18 Oct 2010 10:06 AM
Peggy

Thank you, Steve for this fine tribute to Rachel Alexandra's 2009 campaign culminating in the Woodward.  I started to follow racing because of her, always looking forward to her next race, but never thinking of the cost to her of her determination to win at all costs.  I feel guilty now.  Rachel, you have been special to me.  Because of you I now have at least an appreciation of so many great racehorses of the past.  I learned about Ruffian and her own great talents because of you, and laugh about John Henry and Dr. Fager as I read about them now. We would not know about the personalities of these horses without someone to talk to the real people who are important to them.  I am grateful to Steve for sharing these stories and look forward to reading about Rachel and her yet untold stories some day.

18 Oct 2010 1:36 PM
Fahad Malaikah

This was such a great article and thread.  I only have a couple of final comments.  First, I don't know if the Woodward really sapped Rachel for her 2010 season or not, but I will say that Rachel looked a little run down after each race (watch her after the Mother Goose) because she always ran so hard from finish to end.  The way she looked after the Woodward wasn't completely out of character, if you will.  Second, after recently learning the real reason for Rachel's retirement from a very close and trusted source, I will say that, although there was nothing seriously wrong with Rachel by any means, that the connections did the right thing at the right time with her retirement.  Continuing on with her wasn't worth the risk.  My respect for the connections has probably increased a little after learning what I did, but on the same token, there isn't a whole lot of reason to be so tight-lipped.  To be clear, I deeply admire JJ for his sportsmanship last year, I just think RA was a little mismanaged in her campaign this year, unfortunately.    

Best regards,

Fahad      

18 Oct 2010 1:39 PM
Katherine

Steve, so enjoyed reading this blog and (most)of the comments. I especially enjoy reading Fahad Malaikah's inside comments. Thank you Fahad for giving us an idea of why Rachel was so suddenly retired. I don't think I will ever understand why Mr Jackson did not give the fans a little more information since he invited us to share in her campaign. I can understand why they shipped her to the farm as opposed to giving her a formal farewell ceremony and I am glad for Rachel's sake they decided to forgo a formal farewell. She has spent enough time in a stall without a break.

Be well beautiful Rachel, you are a legend in your own time. What an incredible campaign you had last year and only a 3 year old filly, come one, come all!

Steve it would be wonderful if you were able to visit Rachel on the farm, take a few pictures and let us know how she is transitioning in lieu of the farewell ceremony. I can't think of anyone who could do a better job!! What do you think the chances of that are?  :)

(I believe this last comment falls under "Shameless Begging" in Haskin Addiction list of symptoms.)

19 Oct 2010 1:37 AM
Peggy

I also thank you Fahad.  Obviously there is a story to be told, which I hope will someday see print.

For those of you who belong to Facebook, there is a Rachel Alexandra site which is sponsored by Stonestreet Farms and which is supposed to speak for Rachel.  Her profile picture is now Barbara Livingson's beautiful shot of Rachel and Dominic riding as the morning sun rises.  "Rachel" says that she will be allowed visitors by appointment at some time, but the details haven't been worked out yet.

19 Oct 2010 11:54 AM
txhorsefan

I'm so glad I decided to check in on this blog once again, after several days of figuring it was all quiet.  Thank you very much for your insiders information, Fahad, and thank you also for letting us know about your reply from Stonestreet, RachelLover.  While the suddenness of her retirement still stings, it does ease the sadness/bewilderment a little knowing that they are considering allowing Rachel's many devoted fans to visit her at the farm, but its still alarming that her retirement had to be so abrupt.  I do hope she is all right.  

Linda in Texas, I'm still mortified by DFW and I live only about fifteen miles from it - lol!

This is still the best blogging group on the internet.  Thank you all!

19 Oct 2010 6:04 PM
DinkyDiva

Mr.Haskin, I am so happy that there is a place on bloodhorse, that there is more "positive" remarks then, negative!  Unlike your counterpart!  

Zookeeper, Peggy and others, check out my facebook page.  I have a "work in progress of Rach" and one of "Zenny." As well as my other "art work."  Steve, I think you'd appreciate my "work" as a fellow artist!  :)

www.facebook.com/photo.php

19 Oct 2010 6:08 PM
girlsrock

Truly we know the great love of this sport and who are the givers. She truly gave her all and she will be remembered for this for times sake let her memories be forever engrained in time she shall not have to win under those circumstances again.

22 Oct 2010 11:31 AM
Jef

I've just printed out your column to save it for posterity. Beautifully written. I think in retrospect, what Rachel accomplished in 2009 looms even larger than it did at the time. With all the uproar over the HOTY balloting last year, I was somewhat torn between Rachel and Zenyatta (even despite having seen the Woodward in person) until Rachel lost her first 2010 start. Then it really hit me how tough that campaign was--far tougher than Zenyatta's. I hope this year Zen gets HOTY so both can bask in their well-deserved glory. Thanks for some great reflections, Steve.

24 Oct 2010 12:48 PM
Cate

I believe that her campaign was too much for her in 2009. I do not like her connections. Calvin used the whip 21 times ?  Abusive ??

21 Nov 2010 1:13 AM
Savanna

I love Rachel and I will miss this fantasic filly.She really got me tough a thought the year(2009).i was having a rough year in 6th grade. I then went into 7th. i am now a 13 and a half year old 8th grader. Rachel was and is my favorite throughbred and I will hope to see her foal by curlin and her foal sibling her dam Lotta Kim is carrying!

11 Dec 2010 9:47 PM

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