The "Freak"ness is on like Donkey Kong!

And they haven't even opened the infield yet. 

If you are perceived as (insert your word here), it is best not to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

First off, of course, Rachel Alexandra has a right to run in the traditional male classic.  On the other hand, I can understand that some of the folks feel that Jess Jackson in mid-battle for the World Series, traded for a 30-game winning pitcher.  That would not be possible in baseball.  In football, you win a series of games to make it to the Super Bowl.  This isn't baseball or football Dorothy.


A Filly's Look Back

The last two fillies comparable to Rachel's situation were Genuine Risk and Winning Colors.  Even though they were Derby winners, she is coming into this race with that kind of hype, warranted or not.  This is what happened in their quest to take down the Black-Eyed Susans.


Genuine Risk

Genuine Risk rolled into the Kentucky Derby after a third place finish in the Wood Memorial in 1980 behind Plugged Nickle.  The chestnut filly was by Exclusive Native out of the Gallant Man mare Virtuous.  She was owned Mrs. Bertram Firestone and trained by Leroy Jolley.

As we all remember, Leroy Jolley was the trainer of Kentucky Derby Winner Foolish Pleasure, when his colt took on the spectacular but ill-fated Ruffian in 1975.  He hurled some poorly chosen comments towards the press after her injury that left him open to a lot of criticism, but he also made this comment to the Washington Post with a sense of sadness, "The ones who run best are the ones who run hardest, even if it kills 'em."

In 1980, the situation was different, but the roles were somewhat reversed.  It was Mr. Jolley's filly facing a field of colts in the 1980 Derby. 


1980 Kentucky Derby


Two weeks later, things got ugly.  After three Triple Crown winners in the seventies, the thought of a filly being the next Crown winner wasn't hard to imagine. 

Well, Codex, D. Wayne Lukas and Angel Cordero had another scenario in mind.  They, along with owners, Tartan Farms, wanted their son of Arts and Letters to win a classic race.  The colt won the Santa Anita Derby, but he was not nominated for the Kentucky Derby, so he sat on the sidelines for that race.  He was front and center on Preakness Day, in more ways than one.


The 1980 Preakness Stakes


Although the event certainly appears legal, it was not widely accepted as the right thing to do.  Cordero's reputation as an aggressive rider made people quiet furious at the time.  Even the mild-mannered Joe Hirsch was angry. 

Genuine Risk went on to run in the Belmont Stakes and ran a solid second there also, well ahead of Codex.


Winning Colors

Moving on to 1988, D. Wayne Lukas is now the one with the Derby winning filly, Winning Colors, the daughter of Caro with her rider Gary Stevens.  Woody Stephens entered the mix as the trainer of Forty Niner, ridden by Pat Day.   The situation was a little different than the first scenario.  Forty Niner did run in the Kentucky Derby.  Woody had commented to the New York Times the week of the Derby "I can't see her (Winning Colors) winning the Derby........Forty Niner could outrun Winning colors from the gate if that's what I want.........If we draw outside her we'll put the pressure on.  If we draw inside we might go to the lead.  That might be her weakness."

Let's back up and take a look at the romp Winning Colors put on in the Santa Anita Derby in her last prep race to understand what Stephens was talking about.


1988 Santa Anita Derby


Now, the 1988 Kentucky Derby


Well, after the race, I'm sure Stephens was thinking about what he said and knowing that the filly had everything go her way, he probably wasn't happy with Day's ride and Stephens wasn't going to let her have her own way in the Preakness.


1988 Preakness Stakes


Whatever this was, it seems to me that it was worse because at least Codex won the first one.  Forty Niner finished poorly and the connections were probably ashamed of their tactics.  In fact, Woody Stephens commented after the race "She's probably better than I thought she was." 

Gary Stevens had harsh words for trainer Stephens.  The longtime conditioner admittedly told his jockey he wanted to send Forty Niner for the lead and to stay away from the muddy rail inside.  What happened was a lot of bumping and bullying of the filly.



Now here we are in 2009.  Rachel Alexandra will line up in the 13 post and her fate may not be her own, but hopefully after the past weekend, everyone will be on their best behavior and race everyone the same.

An interesting note, Rachel Alexandra's broodmare, Lotta Kim, is sired by Roar and Roar was a son of Forty Niner. 

Courtesy of Becky Johnston

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