A Decade to Remember: A Haskell Legend

From the blog Horsin' Around

Speed, beauty, dominance, and brilliance. These four words are all it takes to sum up the 2009 Haskell Invitational and its champion. Before 2009 only one filly had ever won the prestigious race. The Haskell would mark her second victory over the boys and a year of greatness that saw her win an astounding nine stakes, two against males and one against older females. She would bring home the trophy that marked her the 1995 champion three year old filly. Serena's Song showed that year that if any filly were to meddle with the boys in such a prestigious race, she had better be something special.

14 years later came Rachel Alexandra, who like Serena's Song would be trying for her second victory against males, again in the Haskell Invitational. Earlier in the year, Rachel Alexandra had been so dominant against her own sex that she had draw comparisons to the great immortal Ruffian. Rachel had won her first three starts, the Martha Washington, the Fair Grounds Oaks, and Fantasy for kicks and giggles. She easily set margin records in two and a stakes record in one, which set her up for her 20 length demolition in the Kentucky Oaks.

After being purchased by Jess Jackson, best know as the owner of two time Horse of the Year Curlin, Rachel was wheeled back off two weeks rest, to take her first shot at the boys. Breaking from post thirteen Rachel set a scorching pace while being pressured by Big Drama. Entering the stretch she had a three length advantage that would shank to one length in a dramatic and thrilling drive to the wire, where she dug down stubbornly to hold of Derby winner Mine That Bird. Her last start before the Haskell would come against in the Mother Goose, where she would meet only two challengers. Without any effort she strolled down the lane to win by nearly 20 lengths, breaking the stakes record.

Despite facing 12 other challengers in the Preakness, the Haskell was supposed to give Rachel Alexandra her stiffest challenge to date. The field was full of stakes winners, and last out winners, including the speedy Tom Fool winner, Munnings and Belmont winner, Summer Bird. Others included Atomic Rain, who had won the Long Branch Stakes, a local prep for the Haskell. Then came Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem and Iowa Derby winner Duke of Mischief. Bunker Hill would round out the field as the long shot of the race.

As the gates flew open it was apparent that the Haskell was going to be the crowing of a champion. As expected both Munnings and Rachel spurted to the lead, but looking to the inside, the crowed of 35,000 watch in amazement as the late running Summer Bird would join the fray. So, with Summer Bird on the rail, Munnings between horses, and Rachel widest of all they raced around the track in a pace so fast it would make one's head spin.

The entered the far turn with a six furlong split of 1.09:4, with Munnings still the leader with the Preakness and Belmont winners breathing down his neck. Then, like in a dream, America watched as Rachel Alexandra began to distance herself from her male challenger. As the field swung into the stretch Rachel was in front with a four length lead! The mile had gone in a blistering 1.34:1, and with a furlong left to go Rachel galloped home with a six length advantage, with only a few light taps from her jockey's whip to keep her interested.

Under the wire, the cheers of the grandstand rose to a new pitch to welcome back their champion. Rachel had not only won, but crushed a solid field of stakes winners, including Summer Bird, who went on to win the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Her winning time, 1.47:1, was only one fifth off the stakes record and two off the track record. Rachel Alexandra is speed, beauty, dominance, and brilliance. Rachel Alexandra is and will forever remain a Haskell Legend.v

Recent Posts

Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance

Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance RSS Feed

More Blogs