Oct 01, 2010
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD
By: JOE GIRARDI
All of us that watched her magical season last year couldn’t wait for her return this year to have a chance at seeing that again. Horse of the Year in 2009 RACHEL ALEXANDRA went 8 for 8 in 2009 and earned a little more than $2.7 million dollars. She won eight races over seven different racetracks and defeated the males three times in the Preakness, Haskell and then older males in the Woodward at Saratoga. However, she never had a chance to race against the other great female racehorse, the undefeated ZENYATTA. We though that opportunity was over when ZENYATTA was to be retired after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2009.
Moving into 2010, ZENYATTA’S connections decided to bring her back and there was to be a race with RACHEL ALEXANDRA in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in early April. They both made their first starts of 2010 on the same day, March 13th, RACHEL at the Fair Grounds and ZENYATTA at Santa Anita. ZENYATTA won her race easily but RACHEL struggled at 1-9 and lost by ¾’s of a length. We all should have seen at this time that RACHEL ALEXANDRA may have lost a step. She skipped the Apple Blossom as her connections felt she was not ready for a race like that. Her next start on April 30th at Churchill Downs she lost again at 1-5 by a head. Again things were not right with the great RACHEL.
In her next start on June 12 she broke through and won a Grade II stakes at Churchill Downs by more than 10 lengths. She then shipped to Monmouth on July 24th and won the ungraded Lady’s Secret Stakes over a mediocre field and scored by three lengths in an unimpressive effort. With two wins and two seconds from four starts it would still be a great year for most horses but you could see she just wasn’t herself. She would have one start before being retired on September 28th as she was to be preparing for the Beldame at Belmont on October 2nd. Her last start of her career would come in the Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga at 1 and ¼ miles, a distance RACHEL had yet to run but she was the favorite and it was a short field. As the gate opened she went right to the lead but was quickly pressured by the second choice in the race, LIFE AT TEN. The fractions weren’t slow but they weren’t overly fast either. As they hit the top of the stretch she dispatched her main rival and held a clear 3 ½ length lead into midstretch. As they were approaching the wire she couldn’t kick on and was basically running in place as PERSISTENTLY, a 21-1 longshot ran her down in a final quarter that went in almost 27 seconds. Some saw the race as a good one because of the early pressure but those who saw the great horse run last year knew something wasn’t right. She couldn’t finish off a questionable foe in a very slow last quarter mile.
Her connections saw this also. They retired her instead of pressing on with a horse that just wasn’t herself. She was retired sound according to her owner Jess Jackson and will be bred to CURLIN next year and we can’t wait to see how that horse turns out. She as Jess Jackson said will be rewarded with a less stressful life and we will all have the memories of that magical year in 2009.
On a sad note, 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner REAL QUIET died on Monday, September 27th as a result of a paddock accident at Penn Ridge Farms in Harrisburg, Pa. The horse had fractured several cervical vertebrae, he wasn’t able to get up and had to be euthanized. I will always remember the day of the Belmont Stakes as he went for the Triple Crown, the first in 20 years. He held a clear lead into the lane but his main rival, VICTORY GALLOP was bearing down on him. As they approached the wire, REAL QUIET drifted out a bit but and lost the photo by a nose. Many suspect that if REAL QUIET had won he might have been disqualified. Either way it was a great race and one that I will always remember being at. Take your time to go to www.youtube.com and check out the 1998 Belmont Stakes, it was a great race and tremendous call by Tom Durkin.
On another sad note, jockey Mark Villa, 44, was killed at Zia Park in Hobbs, New Mexico when his horse fell at the finish line. Our prayers go out to his family and friends. A few weeks earlier at Golden Gate Fields, 24 year old Michael Martinez was paralyzed from the waist down after a fall. Again we pray for him and his family. We need to remember that this is a dangerous game and we should always pray for the jockeys and horses to come back safe after each race.
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