All I hear these days from racing fans is how much Zenyatta moves them to tears, and Rachel leaves you empty, well am I some kind of warped freak? Because I feel almost the exact opposite. When I watch Zenyatta's races I am not moved to tears, I'm just watching a great horse with great respect, Rachel is a whole different story. Ever since her Oaks I have either been left is some state of shock and awe over her or have been moved to tears.
At the beginning of this year I had actually come to the conclusion that without Curlin racing, that I would be a Zenyatta fan. I mean why not, I liked her the year before, I just liked Curlin, who is still my favorite horse, more. But as the months wore on from January to May, all I kept hearing Well Armed, Pioneerofthe Nile, I Want Revenge, Quality Road, and the Pamplemoose, but no Zenyatta. The horse that I had wanted to come and be my hero for the year 2009 simply did not show up.
Besides the names above, another constantly kept ringing in my ears, Rachel Alexandra. This filly who won her races with Ruffian-ease and was constantly running faster than the males either the day before, or a race before the boys' main show, was taking the world by storm. I kept reading about how she would whip the boys if entered in the Kentucky Derby, and as I sat and watched her races, I too was impressed, but not enough to consider the Derby. I thought her wins were Big Brown-like, brilliant, but with no real competition, so of course, when Oaks day came, I thought she would win.
Well I was right in thinking she would win and that she would dominate, what I was wrong about was that this filly was for real. I watched the Oaks expecting a 10 length victory tops. I expected domination, what I saw was demolition. While watching the early stages of the race the one thing that caught my eye was the size of Rachel Alexandra compared to her opponents. As she ranged up along Gabby's Golden Gal, from what I could see on the T.V. I could have sworn there was a good 4 inch difference in their height. Around the turn, as expected, Rachel took the lead and then without even hitting another gear she just simply drew off, drew off to a 20 length victory. I was left in complete shock.
After that I was convinced, Rachel was the best horse in the nation, and I still am. I started to defend her relentlessly on other blogs, and when she came down the stretch holding off the Derby winner in the Preakness I was sold. By the time I watched Zenyatta in the Milady, it was I was to deep in the Rachel Alexandra euphoria to allow Zenyatta to reclaim the top spot.
My biggest thing with Zenyatta is that I feel she is somewhat machine-like. She goes out into the paddock and begins her little dance moves and continues that into the post paraded. During the the race she immediately drop to the tail of the field, then when coming around the turn she starts to uncoil the giant relentless stride that has never failed to carry her to victory. Now, I am not saying she is cold and emotionless, just saying everything just seems rehearsed and sort of mechanical. Even as I watched her in the Classic I was not surprised to see her win. I could tell at the top of the stretch it was over, she had gotten into gear and not a horse would be able to withstand her. She won the race like every other, and yes, I know it's a historical moment and I respect that and proud that racing has a horse like her, but she still failed to move me.
I have cried while watching two of Rachel's races, the Haskell and the Woodward. In her other three grade ones I was left in awe. I screamed, yes, screamed at my television, when watching the Preakness. My jaw had to have hit the floor when I watched her in the Mother Goose, as she not only won by 19 lengths, eased up, but also broke the stakes record, while coming in less than a second of Secretariat's track record.
When I watched the Haskell I was so nervous, I thought that this field was the best she had faced and would surely push her to her limit. I watched, muscles tensed, as she and Munnings broke on top, with Summer Bird displaying his newly found tactical speed. As the went through fractions that would cook any other horse I saw Rachel starting to draw off and again I began to yell, it was like I was there in the Monmouth crowd, jumping and screaming as Rachel drew away from the Belmont winner, winning by over six lengths. At the end of the race my emotions were so shot, that I simply cried at the significance of it all. I was amazed.
I watched her again, even more nervously in the Woodward. When the time for the first quarter flashed up I was dumbfounded. I couldn't believe that as the entered the stretch that Rachel was still in front after being hounded through the first six furlongs by Da'Tara and Past the Point. She amazed me further when she turned back the first closing assault by Bulls Bay. After that she had me again, on my feet, crying and yelling at the same time as she tried with all her might to hold off a second late charge by Macho Again. In that race it was not the crowd I felt that I was in, it was running with her, refusing to let any horse, no matter the cost, run by me.
Zenyatta is a great mare, deserving of all the accolades she receives. She deserves respect at the very least, even if she is not your favorite, but Rachel won my heart after the Oaks, and kept it with both her dominance and her heart. It doesn't seem to matter whether she wins by 20 or just a mere head, when I watch her I can see her will to win. She has a presence to her that just lures a person in, that moves even the most objective and hard nosed person. She is Rachel Alexandra, and she has my heart.