Monday, November 16, 2009

There Can Only Be One, Rachel Alexandra

This is one of the most historic years that racing has seen in a very long time, this year will be forever remembered as the Year of the Filly. This was the year where fillies not only completely dominated there own division, but had the courage to step up and take on males, and win. Evita Argentina and Lethal Heat are only the minor players, at the forefront were the titans Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra demolished all comers in her races against her own sex, so much that in her last two starts she recorded margins of up to 20 lengths. Against colts she showed her grit and determination, winning three grade ones against them, one by over six lengths. Zenyatta mostly dominated her own division all year long, but when the big, nearly black, five year old mare finally stepped up she bulldozed her competition, becoming the first mare to ever win the Breeders Cup Classic.

Since that race a heated discussion has arised, with the main question being who will become Horse of the Year. To me there is no contest, Zenyatta did win the Classic, but it was not her that we saw from mid February to September. It was not her that we saw race on seven tracks, six states, in eight races, never once tasting defeat, no, that was the brilliant Rachel Alexandra.

Before the Classic there was no competition of who would become Horse of the Year, there was such a striking difference by the historic campaign that Rachel Alexandra had waged when compare to the relatively light schedule that was displayed by Zenyatta. The five year old mare waited until mid May to make her first start after scratching from what was to be her season debut when the chance for a wet track arose. After her seasonal bow in the Milady she would race three more times, all against fillies, all in California, never leaving her comfort zone. The only thing of note that champion would do was shoulder 129lbs in the Vanity.

Meanwhile the brilliant 3 year old filly, Rachel Alexandra, was out waging a season unlike any other three year old filly. In her first four starts she would demolish rivals of the same sex, winning her debut by eight lengths, the Fair Ground Oaks geared down by 1 3/4, and the Fantasy by 12. Her climatic moment against her own sex was the Kentucky Oaks where she steamrolled her foes, romping by an unprecedented 20 1/4 lengths. After this she would only make one more start against fillies, which was again a romp, where she won eased in stakes record time, by 19 lengths.

Rachel Alexandra's starts against males would be mostly remembered for her determined and deeply moving win in the Woodward Stakes, where she would prevail by a head after running full tilt for the complete nine furlongs. She would endure two rabbits, sent specifically on suicide missions to tire her, then she withstood a challenge by the Whitney winner Bulls Bay, only to, again, hold off one more late surge by Macho Again, to become the first filly of any age to win the Woodward. Before her crowning moments she garnered wins in the Preakness, becoming only the fourth filly to win, and the first horse ever to win from post 13. Her most dominating performance came in the Haskell where she produced a Herculean effort to win over the Belmont winner Summer Bird, becoming only the second filly to win the race.

Before the Classic it would seem that Rachel Alexandra would have the honors of Horse of the Year wrapped up, but after being forced to put everything on the line in order to challenge Rachel for the award Jerry Moss entered his black monster into the Classic, where she would have to take her game to a whole new level. In the end Zenyatta answered her owners call, her response still echoing off the mountains across from the great Santa Anita racecourse.

I say however one win in one big race is not enough. Was it one of the largest and heavily weighted races, yes, but even a Classic cannot outweigh the historical significance of what Rachel has accomplished as a three year old filly. Zenyatta proved her greatness and only what she should have been doing all year long, facing the boys, leaving her comfort zone. I hear ludicrous claims like owner Jess Jackson "cherry picked" Rachel's season. Tell me how do all the races that were supposedly the "toughest fields" Rachel had faced and were supposed to were she met defeat, get demoted to nothing after she demolishes the field.

I hear that because Zenyatta is retiring and is five years old she should get the award, since Rachel will be racing next year. What these people don't realize is that racing is never for certain, Rachel could comeback to training, take a misstep that costs her the rest of her career. Will she still be crowned Horse of the Year then? Quit making excuses, take all the emotion out of the equation and look at the season on paper side by side. You will find Rachel wins, and in the end that is all that matters. If the connections of Zenyatta wanted the award they should have done more than just one thing. Rachel Alexandra had the best season and wins the award hands down.


  1. Yeah, right. Zenyatta is by far the better horse. I'd like to see Rachel come to the Classic and do what Zen did. Even after QR got scratched and there was a slow pace, Zen came back to win. She did it with pure ease. So RA wins by a lot, that's only because of her running style. Zen's never been pushed to the limit in any of her races. Most people claim that of their horses in an effort to make them look better, but Zen is the first that I've seen to actually prove it. She always crosses the finish with her ears perked and ready for more. She also remained undefeated on more than one surface. You can't say the same for RA. This is Zenyatta's second great year in a row. Curlin deserved it last year, but this year it's her turn. She deserves the title more than RA, no contest.

  2. anonymous,
    Zenyatta raced a total of five times this season, and only was put against males when her owners hand was forced. Do you really honestly believe that if RA had not won the Woodward that Zenyatta would've entred the Classic? To berate RA by saying Zenyatta deserves the title so much more is pure emotion, which is dislike either for her or her connections. Personally I was not overly impressed with Zenyatta winning the Classic. Many horses were east coast shippers and hated the surface and then your you have the versital Einstein and top Euro that were over the hill. That still does not change the fact the she won and made history. Same goes for RA, was her competition the very best, probably not, but she mad history six out of eight races to Zenyatta's doing it twice this year. Emotionlessly looking at the two seasons, there is no way a person can say RA didn't have the better year.

  3. two great horses but like any horse race one has to win such is the hoy......unless it is shared (deadheat).I somehow have this nagging feeling as of right now that the classic was not ZENYATTA'S final race the more i look @the replay the more i see a horse that has not peaked yet also considering the sex(female)the industry is not missing anything like stud value or even depreciation in case of a loss which i dont see happening because of the astute nature of her connections.Obviously these two ladies will remain atop the heap for at least the next year or more so my point is they only have to fear each other competitionwise,knowing the two camps from the the way they have handled and placed these horses with the overwhelming support and recognition from the industry,its leaders,movers and shakers we shall see more of these outstanding ladies or we will see plainly and cleary whos ducking the way how is rachel doing? that last race took a hell of a lot out of her as for zenyatta her last suggests that she wants a hell of a lot more racing....has not conquered her proverbial 'EVEREST"yet....14races in a 5year career,very sparingly raced definitely has not peaked yet and by god not ready to be domiciled "one more season please" or 3-4 more races got to climb my everest.......per "zen"

  4. I have read a multitude of comments about which of the two great fillies should be awarded HOY, and frankly I believe the award should be eliminated this year. There is no solid argument for one against the other. Both horses are great; we have been blessed to see both of them run. They are very different. Rachel runs till she is close to collapse; Zenyatta runs only as hard as she must to win. Both made the colts look lame this year and left the fans breathless and in awe.

    The award is not given to the horse. It is bestowed upon one owner who out-manipulates the other owner. I am tired of watching Jess Jackson pick up the award.

  5. Both horses had historic campaigns and both will be remembered long after the thought of who won Horse of the Year. By the definition of Horse of the Year, (not race of the year or lifetime achievement award) there is a more deserving horse in my opinion...Rachel Alexandra.

  6. I don't see where your getting at with 6 races making history. The true history was made by Zenyatta. She's still undefeated and she won the Classic. The same horses you put down that she beat in the Classic are the same that Rachel beat, and more. It's obvious by watching each of them run that Zenyatta is by far the better horse.

  7. Anonymous,

    Largest margin in the history of the Fantasy, Oaks, and Mother Goose, while breaking the stakes record in the Martha Washington. Four races right there that her name is engraved into the history books. She was the First horse ever to win the Preakness form post thirteen and the first female of any age to win the Woodward. That is six races, plus she did two historic things in some. She had the stakes record and margin in the Mother Goose, was also the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness(fourth ever).

    Zenyatta was the only horse to win the Vanity under 129lbs and the first filly to win the Classic in 25 years. Normally such a thing would be enough, but look at all the history RA did above, in six of her races. Zenyatta comes nowhere close this season.

  8. What people are doing, in light of Zenyatta's recent accomplishment, is comparing her entire career to Rachel's 2009 season. I don't think that's right. Rachel was the one who had the better year, though she's not necessarily the better horse...I guess we'll never find out who's better.

    The point is, this award is about 2009 alone, not 2008-2009. Much as I like Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra should and will be Horse of the Year.

  9. I love Zenyatta, she has been around two years longer to love. I would have been happy to see her earn the title of Horse Of The Year.

    But not at the expense of the LOGICAL winner. Fairness before fawning. Careful analysis before emotional choices and loud, aggressive Zenyatta pushing fans.
    Any lawyer or scientist, dedicated to FACTS only, would find Rachel's race stature, historic elements, diverse campaign and SHEER RACE PERFORMANCES in 2009 superior to Zenyatta. Even if only by a miniscule amount. In reality facts rule. I hope that passion for Zenyatta does not allow for the theft of Rachel Alexandra's earned award.