What was the first emotion that set in when I saw Rachel Alexandra was pointing towards the Lady's Secret, an ungraded stakes at Monmouth Park. Like many from http://www.tbablogs.com/ I experienced a wave of disappointment. She had just ran lights out in the Fleur de Lis, her last start, showing signs of returning to her old form. Both Jess Jackson and Steve Assmusen seemed pleased with the start and ready to take on bigger, bolder challenges. So, why on earth would you skip a grade one race at the mecca of American racing, Saratoga, for an ungraded race at Monmouth?
This decision baffled me to no end for the rest of last night and even into today. However, thinking on the subject, trying to look deeper than just the face value of the decision, I began to understand, the possible reasoning behind pointing towards the Ladies Secret.
With the addition of the Million Dollar Day format, Monmouth has thrived. Races are filling and drawing respectable fields, attendance has been good, everything is working out for Monmouth. Racetracks in New York are quite a different story, and while Saratoga always attracts a good crowd, Monmouth would seem a prime place to show the Rachel Alexandra of old off to her fans.
Many argue that Jackson's decision is about the money and what may be a lack of quality competition. My response is if the decision is based on greed and money, then why would Jackson not head to DE Park for the DE Handicap. It is a prestigious Grade 2 that dangles a purse of 750K. No, I think the decision has to do with much more than money. Monmouth is the home of one of Rachel's most impressive wins. It also was the site of Curlin's Breeders Cup victory and even has a race named after the mighty Curlin. The relationship between Jess Jackson and Monmouth Park is a very strong one, strong enough to steal him and his superstar away from grand old Saratoga.
Besides good relations, the Lady's Secret is actually a smart move. The race is likely to attract just as good a field as the Ruffian would, since two out of the top three Phipps finishers are already confirmed for a trip to DE. The only one remaining, Unrivaled Belle, now has some options, and seeing that Monmouth hosts the richer race, over a track that is conductive to her style may be enough to draw the strapping filly to a potential rematch with Rachel Alexandra.
All in all, the Ladies Secret is a smart move by Jackson. The man wants his superstar to be at her best by Breeders Cup, and is a master strategist. He will likely use this as a prep for the Personal Ensign, at Saratoga before setting his sites on the Beldame or Jockey Club Gold Cup. I may not like the decision, mainly because it means I will not get to have the chance to see Rachel Alexandra live, but that does not mean Jess Jackson did not make the right move.