Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gold is the Way to Go

The nominations are out and as expected, the reigning Horse of the Year will make her return on October 2nd. Rachel Alexandra was nominated to the Beldame, where she would get the chance to avenge not just one, but two of her losses this year. It will be a hotly contested race, but at 9 furlongs over Belmont, where she is a stakes record holder, does anyone think a broken Life at Ten will turn the tables or Persistently will be able to close the ground in time?

The fact she was nominated to this race comes as no surprise, but what caught the eye of Rachel Fans around the nation was not the prospect of Rachel Alexandra avenging two of her losses, it was her nomination to the 10 furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup. After such a slow time, where she staggered home in the final sixteenth of a mile, only to get beat in the Personal Ensign, why would her connections choose to even nominate her to the Gold Cup. Not only is it 10 furlongs, but it is against two of the strongest older males in the country.

The answer is because even though her 2o1o record does not suggest it, she is still the same filly she was last year, the only difference is she is just now only getting started. At nine furlongs, even 9.5 furlongs this mare is a beast, a force to be reckoned with. She showed she was back to herself with two relatively easy wins in her two starts leading up to the Personal Ensign, the only question heading into the race was the distance. Rachel Alexandra answered that question with a disguised affirmative.

Saratoga is not the place to try to go wire to wire in a grade one race 9 furlongs. Only three horses have been able to do that task and only one of those three succeed in doing so at 10 furlong, and that was back in 2006. Yet there she went, thundering around the track, locked into a heated speed duel that last 7/8ths of a mile before Rachel's challenger, Life at Ten, finally caved. We all know how the story ended, Rachel Alexandra fought her heart out, but the deep and tiring Saratoga track and lengthy speed duel took it's toll, and the champion yielded the lead in the final strides.

I'll bet you are all asking how the heck this race shows she can get 10 furlongs and 1o furlongs against the toughest males she has yet to face. Rachel Alexandra, nearly pulled off what had not been done in four years, winning a 10 furlong grade one going head to head. The filly she crushed and ran into submission, was a proven 10 furlong winner, was riding a six race winning streak and was a grade one winner. In her first start going 10 furlongs, Rachel Alexandra nearly pulled off what had been impossible for four years.

In the Gold Cup she will not face a horse that is as speed crazy as Life at Ten. Her main competition, on the front end, will come from Rail Trip. The son of Jump Start has plenty of early speed, but is better when sitting just off the pace. He has the ability to go with Rachel, but I highly doubt that Dutrow would have Rail Trip sent into a match race, especially considering his last race was in July and he is now trying to have him as ready as possible for the Breeders Cup Classic. Because of this Rachel Alexandra will probably be able to control a fairly moderate pace without a whole ton of pressure.

The second thing going her way is the track. Her two biggest opponents, Blame and Rail Trip, have never raced over Big Sandy. In her only start over the track, Rachel Alexandra romped to a near 20 length victory in stakes record time, while being eased. It goes without saying that Rachel Alexandra loves Belmont Park.

These two things combined with the conditioning the Personal Ensign gave her suggest that Gold Cup would be well with in her reach. She now has the conditioning, she loves the track, she would be the controlling speed, and she would be receiving weight instead of giving it. With everything seemingly pointing in her favor, one can only conclude that the Gold Cup is the way to go.


  1. I still like the thought of seeing Rachel win the BC Classic, but the JCGC would then mean she would be running in three consecutive 10 furlong races, assuming her next start is the Classic, something I'm not sure any horse has been asked to do this year. Blame should love 10 furlongs, and we will see about Rail Trip.

    And if it turns out that she goes in the Gold Cup and has to really push herself to beat two of the best older males in the country--Quality Road being the other--she may not have anything left for the Classic, and could also possibly compromise her chances in the Ladies' Classic.

    But again, I'd love to see Rachel not only in the Classic, but win it. My guess is the connections will choose the Beldame however, and depending on how she performs in that one, then decide on either the Ladies' Classic or Classic.

  2. Actually Rail Trip will be asked to run 3 consecutive 10 furlong races too. What he has to do might be even harder though, because he is coming off a long layoff, some slight setbacks, he'll be running over dirt for the first time, and he just traveled cross country.

    Quality Road will not be running in the Gold Cup, just RT and Blame, which is why the pace will be easier for her to control.

    I would not mind the Beldame, if she were to win that in dominating fashion then I think it would serve as a good prep for the Classic too.

  3. She ain't going to the Gold Cup Honey. They've done this with the Stephen Foster too. She'll go to the Beldame and hopefully best her time from last year.

  4. Rachel is the sole true speed in the race, so she controls the pace. Rail Trip is at her mercy - he's running on dirt after a long layoff and some questionable injuries/setbacks against some solid mid-pack sprinting speed that could push him out of his comfort zone. Can Blame outkick Rachel? Not if she stays out of speed duels and isn't pushed by the pack. Rachel by 1 length.

    On the other hand, I can see her going in the Beldame and setting herself up nicely for a shocker in the Classic! Rachel by a head.

  5. Do you have Rail Trip's PPs? I don't know what the two other 10 furlong races in succession are. His last start was the Hollywood Gold Cup, at 10 furlongs, but what about before that?

    I know Quality Road won't be in the JCGC. I was just pointing out that he's the other big horse in the top three.

  6. You make a solid argument, but I am a big believer in rebuilding confidence, and I can not say running against Blame at 10f is a good way to instill confidence. Having said that, I agree that she would have a shot to win.

  7. Anon,

    Honey? Thanks for the compliment, but I can assure you honey is much sweeter than I am. There is a shot. If there wasn't JJ would've announced a couple weeks ago where she was pointing instead of waiting and nominating to both.


    You have seen the light! lol. As you said if she stays out of duel then I think she's fine. RT could go for the lead, but mainly because he is so fresh he may just want to go, and in my experience, with a horse like that it's better just to let them dictate.

    If that happens Calvin needs to back off and sit off of RT, instead of engaging him.


    He hasn't run in 3 consectutive, but he will be on the same score as RA if both run in the Gold Cup then head for the Classic. Both will be headed for their 3rd grade 1 at 10 furlongs, if the run here then the Classic.


    No doubt the Beldame would give her a ton of confidence. I say that because I believe, even with giving weight she would crush these. LAT was run into submission by her last out, and sometimes that can affect a horse negatively. MP is fast and both her and LAT will be going at it on the front end. Then will be UB, who hasn't been the same since facing RA earlier this year. With MP and LAT dueling while having additionall pressure from RA and UB will probably be too much for the front two. UB will try to move with RA, but won't, and RA will pull away to a comfortable and easy win.

    However, I love the Gold Cup because she is catching several breaks, even though Blame presents a block. She gets weight, she's going to be sharp, having come back in 5 weeks, sooner than Blame and RT. RT is coming off a layoff and may not be at his best. She also loves the track. The biggest thing for her will be to stay out of a speed duel and hold off Blame.

  8. I got you, Dani on RT's 10 furlong jaunts. You're correct, if he goes to the BC Classic--which is the idea--that's three in a row at the distance; however, the spacing is a bit wider between the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Jockey Club Gold Cup as opposed to Rachel's Personal Ensign and the JCGC. At any rate, I would love nothing better than to see Rachel succeed, go to the BC Classic, and win it.

    Having said this, I still think she'll go in the Beldame. She'll take on the boys only once this year--if she takes them on at all--in the Classic. Whether or not Rachel could have won the PE, if the pace wasn't so hot, may not be the point. The point is, she didn't win it and if she's going to face Blame at that distance, why do it now instead of when it counts the most? The Beldame will be a good race for her, in and of itself, on the Belmont track, and again, as I mentioned previously, if she runs big, then the connections can still choose the Classic or Ladies' Classic. But if she falls flat in the JCGC, she is out of the Classic and it could negate her punch in the Ladies' Classic. The JCGC is throwing the dice, not that she doesn't have a chance to win, but at what possible cost? Rachel needs to peak on the first Saturday--or perhaps first Friday--in November, not before then. If she's good enough, she'll still have her shot at Blame and hopefully Rail Trip. A few other good ones--an understatement--are also planning to attend the party; and we know who they are.

  9. I agree that she has a shot to win the Gold Cup if the race sets up for her, but at this point they should be thinking about what is the best way to win a Breeders Cup race. None of the breaks you mention that give her a chance to win the Gold Cup will be there in the Classic. She has a great chance to win the Breeders Cup Ladies, although with Blind Luck and the others it will not be easy. I think they should run in the Beldame, then the Ladies Classic. Two wins in these races would be a great way to end her career.

  10. IMO, Calvin will never take this mare back, and sit. He can't. Do you see the way he has to ride her with a very loose rein, and does not touch her mouth? Do you see the Houghton bit she wears? Rachel's game is speed no matter what the distance. To try to change that, I think, would be unsuccessful. Rachel is not the horse she was last year, no matter how badly we want her to be. If they are really thinking any Breeder's Cup race, this next race needs to be the easiest of spots. They won't know that until the entries are taken.

  11. It would be wonderful to see Rachel Alexandra facing the boys again but I think they will opt for the Beldame.

    If she does go in the Jockey Club Gold Cup her best chance of winning is if she lays off the pacesetter in my opinion. She seems to run her best races when she doesn't lead the whole race, but if she does lead the field she thrives on swifter fractions. I haven't been overly happy with Calvin's rides on her recently.

    A win in either one race would immediately make her a betting favorite for both the Breeders' Cup Classics. I personally think with her blazing speed it would be nice to see her try another year of racing that is focused on sprinting and an attempt at the Breeder's Cup Sprint. Dream on, dream on...but it's fun to dream!

    Nice post Dani, you choose great topics for discussion! :)