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.