Friday, August 28, 2009

Rachel Alexandra - Do people really still doubt her?

Horse Racing Pundits – Are there any out there that still doubt the extreme talents of the Super Filly, Rachel Alexandra. After going 7 for 7 in 2009 and winning those races by over 60 combined lengths, beating the colts twice quite convincingly, and setting track records, I have to be of the opinion of the trainer of Summer Bird, Tim Ice gave his opinion about those few detractors that she still has when he said: "I ask you, what do you want her to beat?" Ice said. "What does she have to prove? She's beaten everybody that they've put in the race with her, so to say that she hasn't beaten anything would be a knock against thoroughbred racing because she's beaten the Kentucky Derby winner (and) she's beaten the Belmont winner.
"People don't understand. If they're going to say she hasn't beaten anything, these are all horses that are Grade 1 winners. And to say she hasn't beaten anything, to me, it makes no sense.
"Rachel Alexandra is what she is - she does it so easy, that maybe it just seems like she hasn't beaten anything, but the horses that she's beaten are top-notch horses. I think it's a shame that people have that idea that she hasn't beaten anything."
In some ways you can look at many of the detractors that are left and realize that they have a bad taste in their mouths about how Jess Jackson handles his horses. When I hear the criticism that Mr. Jackson gets, like how he should announce where Rachel will run sooner, or she should run in certain races, I think that he might have opened that can of worms upon himself due to his website, as you remember when he was trying to choose Curlin’s next race after his loss in the Man O’ War he asked the public where they thought Curlin should go. Sadly in this world of ignorance, you can’t leave decisions of this nature to a public who collectively struggles to understand the fundamentals of horse racing.
Then you have those that are or seem very jealous of her accomplishments due to the comparisons she draws to Ruffian and Personal Ensign, and the other greats, some people seem to get their feelings hurt due to comparisons to such historic fillies and mares. It’s sad though that she gets run down by these ones, they say she hasn’t beaten the same company that Ruffian and others beat, but really who did they beat, races were run differently back then and there is no way to compare the competition.
On the other hand though when dealing with the comparisons that are drawn between Rachel and Zenyatta there is ample evidence that one horses’ connections is looking for the most difficult spots that will allow for greatness to be defined and the others is looking for the easiest spot to make sure that the horse stays undefeated. But what does undefeated really mean when there is lower quality or competition in the gates. I wonder out loud sometimes what Zenyatta’s record would be if she ran prominently in the East Coast. It seems very feasible to think that if she ran in Grade 1 races predominantly she would most likely have a record of 12 start 9 wins 2 place and 1 show finish. That would be more respectable in consistent Grade 1 competition in comparison with an undefeated record in a few grade 1 and a number of grade 2 races that is not considered running at the top level of horse racing. I feel remorseful for those that feel that due to one person being a fan of Rachel they have to tear her down. Here is one of the most immature quotes I believe I have ever come across. This was posted on a message board: “some get so frakkin know-it-all arrogant, that I actually hope RA loses just so they will shut up. I don't like rooting against horses (esp. when they are obviously talented) but NO horse is perfect. ALL of them have limits, and they need to realize that. Pundits of all type will say what is on their minds. For ever article they post saying that RA is unbeatable, I could find one that said she's vulnerable facing older males. Just wake up and realize that she is a living creature in the hands of humans and that she has limitations, whether they want to admit it or not. “

Seems like a bitter very sad person who has no ability to love horse racing for what it is.
Here are some comments from other bloggers regarding the schedule that Zenyatta has run in: “And not to pick on Zenyatta, who I dearly love and greatly admire, but she has made three starts this year and all of them have been in California. C'mon!! Is she that fragile? Talk about picking spots carefully to keep a perfect record intact...yet that is not up for public debate because it's good management.”
“Anyone would question Zenyatta's greatness just because she never raced "outside of the box."
You must not follow this particular blog, because to date about 7,146,887 posters have done just that, and repeatedly! They say they regret that we will never know just how great Zenyatta might have been, because she just kept beating up on the same bunch of overmatched females again and again. Personally, I agree with them (though I love Zenyatta).
Judging from the postings of the knowledgeable racing fans on this blog, I'm concluding that many others also will question Zenyatta's greatness because of how her campaigns were handled, especially in 2009. In fact, I think it is likely to come up whenever her name is mentioned in the future.”
“Zenyatta is great, I won't deny her that. But she isn't better than Rachel is. NYRA has eliminated the detention barn for the Beldame. They are increasing the purse if Rachel & Zenyatta both show up. The Mosses have stated that the reason they won't go to Belmont is because of the detention barn. What reason will they come up with now that the detention barn is gone for why they won't come to the Beldame? Because really & truly, they are doing nothing more with Zenyatta than ducking Rachel. She has her 12 win streak because they have so carefully mapped her races into ones where there is NO competition for her and she is all but guaranteed a win. She barely pulled it off in her last race. Her jockey is so over confident that he will cause her to be beaten. Her final kick is good, but she is aging fast (she's 5 now) and that kick isn't going to be enough to come from 12 lengths from the leader in the Breeders’ Cup races. Her race performances are declining, while Rachel's are improving each time out. Rachel is better at 3 than Zenyatta was at 4 (which is why Zenyatta never faced the boys). At this point, in my opinion, there is no comparison between the two horses.”
This upcoming weekend is going to be very exciting as we’ll get to see the highly touted Quality Road go up against a number of quality colts. He has a lot that needs to be proven, others want to prove they belong, I believe that Warrior’s Reward and Summer Bird may take a step forward, the question is what type of race will Summer Bird run, I believe his run was compromised due to being so close to the lead last time out. I guess the race will unfold however it does.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rachel Alexandra – Her next start, the 2009 Woodward

Rachel to the WoodWard - History in the making!!!!

As the 2009 racing season began, there were many expectations for a number of top horses. Out west the Pamplemousse and Pioneer of the Nile were highly talked about. On the East coast Quality Road and Captain Candyman Can, Dunkirk was all the talk, and in the mid west, Old Fashioned and Friesan Fire were high on everyone’s buzz list. There was a filly though that made quite an impression in the running of the Martha Washington Stakes, her name is Rachel Alexandra and if you haven’t heard of her by now, you would need to wake up from the trance or coma you are in because her name is synonymous with Horse Racing on a level not seen since the likes of Barbaro or Smarty Jones.
Many were very disappointed due to the announcement that she would bypass the Travers and head to the Woodward, some of her detractor’s state this is an easier spot. I for one using sound reasoning do not feel that way at all. Comparing horses like Quality Road with 2 starts in 4 months to horses like Macho Again, BullsBay and the other possible showing up on Woodward day means that this won’t likely be an easy route. I don’t feel that she will be headed but I think that it will come down to her high cruising speed and the ability to turn it on in the final turn after straightening out. Rachel is a pleasure to watch in everything she does from her races, to her workouts, to her prancing around in the paddock down to her taking baths in the morning after going to the track. I love the fact that she prepped in Arkansas at Oaklawn Park. And I will enjoy even more so making my first trip to Saratoga Race course to watch the running of the Woodward. Stating the obvious is unneeded but this will be a great experience and one I won’t soon forget.
Will Rachel Win, most likely but she may have to work next Saturday to get into the winners circle. Who will provide her the most difficulty, sadly whomever sends their horse will be compromised, looking at the list of nominations, I see that Jonesboro is a possible, so is It’s a bird, Da’Tara, Bullsbay and possibly Bribon. The front is where they would want to be watching because if the fractions are too slow she will go straight to the lead and most likely prance away with the victory. But this is a field of competitors that Rachel has not seen before and we will get a chance to see what she is really made of. I hope everyone enjoys the day of racing on Travers Day and also the Woodward weekend, it should be exciting.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The pursuit of Perfection or the pursuit of Greatness

Perfection or Greatness?

By “AfleetAlexForever

Perfection is defined as the state or quality of being or becoming perfect, the highest degree of proficiency, skill or excellence, a quality, trait, or feature of the highest degree of excellence.
Greatness is defined as being notable, remarkable, exceptionally outstanding, important, highly significant or consequential, distinguished, of noble or lofty character.
Both of these attributes are impressive and there are times when one prevailing quality outshines the other, which one would be foremost, I have no idea they both have their positives and there would seem to be no negatives. Well then we get to the topic of horse racing, there are a number of qualities that could be used to quantify what we are seeing on the race track this year. We are all lucky enough to be able to experience the incredible talents of two equine stars that are as impressive as any 2 stars running at one time in the history of the sport.
One of these stars resides on the West Coast and another resides on the East Coast. They are owned by connections who take extreme care to make sure that they put the health of their stable star first but there are some differences in the way that the connections have campaigned these two stars. Zenyatta is a 5 year old mare; she races in California and has a perfect race record of 12 starts and 12 wins. She Is trained by John Shirreffs who is based in California, and owned by Mr. Jerry and Ann Moss. The Moss’s have campaigned 2005 Kentucky Derby Champion Giacomo and B.C. third place finisher Tiago. Thus far Zenyatta has bankrolled 2.5 million dollars in her career; she has won races like the Apple Blossom Handicap, the Clement L. Hirsch and the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic. The 12 for 12 undefeated records pretty much sums up what her career has been about. The Moss’s have come under fire due to the path that they have taken to allow Zenyatta to keep her perfect race record. This has caused there to be question about her place in history even if she finishes out her career with a perfect record. Her connections realize that they have a very special mare, but in the process of trying to keep a perfect record some question the quality of competition that she has met in her career, It appears that her connections are doing what they can to protect her perfect record, get her to the Breeder's Cup and win and therefore keep that record intact, and retire her. Some might argue that this Is taking the path of least resistance, but others would tend to say different. During Zenyatta’s 12 race career to this point she has faced 8 grade 1 winners. This on the outside looking in would give indication of greatness due to the quality of the competition. When you look closer though it would appear quite a bit different. In the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic alone Zenyatta faced 5 of her Grade 1 foes. That would leave 11 races where she faced a total of 3 other grade 1 horses, some of these races included the same horse over and over again. In comparison, Ginger Punch the 2007 Breeders Cup Ladies Classic Champion faced close to 20 Grade 1 winners in her career. So the big question is does the quality of competition make a difference. Quality over Quantity, some might make an argument for both sides. Remember though no matter what that undefeated is still undefeated and Zenyatta is a true Champion.
Does the pursuit of perfection leave the door open for another to slide in and achieve the standard of greatness? On the East coast stands the embodiment of Greatness in the eyes of many. It has been a long time since a 3 year old filly caused the connections of so many horses to wait to make decisions about every race that is being run until they know where her connection are pointing. In Rachel Alexandra there is so much potential, potential seen and still unseen. Rachel Alexandra is a 3 year old filly out of sire Medaglia d’Oro she is owned by Stonestreet Stables & Harold T. McCormick, with Jess Jackson of Kendall-Jackson Winery holding controlling interest. They purchased the filly after her Kentucky Oaks victory from her original owners: breeder Dolphus Morrison and partner Michael Lauffer. Initially she was trained by Hal Wiggins, after new ownership she has been turned over to Steve Asmussen. Rachel has raced 13 times with 10 wins out of those races, she is currently on an 8 race winning streak and has won those 8 races by a combined 69 ¼ lengths. She has lost races therefore she is not being pampered to continue on an undefeated path. She at this point has no competition on the 3 year old level, and is most likely going forward to either open competition or will run against older females for the first time. She has emphatically beat both 3 year old fillies and colts and now has caused the connections of older male horses to await decisions before making a decision about the next race. One likely race for her is the Woodward Stakes, and the connections of the Whitney Winner, Bullsbay has stated that they do not want to run against Rachel Alexandra and will await the announcement from her owner. Her owner Jess Jackson is a wine mogul from California, he is a sporting man who wants his horse to achieve the most possible. This can be seen by the ambitious schedule that Rachel has taken on since being purchased in May. So while perfection is not in the scheme of things, her greatness and incredible legacy will be without question.
So again the question you have to ask yourself is Perfection or Greatness, if you had to choose one which would it be.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Alexandra The Great - Yes ***Rachel***

“One for the Ages”, this is one of the phrases that was used to describe the dazzling performance of the Brilliant Rachel Alexandra in the running of today’s Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey this afternoon. The crowd was electric and anticipated Rachel Alexandra’s appearance in the 13th race of a 14 race card. With the same grace as a beautiful princess, with the same presence of a professional athlete who is about to tangle with other elite athletes; Rachel Alexandra pranced out onto the wet, soggy, Monmouth Park track. It took the super filly and approximately 1:47 1/5 seconds; this is the time that was needed to stamp her name in the history books as one of the greatest fillies to ever step foot on a racetrack. For the second time in as many tried Rachel beat the boys, this time though there was little doubt about the outcome. Rachel for the first time in her career bobbled slightly out of the gates, but was still athletic enough to right herself and secure a nice stalking position in the 3 path going into the first turn. This time there was no race riding by jockeys trying to take Rachel out of her comfort zone, by pushing her out 4 or 5 paths out into the race track. There was however an incredibly hot pace with a quarter mile in 22.99 seconds and a half mile in 46:43 seconds. The fractions were very similar to what she was forced to do in the Preakness, but this time she sat tracking kindly behind the leaders, and her connections were actually able to train her properly for this race. Down the backside something appeared on the inside rail that only true horse racing enthusiasts would find out of sorts, and that was Summer Bird going up to take the second position behind Munnings. As the field rounded the far turn the question was what would take place in the last 4 furlongs. Munnings looked strong, Summer Bird looked primed for a big finish, and then there was Rachel. Rachel was the lone filly in the field of 7 and when she was called upon, she spurted away from the colts. In the blink of an eye, Rachel Alexandra straightened away and she began to open up on the field. The crowd began to sense that they were witnessing something great, something special, and something historic. The filly was on cruise control in the last 1/16th of a mile, and just like that the Haskell Invitational was in the book. The record books that is, and it was something truly that will be talked about for years to come.
I for one must say that watching the progression of Rachel Alexandra’s career has been something special. The fact that this special filly has such heart and such desire and such talent, she is something extra special. Rachel Alexandra has made a believer out of those that she’s faced and for a trainer like Tim Ice she has now garnered all of his respect. When asked if he would want a rematch with Rachel he is stated as saying: “We'll take a look at the Travers," he said. "If she's in there, she's in there. I'm not going to invite her." The 116 Beyer speed figure that Rachel achieved in this race was impressive but her jockey Calvin Borel feels that she’s run better than this race: "Nah, she run a better race than that," he said. "I thought the Preakness was a top performance coming out of the 13 hole and knowing going in that she wasn't 100 [percent] she still laid it down for me. She run today, but I knew she'd win today and I come in with so much confidence today it was unbelievable. Till the day they hook me and give her the eye I don t know how good she is."
We are without a doubt witnessing history in the making with this brilliant filly, she is conquering worlds and the hearts of people that once seemed unimaginable. It will now be a privilege to see where and when this superstar filly is pointed to her next race. We will all be on the edge of our seats to see how things develop.