Preakness Stakes Profile: Rachel Alexandra
by Trevor Whenham - 05/08/2009
Last race: If you haven't yet seen this filly crush the field in the Kentucky Oaks then you need to head to Youtube immediately. She settled just off the pace for much of the race, made her move on the final turn, and exploded in one of the easiest and most awe-inspiring stretch runs you have ever seen. She won by more than 20 lengths, and she wasn't even trying. It was truly a tour de force - the best single performance of the year in racing. The question, of course, is what it actually meant - thanks to scratches, injuries, and plain old fear it was a weak field of fillies she was facing, and that takes away somewhat from the achievement.
Career highlights: This filly is massive, and she's a beast. She's as close to a super horse as we have seen this year. She found her stride late in her two year old year, and has now won five straight races. Four of those have come this year, and they have been by a combined 39 lengths. She's a big, tall horse, and it often takes longer for horses like that to develop and find their legs. Once she did, though, there was no stopping her. She's one of those animals that is made to race - she's calm and composed at all times, she can adapt her style to the situation, and she is ridiculously fast. It's a good thing she is going against the boys, because there isn't a three year old filly in the country this year that can touch her, and likely only a small handful of fillies at all - most notably champion Zenyatta - that could be a real test for her.
Jockey: Calvin Borel. Borel is committed to the horse all year, but it was a unique decision-making process he faced. He was also the jockey for Derby winner Mine That Bird, so he had a difficult decision. It's the first time in history that a jockey has won the Derby and then given up the mount on the horse right afterwards. Borel is a very good rider, and he's currently red hot. He has ridden Rachel Alexandra a lot, and they obviously mesh with each other perfectly. Borel has openly said that riding this horse is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Asmussen was late to the game - he only became the trainer of this horse early on the morning of May 7 this year. Up until that time she had been trained by Hal Wiggins, a trainer with a small operation based out of Churchill Downs and Arlington Park. On the strength of her Oaks win, the horse was sold, and the new owner - Jess Jackson, the owner of Curlin - moved her to his preferred trainer. Asmussen's influence will barely be felt on the horse in the Preakness, but she is lucky to have been in good hands both before and after the move.
Breeding: Rachel Alexandra's sire, Medaglia D'Oro, competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown in 2002, with his best result being a second in the Belmont.
Running style: The one thing that is consistent is that she has an explosive move that she unleashes at the top of the stretch if not sooner. She's flexible about where she travels up to that point. If the pace that is being set is honest then she'll happily settle just off of it and await her spot. If the pace is too plodding, though, then she's quite comfortable wiring the field as well. Her presence in the Preakness will assure solid fractions. That's good news both for her and for the horses that like to close from off the pace.
Preakness prognosis: This is where it gets interesting. Visually, she is the most impressive three year old in the country. She's bigger than a lot of boys in this race. Her races have been incredible. This will be her first time in mixed company, though, and that's a big step up for a filly. She'll probably be fine, but it certainly isn't guaranteed. The problem she presents for bettors is that she is going to be heavily bet down. She will unquestionably be the favorite, and any potential value will be bet out of her price. I think I expect her to win, and I will certainly feature her prominently in my exotics, but the win price just won't be good enough to make her worth a shot there. On the plus side, her presence will inflate the prices on most of the rest of the horses in the field, so if you don't believe in her you should be very happy.