Alexandra The Great Is HOY
ALEXANDRA THE GREAT IS HORSE OF THE YEAR
Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick's RACHEL ALEXANDRA (Medaglia d'Oro) was dubbed a filly of destiny very early this year, and on Monday fulfilled that billing when honored as the 2009 Horse of the Year during the Eclipse Awards ceremony at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Following an unbeaten season that culminated in an historic win in the Woodward S. (G1) at Saratoga on September 5, the blaze-faced lass prevailed over fellow Horse of the Year finalist ZENYATTA (Street Cry [Ire]) in the highly-anticipated ballot.
Rachel Alexandra is the first three-year-old filly to earn the Horse of the Year award since Hall of Famers Twilight Tear and Busher received the honor in consecutive seasons more than 60 years ago. The lass was also the unanimous choice as champion three-year-old filly for dominating her own division as well as the boys in the Preakness S. (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) in 2009.
Rachel Alexandra owns just three losses for her entire career, with that trio coming during her juvenile campaign. The bay lass came to life at Churchill Downs in 2008, running second in the Pocahontas S. (G3) before putting it all together for a 4 3/4-length score in the Golden Rod S. (G2). Since then, the filly has essentially paraded at tracks all over the country. She made her sophomore debut an eight-length romp in the Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn Park, and in the process gave notice of what was to come.
A sloppy track greeted Rachel Alexandra in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), but neither she nor jockey Calvin Borel were fazed by the conditions. Governing throughout that test, the filly was throttled down long before the wire and still had 1 3/4 lengths to spare over her nearest rival. The three-year-old took a trip back to Oaklawn Park to add an eight-length victory in the Fantasy S. (G2) to her line, and suddenly the big dance was just around the corner.
Rachel Alexandra was sent off the 1-5 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and turned the 1 1/8-mile race into an exhibition. Leaving Borel with nothing to do but stay in the saddle, the bay lass loped along beside early pacesetter Gabby's Golden Gal (Medaglia d'Oro) for the opening six furlongs. Nearing the turn, with Borel still sitting chilly in the saddle, Rachel Alexandra continued her galloping motion but was suddenly drawing even and then away from the leader. Never asked for any kind of run, the three-year-old lass merely drew off under her own power, eventually crossing under the wire 20 1/4 lengths clear of second place in a final time of 1:48.87, just missing the stakes record of 1:48.64 established by Bird Town in 2003.
The margin of victory is an Oaks record. The largest previous victory margin was 10 lengths, a feat last achieved by Lite Light in 1991.
Trainer Hal Wiggins was already making plans the day after the Oaks for Rachel Alexandra to make her next appearance in the June 6 Acorn S. (G1) at Belmont Park, but less than a week later the filly was transferred from his barn to that of Steve Asmussen.
Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables announced on the Wednesday following the Kentucky Oaks that it had reached an agreement to purchase Rachel Alexandra from owners Dolphus Morrison and Mike Lauffer. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but her new connections stated their intentions not long after to send her to Pimlico for the Preakness just two weeks later.
The legend of Rachel Alexandra grew by leaps and bounds on Preakness day, as the fantastic filly held off the game late rally of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mine That Bird (Birdstone) by a length to become just the fifth filly, and the first since Nellie Morse in 1924, to take the historic second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Everyone was now taking notice of "Alexandra the Great," including Vogue magazine. A trip to the Preakness inspired Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour to set up a photo shoot by acclaimed fashion photographer Steven Klein. His images of the Oaks and Preakness winner were published in the August issue of Vogue.
Rachel Alexandra returned to business as usual a month later in the Mother Goose S. (G1), demolishing two rivals in winning by 19 1/4 lengths, a record margin for the race accomplished in stakes record time of 1:46 1/5 for nine furlongs.
Her connections apparently recognized the futility of trying to assemble a field of fillies to face their icon and instead gave her another shot at the boys, this time in the Haskell Invitational. Rachel Alexandra joined champion Serena's Song (1995) as the only fillies to win that prestigious event when defeating Belmont S. (G1) victor Summer Bird (Birdstone) by six lengths on the line.
The bay filly had a number of options for her next start, but Saratoga's Woodward ultimately drew the short straw. Rachel Alexandra entered the race attempting to become the first female of any age to win the prestigious 1 1/8-mile event in its 56-year history. She got the job done, but it was far from an easy win. The three-year-old was forced into setting punishing fractions and, while she looked home free albeit by a small margin just inside the sixteenth-pole, the leg-weary vixen had to dig deep as Macho Again (Macho Uno) made one last lunge under right-handed urging. Rachel Alexandra would not be denied, though, prevailing by a head.
The next logical step for Rachel Alexandra would have been the Breeders' Cup, either the Classic (G1) or Ladies' Classic (G1), but co-owner Jackson has never been shy about airing his opinions, and the winemaker has made his disdain of all-weather surfaces well known. Since the Breeders' Cup was being held for a second consecutive year on the synthetic Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, Jackson stated unequivocally that his star filly would not compete. Not long after that, Jackson announced that Rachel Alexandra would be getting the rest of the year off before reappearing in 2010 for a four-year-old campaign.
The Kentucky-bred Rachel Alexandra finished out 2009 perfect in eight starts having earned $2,746,914. In total, the miss has banked $2,948,354 to go along with a career line of 14-11-2-0.
The first foal out of the stakes-winning and Grade 2-placed Lotta Kim (Roar), Rachel Alexandra is a half-sister to an unraced sophomore colt named Empire Ruler (Empire Maker). Lotta Kim is herself a half-sister to 2001 Pocahontas S. winner Lotta Rhythm (Rhythm), who was third in that same year's Golden Rod, as well as 2008 Tejano Run S. victor High Blues (High Yield). Also included in the female family is 1991 Miss Preakness S. heroine Missy's Music (Travelling Music) and Grade 3 winner Devil Diamond (Devil's Bag).
Rachel Alexandra has settled in at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and her fans are awaiting the first official breeze from the breakout star of 2009.
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