The Brock Talk

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Will Test History And Well Aged Field In Woodward

The sensational Rachel Alexandra tries to become the first female to win and only the second 3-year-old filly to ever start in $750,000 Woodward Stakes at 1-1/8 miles at Saratoga Saturday in an effort to take a significant step toward Horse of the Year honors.

To some, the Woodward may have appeared to be Rachel Alexandra owners Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick dodging fellow 3-year-olds Summer Bird, Quality Road et. al. in the Travers Stakes last Saturday for an easier spot against older horses in the Woodward. Her status as the 1-2 morning line favorite lends credence to that notion, but history, equine behavior and a cast of seven other wyle and talented competitors say otherwise.

Not only has a 3-year-old filly never won the previous 55 runnings of the Woodward, but the only sophomore female to try the Woodward was Summer Guest in 1972, who was third behind Key to the Mint and Autobiography. The last filly to start in the Woodward was the brilliant Lady's Secret in 1986, finishing second behind Precisionist during her 1986 Horse of the Year campaign as a 4-year-old. A campaign That campaign also included a victory in the grade 1 Whitney Handicap against older horses and was culminated with her easy victory in the grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita.

According to Jason Shandler in his story, a victory in the Woodward would also make Rachel Alexandra the first 3-year-old filly to win a grade I unrestricted route race on the dirt in New York since the system of grading races began in 1973.

When Rachel Alexandra walks into the saddling paddock at Saratoga, she will not find a cast of somewhat adolescent (but talented) 3-year-old colts, but instead will meet for the first time seven old battle-tested warriors less likely to be intimidated by her royal and confident presence.

Waiting for Rachel will be this year's Whitney Handicap winner and runner-up Bullsbay and Macho Again respectively. Although the Whitney was the first grade 1 win for Bullsbay, it was an impressive victory nonetheless, having achieved a 107 Beyer number.

Asiatic Boy also brings to the Woodward hefty credentials, battle tested experience and a $3 million career bankroll. The only horse to sweep the UAE Triple Crown in 2006, the 6-year-old Asiatic Boy was also second to Curlin in the $6 million Dubai World Cup last year. More recently, he was second in the grade 1 Stephen Foster behind Macho Again at Churchill Downs and second behind Dry Martini in the grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park since coming to the United States.

Let's just hope Asiatic Boy did not get wind of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's comments in recent weeks when he said he wanted no part of Rachel Alexandra and considered shipping AB to Del Mar for the $1 million Pacific Classic to be run Sunday.

Cool Coal Man may not have a long list of graded stakes wins or a large bankroll to his credit, but he could pose a danger as well based on his 13-length win and a 107 Beyer in the Albert The Great Stakes at Saratoga this year. But what may make his stalking running style really dangerous is that he will have stablemate and 2008 Belmont winner Da' Tara to help execute a potential rabbit scheme against Rachel devised by their trainer Nick Zito. Although Da' Tara is infamous for not yet winning since his 38-1 Belmont upset, his speed was on display earlier this week with a :47 morning work

Rachel will also be looking to shoot down another bird in the Woodward in It's a Bird, the winner of the grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap in Texas. It's a Bird also won the grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas, but was disqualified after testing postive for the prohibited substance naproxen, an anti-inflammatory medication.

Rachel Alexandra may take the Woodward with the domination she has shown in all of her races this year leaving these old boys in her wake and jockey Calvin Borel to worry only about his finish line celebration. It's just that old man history can sometimes pack an unexpectedly powerful punch. There may not be a Curlin, Cigar or Kelso in her way, but as a group, they have all the credentials to be dangerous.

And did I mention the graveyard of favorites thing?

The $750,000 Woodward Stakes
1. Da' Tara, 126, Jose Lezcano, Nick Zito, 12-1
2. Bullsbay, 126, Jeremy Rose, Graham Motion, 6-1
3. Rachel Alexandra, 118, Calvin Borel, Steve Asmussen, 1-2
4. Cool Coal Man, 126, John Velazquez, Nick Zito, 12-1
5. Macho Again, 126, Robby Albarado, Dallas Stewart, 8-1
6. It's a Bird, 126, Julien Leparoux, Marty Wolfson, 10-1
7. Asiatic Boy, 126, Alan Garcia, Kiaran McLaughlin, 10-1
8. Past the Point, 126, Edgar Prado, Eoin Harty, 15-1

1 comment:

Waquiot said...

Brock,I really like Rachel over Macho Again in a cold exacta. And as a bonus take one of the Paul Jones horses in the All American.