Rachel and the Bird

rachelalexandra

I love Rachel Alexandra’s blaze. It looks like the paintbrush skipped a spot.

Rachel’s story has been an interesting one. Her first owner, the guy who bred and owned her up until May 6 (Adolphus Morrison), ran her in the Kentucky Oaks instead of the Kentucky Derby because he thinks “fillies should run with fillies and stallions with stallions” and the Derby should be a “showcase for stallions.” Never mind the fact that Mine That Bird is a gelding!!! With all due respect… is that the stupidest thing you ever heard? A horse race is a horse race, not a catwalk for the next generation of studs.

But never mind him… he got his purported $10 mil (nobody’s officially disclosed Rachel’s sale price; the guesses range from $3-10 million) and Rachel got to prove herself on Preakness Day.

I had to tape the Preakness because, of course, we were at church, and a dear young friend of ours got baptized that day, and there was a wonderful big party for her afterward. I was driving home from Claremont around 4 pm, hitting the “scan” button on the radio. Suddenly I recognized the sound of a stretch call! I had tuned in just in time to hear that Rachel Alexandra won the race!

I pulled over and texted three words to my racey friends: RACHEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND CAL!!!!!!

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I was talking to Judy on Saturday night about the race, before I had a chance to watch the video. I was back at the church again, supervising a teen night, which consisted of an interesting (and hopefully edifying) presentation from one of the moms titled Your First Credit Card, “haystacks” for dinner, and then a couple hours of Jenga and tag in the sanctuary (with the lights out). The moms left before haystacks were served, and I found myself the sole proprietor of eight teenagers. So I set up the Jenga and walked outside to call Judy.

She was more impressed with Mine That Bird’s come-from-behind drive than Rachel’s wire-to-wire win, saying that a couple jumps more and Bird would have won it. I imagine she’ll be rooting for Bird in the Belmont.

I stayed up late that night to watch the Preakness for myself. It’s worth watching, if just to hear Calvin Borel’s comments after the race. He said Rachel didn’t like the soft footing on the track, and that this wasn’t her best race. And she still won by a full length! That’s really saying something.

Mine_That_Bird

Mine That Bird

Mine That Bird, at the other end of the field, ran a truly awesome race. Poor Mike Smith, he rode up to Borel after the finish and said, “Nobody let me in on the rail!” Bird had to go to the outside, and then plunge between horses to find a path, and he still made it to the wire for second. I love this little horse!

I know I’m not the only one remembering Silky Sullivan just now. (I’ll date myself by admitting that I remember Silky Sullivan; Robin and I, and I think my dad, saw him in person at Santa Anita during one of his post-retirement appearances. He must’ve been in his late teens.) Back in the ’50s, the “Silk Man” would trail the field by dozens of lengths, and then, somewhere around the three-eighths pole, “shift into high gear and really flatten out.” That description could easily apply to our own version of Silky. When the Bird shifts into gear and starts passing horses like they’re standing still… that’s pretty exciting!

But then Rachel’s wire-to-wire win was pretty exciting, too.

It was nice to see the two jocks being so friendly. Before the race, NBC’s coverage showed Cal giving Mike pointers on the Bird, in the jock’s room (very sportsmanlike). And afterward, he flashed Mike a “V” sign, as if to say “Congrats for finishing second!”

But what I love most about Calvin Borel is his absolute faith. He seems to have never for a minute doubted that Rachel would win that race.

In a blog comment somewhere, someone said that Borel’s decision to ride Rachel was based on how many horses her new trainer Steve Asmussen has, versus the single horse trained by Chip Woolley—implying that it’s smarter to keep the trainer with the big stable happy in order to secure future mounts. I don’t believe that at all. Calvin said it plainly: Rachel is the best horse he ever rode.

I hope that both horses are sound enough to go to the Belmont. I will probably root for Rachel, but I will be silently rooting for the Bird.

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