Sports

Looking Back At Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 Woodward Stakes

This Saturday, August 31, 2013, the 60th running of the Woodward Stakes for 3YOs and up will be run. The race is a very prestigious Grade I race, named for the prominent horse owner George Nicholas Woodward, that has helped to determine the end of the year championships in Thoroughbred racing.

The race itself,first run in 1954, has been run at various distances.

In its first running in 1954, it has been run at a mile. In the years since, from 1955-1989, the race has been run at various distances, from 1 1/8 miles up to 1 1/2 miles. In 1990, the race was kept to 1 1/8 miles and has been at that distance ever since.

Many great horses have won this great race. Legends, such as Easy Goer, Seattle Slew, and Damascus, have won this Fall Classic.

The brilliant Alysheba has also won this race, and set a race record of 1:59 2/5. The immortal Forego has won this race four(4)consecutive times, from 1974-1977.

Two awesome female equine champions, one of whose victory is the subject of this blog, Rachel Alexandra, and Havre De Grace won this race. To this day, they are the only female horses to have won the Woodward Stakes.

Before I continue, I am going to quickly go over the field for this Saturday’s Woodward, and give a prediction.

The 2013 Woodward Stakes Field is as follows:

1. Ron the Greek
2. Successful Dan
3. Fort Larned- Scratched due to injury. Will be pointed to Jockey Club Gold Cup.
4. Flat Out
5. Paynter
6. Mucho Macho Man
7. Alpha

Without Fort Larned in the race, it does look like it is Paynter’s race to lose. Successful Dan is the morning line favorite at 3-1. Can Mucho Macho Man throw the proverbial flying elbow into the mix? “Macho” has some speed.

Prediction: Bob Baffert does not ship a horse, unless he thinks he has a great shot at winning. I think he does, and I pick Paynter to win.

Now that I made my 2013 Woodward prediction, I am going to go ahead and talk about the subject of my blog, the 2009 Woodward Stakes.

This particular running of the Woodward Stakes is very special.

It featured an amazing performance, by not only an amazing horse, but it demonstrated the grace, and courage of a one Rachel Alexandra, who became the first female horse to win this prestigious race.

The 2009 Woodward stakes was run on September 5 2009, at Saratoga Racecourse (NYRA had moved the race from Belmont Park to Saratoga in 2006). The field of horses for that particular race featured such prior stakes winners as Da’Tara (2008 Belmont Winner), Macho Again (2009 Stephen Foster Handicap), and Bullsbay (2009 Whitney Stakes).

However, the stakes winning horse that the crowd came to see that day was the best 3YO in training, the great filly, Rachel Alexandra.

In 2009, Rachel Alexandra was on a 7 race win streak. She dominated with wins in the Martha Washington and the Fair Grounds Oaks.

At Oaklawn Park, in Arkansas, Rachel Alexandra defeated her competition in the Fantasy Stakes.

After conquering races at the Fair Grounds and at Oaklawn, Rachel Alexandra then went on to just annihilate her competition in the Kentucky Oaks.

When I saw that 2009 Oaks, I was just blown away. I loved Rachel, and loved horse racing all over again. What a performance, and what a horse.

After the Kentucky Oaks, Stonestreet Farms owner Jess Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra from her former owners, Dolphus Morrison, and Michael Lauffer(had part interest).

Jackson, along with the filly’s new trainer, Steve Assmussen, entered her in the Preakness, where Rachel Alexandra made history by becoming the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness.

In the Preakness, she held off a hard charging Mine That Bird, who two weeks prior, had won the Kentucky Derby in a shocking upset.

What was so awesome about her performance was that she showed her will to win on a track that she didn’t like. What a tough horse.

After a break, Rachel Alexandra just obliterated a field of two other horses in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont. It was amazing to watch.

She just laid back in third, and then when her jockey Calvin Borel asked her to go, off she went.

The Mother Goose was practically a walkover.

Rachel Alexandra went on to defeat 3YO males in the Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park, including Summer Bird, that year’s Belmont winner.

Rachel Alexandra came bounding home by 6 lengths.

This brings us to this amazing performance by Rachel Alexandra in the 2009 Woodward.

Forego’s four consecutive Woodward victories likely won’t be duplicated. Alysheba’s 1988 gritty performance, with a record of 1:59 2/5 was awesome.

However, seeing this fantastic filly make history in the Woodward is one event that I will never forget.

It was a nice, sunny day at Saratoga. A crowd of over 31,000 attended the 56th running of the Woodward Stakes to see Rachel Alexandra take on older males for the first time.

In the post parade, there was a scary moment. Rachel Alexandra evidently got spooked by the crowd’s cheering, and threw Calvin Borel off her back. I remember watching that, thinking, “My goodness. That did not look good there.”

My nerves were already on edge. I was so enamored by Rachel’s prowess on the track. She was an amazing horse, and not only that, an inspiration.

I have said in previous blogs how Rachel reignited my love of the “Sport of Kings.” I just loved her so much, and still do.

As I wanted to see her win so badly, seeing Rachel Alexandra throwing her jockey off had me a bit concerned that she wasn’t ready for the race.

As I am about to tell you, I had nothing to be concerned about.

After the post parade, the horses were loaded, and they were off.

Rachel Alexandra immediately took the lead. However, Da’Tara was not going to make it easy on the start filly. The two knocked heads down the backstretch. The first quarter was :22 4/5, and the half mile was :46 2/5.

I saw those fractions, and I was thinking, “This is nuts.” I also was going bananas, and cheering for Rachel. It was a wonder to watch.

As they entered the far turn, and into the stretch, the race got very exciting. Rachel Alexandra also showed her strength, determination, and toughness as well.

During the stretch run, Rachel Alexandra was holding on to a tenuous one length lead. Bullsbay took a shot at the champion filly, but had no run.

Jockey Calvin Borel had his whip out on Rachel, as here came a final challenge from Macho Again.

When I saw Macho Again coming, I thought the upset was going to happen. I was thinking, “Where’s the wire?” I kept screaming at the TV, “Come on, Rachel.” “Hang on, Rachel.”

However, Rachel kept on fighting, and digging in. She held off the valiant Macho Again by a nose to become the first female equine runner to ever win the Woodward Stakes.

The crowd was so excited. I was crying. I was so proud of Rachel. She showed a lot of courage, and had the will of a champion.

It would be her last race of the year, and in January, 2010, she was voted the 2009 Horse of the Year.

When track announcer, Tom Durkin called her “Rachel Alexandra, the Great,” he definitely got that right, as the 2009 Woodward was one of the best editions of the race ever, by one of the best horses ever.

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

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Terri

Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan

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