It’s a Boy! for Rachel Alexandra

January 24, 2012

By Adele

On January 22 at 2:40 p.m., Rachel Alexandra became the proud mother of a 125-lb. as-yet-unnamed bay colt. The little guy has big (horse)shoes to fill. In addition to his mother being 2009 Horse of the Year, his father is the fabulous Curlin, Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

If you’ll recall, Rachel broke the horseracing gender barrier by being the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness, and the first filly to win the Woodward Stakes ever.

Rachel and her colt are getting acquainted, and they say Rachel’s a natural mother. Like mom, the colt has a white blaze on his forehead, and his back feet are white, like Zenyatta — Rachel’s nemesis.

Rachel Alexandra's little bundle of joy. (Photo - Stonestreet Farm)

I was able to make a quick call to Rachel at Stonestreet Farm in Kentucky:

Adele: Congratulations on your son!

Rachel: Hey, thanks, Adele. He couldn’t have come a minute too soon. At 125 lbs., he weighs as much as a jockey. Carrying someone on your back for a 3-minute race is a lump of sugar compared to hauling another horse around in your belly for a year. Oy!

A: He looks like you, too, and he was up and walking at only 90 minutes old.

RA: What did you expect? Curlin and I couldn’t spawn a slouch even if we tried.

A: Are you disappointed you didn’t have a filly to carry on your legacy?

RA: Nah, I’m just thankful the little guy has 2 eyes and 4 hooves.

A: They’re saying you have a date with Bernardini later this year. Zenyatta’s carrying his foal right now, after her first pregnancy by him didn’t work out.

RA: That was a tough break for Zenyatta. She’s so used to having everything her way. But humans! What perverts! I never shared a track with Zenyatta, so why should we share men? I suppose they’ll bunk her in with Curlin to keep it all in the family. How gross is that?

A: Well, she and Curlin do both live at Lane’s End. And Curlin did knock up your stablemate, Hot Dixie Chick.

RA: That Curlin! There’s no keeping him “down on the farm,” if you know what I mean. Dixie’s due to drop my colt’s half-brother any minute now.

A: Who can keep up? It’s like the Real Horsewives of Kentucky. You make me glad I’m spayed. Take it easy, and I hope your colt’s an even bigger winner than his mom and dad.

RA: Same to you, Adele. These days I just eat, sleep, play, mess around, and pop out ponies. I can’t complain.


Zenyatta FINALLY Wins!

January 18, 2011

By Adele

Zenyatta can forget being the Susan Lucci of horses. On her third nomination in a row, Zenyatta finally was named “Horse of the Year” and received the recognition she deserves as one of racing’s greatest mares ever.

Zenyatta won 19 of her 20 races, and lost by only a nose her last race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. (Yeah, yeah, some revisionists say it was a head. But watch the race yourself. It was a nose.)

That nose happened to belong to a colt named Blame, the other leading contender for Horse of the Year, but Zenyatta received 8 more votes than he did.

Fortunately, horse voters don’t think like Top Chef judges. They considered Zenyatta’s long and glorious career, not just her last near-miss.

At 6 years old, Zenyatta was only the second mature horse to win the title, joining Cigar who won it in 1996.

So the crown of 2009’s Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra, passes to Zenyatta.

Zenyatta is retired now at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky, where she’s waiting to hook up with a great guy so they can start producing the next generation of champions.

Blame and Rachel Alexandra are also retired. It’s a shame that race horse careers are so brief. Just when we grow attached, they’re gone.

Congratulations, Zenyatta!


Zenyatta’s Still the Queen

November 9, 2010

By Adele

On November 6, for the first time in her long racing career, Zenyatta traveled east to race in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

Big mistake. Watch the race:

I phoned Zenyatta when she got back to her digs at Hollywood Park, California, and she was ready to dish some dirt — literally.

Adele: Do you think trading your usual synthetic track for dirt affected your performance?

Zenyatta: The hooves don’t care, but I’ll tell ya, Kentucky dust leaves an awful aftertaste. And it took my groomers hours to get that crud off me.

A: I hope you flew home First Class so you could relax and unwind.

Z: They told the flight attendant to pour me a good stiff belt of carrot juice and keep ‘em coming. I just wanted to forget the sight of Blame’s Durante-like schnozzola sticking over the finish line.

A: Now the press is saying you lost by “a head.” Did you hear the race commentators calling you the “Aging Amazon?”

Z: I call them aging jock douchebags. They probably bet against me, too. Always did.

A: Mike Smith, your jockey, blames himself.

Z: Poor Mike. He’s probably right. If we’d kicked into gear just a few strides sooner, I would have been tickling Blame’s schnoz with my tail. The stone-cold fact is that I outran 10 of the best males racing today. Did you see how far behind I was when I started passing them? We just ran out of track a few steps too soon. So send me to the glue factory.

A: They’re saying Blame will probably be named Horse of the Year.

Z: He can have it. Horse of the Year is bullshit. If I can’t win it with 19 straight victories, it’s a joke.

A: I’m sorry to hear that you’re probably going to be retired soon, too. In Kentucky.

Z: So is Blame. I just hope they don’t try to hook us up. He’s got a reputation for pointing fingers. He’d never stop gloating. I may have finished behind him, but I never want to end up under him.

A: The day after the race, Kentucky fans came out in force to get see you off, but not Blame.

Z: What can I say? It was just one race. Star power is forever.

A: Now that you’ll have more free time, are you going to pursue your dancing?

Z: Absolutely! I’ve always want to learn Argentine tango.

A: If you start a family, colt or filly?

Z: Filly, definitely. I’ve even picked out her name. Zenyette.

There you have it. Zenyatta is pissed, but unbowed. Long live horse racing’s Queen!

BONUS: A tribute to the fabulous Zenyatta.


Rachel Alexandra Hangs Up Her Racing Shoes

September 30, 2010

By Adele

The hopes of horse-racing fans to see the ultimate match-up between 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and undefeated Zenyatta were dashed this week when Rachel’s owner suddenly retired her.

(Photo - HorsePhotos.com)

But don’t worry. She’s in good health and has been running fine. She just hasn’t been the same record-breaking super-filly she was in 2009, so she’s moving on…

…to a date with Curlin, the 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year. They will be living the good life on her owner’s Stonestreet Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

With any luck, in 4 years or so, Rachel and Curlin’s first offspring will be a contender for the Triple Crown.

When I talked to Rachel back in January, she wasn’t ready to settle down, but after winning only 2 of her 5 races this year (although she came in 2nd in the other 3), the decision was taken off her hooves. Her owner said she deserves a “less stressful” life.

I reached Rachel’s nemesis, Zenyatta, by phone at Santa Anita to find out what she thinks of all this. At 6 years old, Zenyatta remains unbeaten with 18 career wins under her saddle, but has never worn the Horse of the Year crown.

Zenyatta told me…

“Yeah, that whole Horse of the Year business does make me feel like Susan Lucci. But, hey, I’ve never run a race that didn’t end with me standing in the winner’s circle.

“In spite of all the hype, I always suspected Rachel was a flash in the pan. She backed out of every race were were supposed to run together. But what do I know? I’m a horse.

“I wish the kid well. I hear Curlin’s a handful. He’ll probably have her wearing a maternity saddle in no time.”

Here’s video of Zenyatta winning her 18th race on August 7 at Del Mar.

For the history books, Rachel ran 19 races. Except for coming in 6th her very first time, she won all but 5 of the next 18 starts, but never came in farther back than 2nd.

To honor Rachel, the $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes, the last prep race for the Fair Ground Oaks, which she won last year, is being renamed at Fair Ground racetrack in Florida. The Rachel Alexandra Stakes will be run on Feburary 19, 2011.

I’ll miss Rachel Alexandra, but Cats Working wishes her and Curlin the best!


Rachel Alexandra’s Humans Let Her Down

March 16, 2010

By Adele

On March 13, the reigning Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra, ran her first race in about 6 months and revealed she’d been getting too many pedicures while watching Mister Ed reruns over the winter.

After her last stunning victory on September 5, topping off nine straight wins by beating 7 older male horses, she just LOST the New Orleans Ladies race. Rightfully, her trainer, Steve Asmussen, took the blame for her less-than-stellar performance.

Rachel gave it her best shot, but a nobody still passed her.

That nobody was 6-year-old Zardana, a stablemate/spy of Zenyatta’s who was sent east to check Rachel out before her match-up with Zenyatta. Nobody expected Zardana to win.

On the West Coast that same day, 6-year-old Zenyatta stunningly won her 15th straight race and remained undefeated. At Santa Anita against 7 of the best mares and fillies in the country, she came from last place, making up 10 lengths in the final stretch, to win by 1 ¼ lengths.

Watch both races on ESPN.

So now Rachel has been scratched from the $5 million Apple Blossom race at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas on April 9, where she was supposed to race Zenyatta.

Zenyatta will still be at the Apple Blossom, which she won in 2008, but the $5 million purse will probably be less because it was contingent on Rachel.

I sure hope this was a one-off for Rachel, and she blows away the competition in her next race, whenever it is.


Talking with Rachel Alexandra, Horse of the Year

January 29, 2010

By Adele

Rachel Alexandra finally agreed to a phone interview from New Orleans where she’s training, after learning she beat her arch-rival, Zenyatta, as Horse of the Year.

Adele: Congratulations, Miss Alexandra! I was worried Zenyatta would be the sentimental favorite, since she lost to Curlin last year and was supposedly retired.

Rachel: Call me Rachel. I hear you, Adele. We were both undefeated but, not to brag, I won 8 races to Zenyatta’s 5, broke a couple of records winning by 20 ¼ lengths and 19 ¼ lengths, which was ridiculous. Those other fillies barely left their stalls. And I was the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924, and the first filly ever to win the Haskell, and the first 3-year-old filly to beat older guys running a mile-plus in the Woodward Stakes.

Zenyatta ran against the same horses she always beats until they put her up against males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Big deal. I’d already beaten colts 3 times.

A: Everybody was disappointed that you and Zenyatta never raced each other. Did you hear she’s coming back as a 6-year-old? That means there could still be a match-up, and they’re talking about the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on April 3.

R: Bring her on! If Zenyatta’s willing to get her hooves dirty on a real track instead of that fake stuff she loves out in California, I’d be happy to settle the “best horse” question once and for all.

A: You won the Preakness, the second Triple Crown race, and beat the winners of the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, respectively. I think that makes you the Triple Crown winner by default. Do you wish they had entered you in all three races so you could have earned the title for real?

R: Hadn’t thought about it, since I was busy winning races. But, gee, since you put it that way, I’m bummed. I felt bad beating Mine in the Preakness and crushing his big dream — with his jockey on my back, no less. It would have been preferable to win the Derby so he never got his hopes up. Mine’s a nice guy. So’s his brother, Summer.

A: I guess that means the rumors you tried to gain an edge before the races by freaking them both out pretending there was a love triangle are false?

R: Rumors? It’s no secret I’d be game anytime for a little ménage à trios with the Bird brothers. They’re hot! Racing is just our job.

A: They’re hot, but slow.

R: Well, yeah. I can out-run them with one hoof tied behind my back, but speed isn’t a necessarily good thing in boyfriends.

A: What do you do in the off-season?

R: Get my mane done. Have a pedicure. Watch Mister Ed reruns. I’m not much for reading.

A: Did you hear that Curlin, last year’s Horse of the Year, just had his first foal, a filly?

R: Yes. He and his chick Zophie have asked me to be her godmother.

A: Are you looking forward to the new racing season?

R: Sure. At this point, my only career options are racing or making little horses. I’d rather colts be chasing me than have one on my back. I’m not ready to settle down.


Rachel Alexandra Beats the Boys AGAIN

September 6, 2009

By Adele

Nine wins in a row. On September 5, Rachel Alexandra outran 7 older and stronger male horses to take the $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga in New York. The 2008 Belmont Stakes winner, Da’Tara, challenged Rachel right out of the gate, but she never let him get by her. Watch her in action.

So let’s see…

This summer, she beat 2009 Kentucky Bird winner Mine That Bird by winning the second Triple Crown race, the Preakness, herself. Then beat Summer Bird in the Haskell. He was the 2009 winner of the third Triple Crown race, the Belmont. By default, that makes Rachel the unofficial Triple Crown queen.

In the Woodward, Macho Again made a mad dash in the final stretch and almost overtook Rachel, but jockey Calvin Borel helped her beat Macho back and she won by a head and made history. No filly has ever won the Woodward in 56 years.

Rachel was a huge crowd favorite, and their screaming before the race spooked her while she was walking to the gate. Borel jumped off her back to calm her down. Ordinarily, such an incident would not bode well, but Rachel regained her composure and did what she does best — win.

Now they’re saying she’s a shoo-in for Horse of the Year unless her nemesis, the unbeaten 5-year-old mare, Zenyatta, does something freakishly daring on the West Coast. Or Rachel and Zenyatta could have a showdown in the Beldame later this year.

Rachel granted an interview to TimesUnion.com and came off as a bit of a diva, but I’m hoping to score her first interview with a cat before the racing season is over.


Fabulous Filly Beats the Boys Again

August 4, 2009

By Adele

If there’s one thing a cat respects, it’s speed. On August 2, Rachel Alexandra outran the Belmont Stakes winner, Summer Bird, in the $1.25 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Calvin Borel's along for the ride. (Photo - Denver for News)

Calvin Borel's along for the ride. (Photo - Denver for News)

Let’s see… Mine that Bird won the Kentucky Derby, which Rachel didn’t enter. Then Rachel beat Mine in the Preakness.

Summer Bird won the Belmont, which Rachel didn’t enter. Then Rachel beat Summer in the Haskell — by 6 lengths.

So she’s outclassed the other two Triple Crown race winners and won the Preakness herself. I think by default that makes Rachel Alexandra the unofficial Triple Crown queen.

The Haskell was Rachel’s 8th win in a row, and her second victory over boys. The track was mud soup, but Rachel ran it in 1:47:21, just a hair below the Haskell record.

Racing against other fillies, Rachel has won by as much as 20 ¼ lengths. And when she won the Mother Goose Stakes by 19 ¼ lengths, she broke the record set by Ruffian.

So what’s next for the phenomenal filly? Rachel won’t be racing against the only other female in her league, 5-year-old Zenyatta, in the Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita in November because Rachel’s never done artificial turf. But she may turn up to ruin the boys’ day again at the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 5.

I can hardly wait.


Mine That Bird’s Got Jock(ey) Itch

July 2, 2009

By Adele

Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird has been unwittingly snared in two horsey love triangles. I caught him by phone at Churchill Downs, where he’s been stabled since placing third in the Belmont. His Triple Crown hopes had been dashed in the Preakness when his jockey, Calvin Borel, ditched him to ride Rachel Alexandra to a narrow victory.

Adele: Thanks for talking to me, Mine. Congratulations on the Derby. Sorry about the other 2 races, though. The Preakness was a squeaker, but what happened at Belmont when you had Borel back? Did you throw that race to spite him, as some (me) have speculated?

Mine: Adele, since betting’s involved, I have no comment, but let us say that we horses think little of jockeys who play us to win a Triple Crown for themselves. It’s supposed to be a horse honor.

A: That brings up your latest dilemma. Calvin Borel rode Rachel last Saturday to win the Mother Goose Stakes, and now he’s been dropped as your jockey in future races because he won’t commit to you through the Breeders’ Cup in November.

M: Me and Borel made a good team while it lasted, but the race is won by the horse, not the jockey. That guy let his head get turned by a fast filly. As far as I’m concerned, he can have her.

A: And now they’re trying to get Mike Smith, your jockey in the Preakness, to commit, but he’s hedging because he wants to ride Zenyatta, the mare he rode to win the Vanity Handicap last Saturday.

M: Zenyatta’s a freak with a thing for fat jockeys. She lets Smith pig out between races and still wins. Personally, I hope they find me a Munchkin jockey. They stay light without all the heaving.

A: I understand you’re running in the West Virginia Derby on August 1, at Saratoga on August 29, and maybe one more before the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on November 7. That’s a pretty heavy schedule.

M: Hey, that’s what I do, baby. Horses run.

A: Rachel Alexandra’s owners are saying she probably won’t run in the Breeders’ Cup because it’s artificial turf.

M: That’s their call. Me, I got no problem. That’s what hooves are for. But I’ll tell ya, win or lose, any race without Borel and that filly is a good race for me.

A: Good luck with your next jockey, Mine, whoever he is.

M: Don’t worry, Adele. Loyal fans like you, I don’t want to disappoint. No matter who’s on my back, I promise I’ll give it my best shot.


Horse Racing Hijacked by 2 Female Phenoms

June 29, 2009

By Adele

Rachel Alexandra, the freakish filly who won the Preakness, robbing Mine That Bird of his jockey and his shot at the Triple Crown, has done it again. On June 27 at Belmont in New York, she became the first filly ever to win her next race after beating boys, and broke 2 other records.

Rachel ran in the Mother Goose Stakes against only 2 other fillies for 1 1/8 mile, but her 1:46:33 time set a new stakes record. Rachel could have blown through Secretariat’s slightly faster record at Belmont, but since she was ahead by more than 19 lengths, jockey Calvin Borel let her ease up in the final stretch.

While racking up her 7th consecutive win, Rachel also beat Ruffian’s 13 ½-length margin of victory from 1975. But this was all in a day’s racing for Rachel.

In California, the amazing Zenyatta wiped the track at Hollywood Park with her 5 female competitors in the Vanity Handicap. Carrying Mike Smith at 129 pounds, which was 13-16 more pounds than the other horses (the “handicap”) and the heaviest weight of her career, the 5-year-old mare came from last on the 1 1/8 mile synthetic course to win by 2 ½ lengths for a time of 1:48:15.

Mike Smith and Zenyatta (Benoit Photo - LA Times)

Mike Smith and Zenyatta (Benoit Photo - LA Times)

Zenyatta is unbeaten, and this was her 11th consecutive win.

The buzz now is all about when these two superstars will match up, but nobody knows. Zenyatta’s only left California once for a race, and Rachel’s owner isn’t eager to have her run on synthetic turf on the West Coast.

I’m kind of hoping the girls never meet. Otherwise, one of them will have to lose.


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