Saturday, May 30, 2009

Now on

My now-famous Rachel Alexandra pic has also been featured on It's on the cover of their Triple Crown page in the horse racing section. It's crazy to me the picture is being used only now, and at least I never saw it anywhere before the Preakness, which I thought would've made more sense. But like I said, nobody has been telling me where and if my pictures are being used by someone through, so I may have missed others. Oh well, at least I know to look at these two sites every day from now on.

First NTRA... then the world!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rachel is the new Madonna

I'm sure by now you've heard the big news of the day, that the Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra will be skipping the Belmont Stakes. Part of me feels disappointed by this news, but generally I'm happy about it. I want to see Rachel fresh and ready for a great summer campaign. Plus, if the showdown with Zenyatta happens, she's going to need to be at the top of her game, and the Big Sandy has a way of sucking the energy out of a horse after a 1 1/2 mile effort.

Unexpectedly cool news of the day: Rachel Alexandra will be featured in the August issue of Vogue magazine. Fashion photographer Steven Klein hauled a backdrop out to the Churchill Downs backstretch and put on a photo shoot worthy of Madonna, if Madonna was wearing only a halter and a lead shank (hey, I'm sure she's come close). Being both a photography nerd and a worshipper of Alexandra the Great, I can't wait to see the end product. It'll mark the first time I ever actually go out and buy Vogue.

And finally... I got my second cover today! I almost missed it, and thanks to one of my Flickr contacts, I was informed my photo of Calvin Borel in the paddock after the Kentucky Derby was on the cover of They like me, they really like me!

Waiting for Rachel

My latest article talks about how we've been waiting for Rachel Alexandra in more ways than one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Amazing day of fortune

Bill Nack is the coolest man alive. After showing him my now-famous Rachel Alexandra picture from the Oaks, he forwarded it to Laura Hillenbrand (the author of Seabiscuit), Charlsie Cantey, and Ray Paulick. He reported that Hillenbrand said of my picture: "Superb."

I thanked him for being my PR to the stars.

In addition to this wonderful nugget of joy today, I had another extreme amount of fortune, but I can't talk about it until next week.

I'm completely mind-boggled here. What an amazing day.

Belmont week is going to rock hard.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Shirreffs busts the big balloon

Barring if it should be announced Zenyatta was to be retired this minute for no reason other than "there's nothing else she needs to prove," or "it's too hot to race her in California, after all," I don't think any newsbit could've made me more angry than the story released by today, where Zenyatta's trainer, the audacious John Shirreffs, said the following things:
"I would think [the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic] would be [her final career start]," Shirreffs said. "You're anxious to get a foal out of her because they do breed."

"With the Breeders' Cup out here, what's the need [to travel]?" he said. "When it gets closer to [Breeders' Cup] time, you don't want to ship around too much.
Saratoga is a long way."

"The [$700,000 Hollywood] Gold Cup is a mile and a quarter," he said. "She's never run that far. It would be an ambitious spot and against the boys? Let's make it even harder."
Good job, Mr. Shirreffs. Way to make yourself a hypocrite.

So basically, he has no faith in this unbeaten mare of 10-for-10 lifetime races who has done absolutely nothing wrong and given every indication she could be the best horse (not mare, HORSE) in racing right now. Nice confidence, Shirreffs -- I hope you're not expecting people to root for Zenyatta to win the Eclipse for HOTY, because I can already tell you, she's already beaten. And she's going to be beaten by a 3-year-old filly who's already done more than Zenyatta in a half year's time, one Rachel Alexandra.

Talk about a shame, wasting the talent of a race horse like Zenyatta in a campaign that takes her down the exact same path as her schedule last year, with the exception of the Apple Blossom. If her schedule sticks to what it seems to be pointing towards, she will see the same California faces over and over again, will never face males, and will retire without ever showing what she can really accomplish. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Zenyatta deserves better than this.

And another thing: one look at her doing her little Spanish walk tells me she isn't ready to retire. This is a horse that has the desire to run, and to pull her out of racing prematurely would be a mistake. She didn't begin racing until the end of November 2007, when she was 3 years old. Technically, she hasn't even raced for two full years. She's never had an injury, never lost a race, and the Mosses would continue to make more money with her racing than by risking her life as a broodmare.

Why not try to break Peppers Pride's win streak? If Zenyatta's to be entered in races with no better competition than what she's faced so far, she's a shoe-in to set a new American record.

She starts doing her famous walk in the post parade of this video. The presence of this mare just takes my breath away...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My first cover photo!

I was a little surprised and very enthralled yesterday to find my photo of Rachel Alexandra winning the Kentucky Oaks on the cover of My husband actually pointed it out to me-- I didn't get any notification from anybody my photo had been bought or used (I'm still fuzzy on how these things work). But it's a credit! A legitimate credit with one of the top Thoroughbred sites the interweb has to offer! Success! I'm not doing this all for my self gratification, after all!

Let the ponies rejoice!

Now let's see if I get those credentials for the Belmont...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Latest gushy Preakness article is up

So this is what Greatness looks like.

Here's my latest article, an attempt to articulate my thoughts about the Preakness and what it means both for me as a longtime fan, and the sport as it stands. It took me a while to let this race really sink in.

Lookin' forward to seeing Zenyatta face her stablemate, Life Is Sweet tomorrow in the Milady Handicap. Should an interesting race, since they have similar running styles...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Zenyatta returns... but it's hardly a campaign.

When Zenyatta was scratched the morning of the Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs, I felt as if someone had pulled a rug out from under me. I was looking forward to seeing this amazing mare run almost more than seeing the Kentucky Derby.

I've followed her since I first saw her run in the Apple Blossom, her first and only start on dirt, when she walloped the champion Ginger Punch at Oaklawn last spring. Since then, she's become nothing short of a "living legend," to quote Trevor Denman, with untouchable class and a legacy that will live on for generations.

Yet, I wasn't rooting for Zenyatta to win the 2008 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. She was facing my other true love, Curlin.

There's no question to me that Curlin deserved to win his second Horse of the Year title. In 2008, he won the Dubai World Cup by a then-record margin of 7 3/4 lengths, came back to America to win the Stephen Foster, went on to win his second Jockey Club Gold Cup, and when he tried turf for the first time, he suffered the first loss of his 2008 season to a Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Red Rocks. Curlin raced against all who would face him, on two continents, three surfaces, at five different tracks, on fast tracks, and in the slop.

In contrast, Zenyatta dominated in a perfect season, going on to win the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic and the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Female. She won on four different tracks, on two surfaces, and beat many talented fillies and mares. Unfortunately, many of these competitors were the same ones, were only on perfect tracks, and she never once faced males.

John Shirreffs, Zenyatta's trainer, has been bitter about her loss to Curlin for Horse of the Year ever since, but he certainly has done nothing this year to back up why she deserves another shot at winning the title.

A champion is measured not only by brilliance, but by diversity, overcoming what obstacles are thrown at him or her. When the track came up a bit sloppy on the morning of the Louisville Stakes, Zenyatta had the opportunity to prove her stature by trying a new surface condition for the first time. If she were to continue her complete domination on dirt by cruising in the slop, Zenyatta would confirm her bid for this year's HOTY honors. Shirreffs at one time said he thought she'd be even more of a threat on dirt. But when the time came for Zenyatta to shine against new opposition, against a field she'd never seen before, he pulled her out. He denied her the chance to show us what other talents she may possess. In doing so, I've not only lost respect for him as a trainer, I feel cheated as a fan of this great horse.

Curlin may not have won when he was placed on turf and on synthetics for the first time, but he ran his guts out to try. It's not easy for a horse to transfer from one surface to another, yet it has been said it's probably easier for synthetic horses to adapt to dirt after starting on the fake stuff. If Zenyatta really is better on the dirt than she is on synthetics, she should be given the opportunity to prove so. Running only in perfect conditions is no way for a champion to be made. And I dare say she must be tested to prove her champion status.

A lot is already being said about Zenyatta potentially having a showdown with the amazing 3-year-old Rachel Alexandra this fall. I hope this happens. However, I don't wish it to be on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride, where Zenyatta will have all the advantage. Zenyatta has had enough of an advantage, getting everything pretty much her way. It's time she duke it out, it's time she get roughed around a little. It's time she shows us what she's truly got inside of her.

I think the synthetics will do to Rachel what it did to Curlin, and that's not a level playing field. Obviously, English turf horses will mow over our dirt horses if you place them on synthetics. Synthetics are NOT DIRT. So, if Zenyatta is best on dirt, and Rachel is best on dirt, put two and two together. Race this champion mare and this champion filly where they run best, and do it fair and square; no scratches because of imperfect track conditions, this isn't a game for the faint at heart. This is a game for the iron-willed.

Zenyatta is racing in her second straight Grade II Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park this Saturday. Whoop-de-freaking-do.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Due to my day job, I couldn't watch the Preakness when it happened live. Let me tell you, it was a horrible pain not to be able to see the race unfold as it happened. But my reaction would undoubtedly be just the same.

When Rachel Alexandra started to pull away at the top of the Pimlico stretch, tears started to threaten the back of my eyes. I knew they'd never catch her. It was an amalgamation of sobbing and laughing as she blazed in front of her male competitors and passed the finish clear; affirmation this filly is a living legend.

I'm still taking time to digest it all. Rachel Alexandra beat a talented field of colts on a track she didn't like, and she did so by a length. And what a surprise that Mine That Bird would be the main threat to come nipping at her heels! I'm still shell-shocked by that fact, and overcome with pride and happiness my Musket Man was again, still in the money to hold for third.

What a Preakness. And the NBC coverage was the best I've seen ever on that network. Kudos to NBC for giving the fans and the public what they really want: stories about the true contenders.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Article for the week

This week's Call to the Post is marked by a full overview of the Preakness antics, some flowery description of Rachel Alexandra, and my run-down of who's who in the field. I can't stand this suspense any longer! Let's get this race on!

Saturday's Preakness is most anticipated in recent memory

What's the difference between sportsmanlike behavior and being a plain ol' asshole?

So, I'm watching the Black-Eyed Susan coverage on HRTV right now. Generally, HRTV has some of the best coverage on horse racing, but once in a while, one of the hosts says a real dumbass comment.

Today, the perpetrators were the Race Day America duo of Carolyn Conley and Kurt Hoover. They were talking about the controversy of Mark Allen and Ahmed Zayat entering horses to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness, and how critics called them "unsportsman-like." I happen to be on the side of the critics on this one, which is obvious from my previous entries.

Direct quote from the mouth of Kurt Hoover: "I see absolutely nothing wrong with what those guys were thinking of doing. It's within the rules. As I understand it, the goal in this game as an owner is to win races, especially Grade I races... if you can exclude a contender by playing within the rules, I'm all for it. This talk of 'sportsmanship,' and 'doing things for the good of the game,' I just don't buy it. You wanna have a nice social gathering, go play tennis in a country club or go play chess in a library... I see nothing wrong with it, I think it was a good move, er strategy, I would've done the same thing myself; you're not going to be friends with everybody, so what? You're trying to win..."
And Carolyn Conley says, "I agree with you 100%."

It's this mentality that is ruining the sport of horse racing. When the sport can barely afford to offer purses for races, is finding its biggest stages neglected to ruin and demolished, and finding public interest turning away, the industry can hardly afford to make enemies within itself. Looking at the big picture, looking out for the good of the sport, is what horse racing NEEDS to survive. Sure, you can be a selfish jerk and try to deny the best three-year-old in the country the ability to prove herself by entering a horse not worthy of licking her horseshoes, but what good does it do anybody than the connections of that horse? If you look out for no one but yourself, you will see the world fall around you. There won't be a racetrack for them to run their horse over someday, and no one will care to watch your horse run when it does find a race. Without fans, without public interest, the sport will fade into oblivion.

If Rachel Alexandra brings just one more fan into the fold, plants the love of horse racing into one child, it's all worth it. No, you may not find the result padding the lining of your pocket in the meantime, but at least you'll have a stable for your horse on the backstretch, and the grandstands will still be there. Love must be circular. Our horse connections love horses, but they need the attention from the outside world to make the racing world go 'round. If all the non-fans see is greed and death on the track, what will they want to give back to the sport? Nothing.

Horse racing is more than just a mere game, dear Mr. Hoover and Ms. Conley. Horse racing is a tradition, it is as much a living, growing thing as a newborn that needs nurturing; and it is a way of life. Neglect it and it shall whither and die, producing nothing but an empty shell that once held promise.

I think T.S. Eliot said it best in his poem, "The Hollow Men:"

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Last post of the day, I promise!

Jess Jackson continues to make my week. The co-owner of Rachel Alexandra announced today that he hopes to continue racing the champion filly into her four-year-old year.

He also had to this to say in regards to his decision to buy her and race her against the boys: “I think the fans deserve to see the best horses compete, regardless of sex.... This is not about male and female. This about the best athletes able to go two turns … We hope this will help the fans enjoy a great sport. She is a perfect athlete. I hope this helps revive horse racing in United States...”

“She is well-defined against fillies,” he said. “What we wanted to do was define her against colts. I don’t think she has really been tested in any race she has run. Now she is going to be tested.”

In regards to people saying he's being "unsportsman-like" in entering a non-Triple Crown nominated horse in the Preakness, possibly upseting Mine That Bird's chance for the Triple Crown, Jess Jackson replied, "the goal is to run the best horses against each other."

Besides, Jackson said, if Rachel Alexandra finished “a respectable” second to Mine That Bird in the Preakness, “I would enjoy it as a spectator.”

What a classy guy. You can say what you want about him using his money to get his way, but he puts the sport and the horse foremost, unlike so many people. He truly loves horse racing and is doing his part to bring the sport to level the fans want to see, and for that, he should be respected.

He also sent Marylou Whitney a bouquet of a dozen roses in gratitude for her gesture of withdrawing if it meant Rachel wouldn't make the Preakness field (Luv Gov did make it in, since there were only 13 entrants).

Quotes and information taken from this article in

It's a beautiful day for Nicanor

Even though he'd yet to break his maiden until today, all of the racing world could tell you who Nicanor is. The 3-year-old brother of the late Barbaro tried turf for the first time in his fourth career start today, and this is what happened... (trust me, you'll want to see it for yourself)

I must admit, I'd sort of eased my interest in Nicanor after his back-to-back second places and his disappointing maiden start. I'd gotten sick of the Fans Of Barbaro, and those late-comers to the bandwagon who only seemed to care about Barbaro and his kin, thinking none of them could do anything wrong. I'd loved Barbaro since I first saw him in the Florida Derby and was getting a little sick of all the fanfare in trying to "duplicate" this irreplacable star.

But seeing Nicanor explode to win his turf debut made me grow a great big smile. I'd love to see him have a long, successful career on the track and do things Barbaro never got the chance to do. It would be awesome if Nicanor became the sort of horse that could run in the Arlington Million and transfer to the synthetics for the Santa Anita Handicap and other big stakes races.

I'm not getting my hopes up for these big dreams, because I think it's unfair to lay such huge expectations on a horse that knows nothing about the act he's following. Nicanor will pave his own path, and I hope, beyond everything else, it's a safe one.

Preakness Post Positions

The post positions and morning-line odds for the Preakness Stakes this Saturday

1. Big Drama 10-1
2. Mine That Bird 6-1
3. Musket Man 8-1
4. Luv Gov 50-1
5. Friesan Fire 6-1
6. Terrain 30-1
7. Papa Clem 12-1
8. General Quarters 20-1
9. Pioneerof the Nile 5-1
10. Flying Private 50-1
11. Take the Points 30-1
12. Tone it Down 50-1
13. Rachel Alexandra 8-5*


Now I just have to keep repeating to myself "don't be superstitious, don't be superstitious," and ignore the fact that I Want Revenge also drew post 13 before he was scratched for the Derby.

Actually, I think the 13 hole is good for Rachel, in that she won't be pinched by any of the boys and will be able to accelerate without traffic problems in the start.

I hope Jess Jackson has a 'round-the-clock security guard glued to that filly until this race is over.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Breaking news...

Thoroughbred Times tweeted that the van carrying Grade I Blue Grass Stakes winner General Quarters to Pimlico was involved in a car accident this afternoon outside of the Maryland race course.

Update: General Quarters arrived at the barn safely and was not injured in the minor traffic accident.

TT's full article about the incident can be read here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cool Cal on Jay Leno and Sutherland's sure angst

Eclipse-winning jockey Mike Smith has agreed to ride Mine That Bird in the Preakness Stakes if Rachel Alexandra makes it into the starting gates. I'm sure Chantal Sutherland is somewhere sticking pins into her Mike Smith voodoo doll at this very moment.

The jockey who will be aboard the Oaks winner should she make the Preakness entry, Calvin Borel, will be appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday, May 12 (tomorrow). It's sure to be an interesting interview, so be sure not to miss it! I'll try to post the video after the interview airs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"For the sake of the sport, we will withdraw."

Marylou Whitney is my new hero.

It seems each day in the Rachel Alexandra-Preakness saga, there is a new whirlwind of developments. Today marked the day that Mark Allen, the co-owner of Derby winner Mine That Bird, tried to cook up a scheme to keep out Rachel Alexandra, the dominant Oaks winner, out of the Preakness.

It breaks down like this [in my own summarized words]: Mark Allen called up Ahmed Zayat, the owner of Pioneerof the Nile, and said, "Hey, I'm entering a horse in the Preakness in addition to Mine That Bird in order to keep out the filly, Rachel Alexandra. That filly is going to steal my jockey, and show up my Derby winner. We're the real stars in this race, we can't let her in. Will you also enter a second horse?"

Zayat thinks to himself, "The new owners of Rachel Alexandra are being disrespectful of America's greatest race for making history by putting the Derby-winning jockey on their filly in the Preakness. That filly shouldn't be in the Preakness, anyway, because fillies are weak and two weeks is too quick of a turn around. Besides, I want my horse to win, and he stands less of a chance if he has to meet that monster in a race. It's not fair for a newcomer like Rachel Alexandra to spoil my fun, so I'm going to enter another of my horses in the race so she won't be able to enter."

Then he changed his mind and said this (directly quoted from “Nevertheless, after talking to the president of the Maryland Jockey Club I have decided I don’t want to be viewed as not being a sportsman, so I am happy not to block her for the good of the game. Please understand this is not about me; this is about the industry, and although what is right is not very clear to me I am happy to reconsider my decision for the fans.”

Riiiight. Looks like you said enough to make yourself a villain, Mr. Zayat. (See the complete, long-winded quote in the full article.)

Meanwhile, Marylou Whitney had a horse named Luv Gov she wanted to enter in the Preakness, oblivious to this Allen-Zayat scandal. The trainer for the horse, D. Wayne Lucas, called up the Maryland Jockey Club to enter the horse and found out that Luv Gov would be #13, and Rachel Alexandra would be #14 as the entrees stand. Only 14 horses are allowed to enter in the Preakness field, and Rachel Alexandra will need to be supplemented for $100,000 to enter the race and is not Triple Crown nominated. Triple Crown nominated horses have preference in the field and could kick her out of contention if the field was filled up to capacity.

Here is the direct quote of what her husband and racing manager, John Hendrickson, said upon discovering their position for Luv Gov in the Preakness: "If we are the deciding factor, we will not enter. [Rachel Alexandra] is good for the sport. For the sake of the sport, we will withdraw."

That right there brought tears to my eyes. THANK YOU, Marylou Whitney and everyone who holds the same standards as you in this game. How unsportsman-like for the owners of the top two finishers in the Kentucky Derby to want to keep out this amazing filly from the second jewel of the Triple Crown. It's a race, not a sure bet. Obviously, Rachel has them shaking in their boots if they were seriously considering entering dud horses in order to exclude this champion from taking part in the greatest tournament of sports. Ms. Whitney has a true contender with a legitimate chance of winning the race, yet she is sacrificing her horse's chance because she wants to see what's BEST for the sport. I applaud this First Lady of Racing. We shall see what hand karma deals, my friends.

Sunday night, Mark Allen decided not to enter his 0-for-9 maiden horse Indy Express in the Preakness after it was clear the bulk of the racing world was aghast at his sinister plan.

So now, we have seen the underbelly of the underdogs.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday's article + overlooked workout pictures

Just in case you're not yet tired of my Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks wrap-ups and romances, my newest article is up on

Oh, and I found some workout pictures of Mine That Bird I overlooked while I was drooling over Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and the Derby favorites...

Honorary Jess Jackson Day

I hearby dub this day honorary Jess Jackson Day, in honor of the man who kept jockey Calvin Borel in the irons of Kentucky Oaks winner, Rachel Alexandra, for the Preakness Stakes. All the nation's citizens will be treated to a free glass of wine, a parade with horses adorned in yellow and red flowers, and a float of Curlin made out of Werther's Originals.

How sweet life is. Thanks, Mr. Jackson, for making things right.

The Daily Racing From reports that Borel's decision to ride Rachel Alexandra, and not Mine That Bird, in the Preakness marks the first time in history a jockey has opted not to ride the horse he won the Derby on in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
If this doesn't spell Alexandra as being a superior horse, I don't know what does.
Here is a list of reactions from Preakness contender trainers about the possibility of Rachel Alexandra facing their colts (from
"I think she's in a different world than the rest. She is something spectacular." - Gary Stute, trainer of Papa Clem.
"I would rather she didn't show," said David Fawkes, who trains Big Drama. "With her running style, that may hurt our chances."
"Any man would be a fool to welcome that filly. She's tough. As much as I don't want her to go, she'd be taking my rider." - Chip Woolley, trainer of Derby winner Mine That Bird.
The girl has the colts, and their trainers, shaking in their boots. Let's just hope she wakes up as fit as a fiddle and in perfect health on Preakness Day... and that less than 14 horses want in the gates once they see her trademark blaze heading to Maryland.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The approximate Preakness field

I'm extremely pleased to see that half of the Preakness field consists of starters from the Kentucky Derby, and the good ones, at that. I was very surprised to see Friesan Fire's quarter had healed so quickly, and wish him all the best. But if Rachel enters, all my money will be on her.

Approximate Preakness field (numbers are only the number of starters, not p.p.s)

1. Mine That Bird
2. General Quarters
3. Friesan Fire
4. Papa Clem
5. Big Drama
6. Pioneerof the Nile
7. Musket Man
8. Hull
9. Terrain
10. Flying Private
11. Take the Points
12. Rachel Alexandra*

*Must be supplemented, and will only enter if gates for Preakness aren't already filled to capacity

The Jaw-drop Heard 'Round the World: Part II of the Kentucky Derby experience

You got no time for the messenger,
got no regard for the thing
that you don't understand.
You got no fear of The Underdog,
that's why you will not survive.
- Spoon, "The Underdog"

Like so many other handicappers, I reviewed the entrees for the Kentucky Derby for hours upon hours, trying to make sense of the bloodlines, times, Beyers, and horse gestures that would clue me in to who would be the freshest horse come the first Saturday in May in the most prestigious race in America. So many good horses dropped out at the last minute, that a field that once promised to be one of the most talent-filled in twenty years was reduced to simply a field with 50/50 talent. Of the horses I picked for a top 5, only one hit the board.

It seems one in one thousand actually picked the winner, a 50-1 longshot.

When the last race was run before the Kentucky Derby, Einstein's breathtaking head-bobber over the improving Cowboy Cal, a 90-minute break settled over the grandstands in anticipation for the race everyone had come to see.

There was plenty going on to fill the void. It was at this time I found my spot in the aisle on the rail and cemented myself there until the Derby. From my experience last year, I knew people would be swarming all over the people in front about 15 minutes before race time, and I wasn't about to let anyone mar my view of the race I'd been preparing to see for months. I was tired, feeling hung-over from the full week of 6 am wake-ups and relentless Derby fever, but these were the dire moments.

Anxiety began to rise when the first Derby contender appeared on the Jumbotron. I think it was someone like Nowhere to Hide, but it could've well been Mine That Bird, for as much as I cared about those horses at the time. The walk-overs had begun. The entourages had begun to grow in a steady stream on the Clubhouse Turn, winding down the track in a Kentucky Derby parade. They came from the barns on the other side of the track like a river of trout to the tunnel, and on to the paddock.

I began to feel my nerves tense. I could picture the views from TV, the coverage of the horses beginning to be saddled. This was really happening, and I was there as witness. The Kentucky freaking Derby. It doesn't matter how many times you witness it, each time is a raucous, whirlwind jitter-ride you can't quite grasp while you're in it.

I had to stand up on the concrete and lean over the chain-link fence to get a good look at who was among the entourage of millionaires, trainers, grooms, and horses. I saw Larry Jones and Friesan Fire, and felt a leap in the pit of my stomach, realization washing over me it would be the last time I saw this scene of that tall man in the white cowboy hat leading his horse to saddle in the Kentucky Derby. The sport will not be the same without Larry Jones.

The band began to filter into the infield, in front of the winner's circle, and the soldiers who stood guard in front of the rail marched in line. My emotions were peaked. I knew what was coming. The horses were all being saddled, the last bits of advice were being given to the jockeys, and then it came, the chill-inducing call to the post.

The Derby contenders, with jockeys in tow, began their dance out of the tunnel to meet the roar of the grandstands. The band began to play the first notes of "My Old Kentucky Home," and I lost it. I could barely sing five words, though I knew them by heart.

As my horses passed me, I rooted for them all. I didn't feel there was any one I wanted most to win, though I did cheer the loudest for Gabriel Saez atop Friesan Fire. Out of all the contenders, Dunkirk seemed the most on his toes, and I marvelled at how plucky he looked on his way to the starting gates. He knew he was in a race, and all the horses seemed to know today was something speical.

Maybe they got a clue from the howling grandstands.

Some lady dared to try to shove her kids between my husband and I, and then tried to squeeze one of them in front of my view of the starting gates. I told her sorry, she could find some other place. Even in hallowed moments, there's always somebody who tries to rain on your parade. There is nothing sacred.

The starting gates were a good distance away from me, so I couldn't see the start of the race very well. Some guy was holding his ridiculous camera phone directly in my sights, too. How he expected to get any sort of decent picture so far away on a cell phone, I have no concept, but anyway, I did manage to get a shot of Dunkirk stumbling three strides out of the gate. That pretty much sealed the $3.7 million-dollar gray's fate.

The field flew past us, and I snapped pictures of them with the rapidity of machine gun fire. I could tell that the early leaders were exactly as I'd expected: Join in the Dance had taken the early lead, and Regal Ransom was hot on his heels. I saw Pioneerof the Nile had found good position in about third or fourth place, and thought Pioneer was a shoe-in for victory.

The race on the backstretch was a bit of a blur. All I can remember is being overwhelmed with the thought, "This is the Derby, it's happening right now. Don't blink, it's half over!" And when the horses moved into the final turn, my husband said, "Who is that moving up so fast? They're gonna be cooked." He was talking about Mine That Bird. I barely kept that comment on file in the back of my brain as the field rounded the turn for home.

I looked at the Jumbotron and didn't see any of my horses but Pioneerof the Nile. And so, I began to scream, "C'mon, PIONEER!" My body was half-slung over the fence; I could see the horses charging for home. Pioneerof the Nile was on the outside, closest to us, but several other horses looked to be challenging.

That's when I started taking pictures, and that's when I noticed the horse on the inside rail charging out of nowhere like a bat out of hell. Still, I kept my lens focused on Pioneerof the Nile, confident I had picked the Derby winner for my sixth year in a row. SNAPSNAPSNAP, SNAPSNAPSNAP

The rest of the race pretty much went like this:
"Who is that on the inside! He's coming fast!"
"He's not gonna do it!" SNAPSNAPSNAP
"Oh my God!"
"Who the hell is that?!" SNAPSNAPSNAPSNAP
"I don't know who it is!"
"I can't believe this!"
"OH MY GOD!!!"
"Pioneerof the Nile was second by a nose!"
"It's Mine That Bird!"
"You've got to be $*^@*^~ kidding me!"
"Mine That Bird!"
"I don't &%^$#*@ believe this!"
"Oh my God... unbelievable."
"I don't &%^$#*~ believe this!"
"$#@%! $#@%! $#@%!"

Yes, it was utter devastation at first. There was much cussing, much forsaking of the little children's ears surrounding us hardcore handicappers. We'd just been given one of the biggest rear-end screws in history. A 50-1 longshot just broke every rule ever written about handicapping, any iota of credibility a handicapper could claim. Mine That Bird single-handedly threw all the statistics, the Beyer Speed Figures, the racing records straight out the window. He paid $103 for a $2 bet. No one around me had come close to picking him.

And then, something happened. We saw Calvin Borel on Mine That Bird, saw a pure emotion, a pure joy in him rarely seen on the track, and the tide of resentment, bitterness, and downright loathesome notions turned like a tidal wave. Admittedly, I didn't even realize Borel had been on Bird's back; that's how little I paid attention to this son of Birdstone. Something changed in those moments that I credit to the spirit of Louisville and the Kentucky Derby. The Derby lives in its own world of rules and emotions, and just like that, everyone in the grandstand was applauding Mine That Bird and Calvin Borel. Not just applauding, they were standing up and hollering for him, waving their programs and tossing their lost bets in a Derby confetti. It was a living Hollywood moment, a scene I never would've expected to experience in real life.

So we lost some money, who cares? That guy just won the Kentucky Derby, on a horse no one expected to win. Let's let him have his moment. Let's help his celebrate. Let's continue this strange party like it was meant to be.

Borel came riding past us on Mine That Bird instead of heading directly onto the turf to accept the garland of roses and get his picture taken. I think that was one of the key elements that roused the spectators to a roar of cheers and applause. Calvin was bouncing up and down on the saddle, screaming and hooting, gibbering on like an acrobatic parrot on his perch. He brought tears to my eyes, and I cheered for him as if I'd won money, instead of losing $40 like I had on him. It's moments like this the Derby is really about.

Despite the house winning everybody's money, a feeling of goodwill and happiness continued to linger in the crowd. People began to leave during the coronation, and losing tickets scattered over the ground like white wedding petals. It was all over. The horses were being unsaddled and led back to their barns. Nobody had gotten hurt (except for a few punctured egos), and we were allowed to breathe the collected sigh of relief and start dreaming about next year.

The races following the Derby exist on a plane of other-worldliness. You can sneak up to Millionaire's Row undected, sit in the abandoned seats of the owners of Square Eddie, Win Willy, and Justwhistledixie, and patronize the empty bathrooms where ladies walk around in multi-hundred-dollar hats that make you feel like a ragamuffin. You can watch the last two races on the card from the upper levels and have an eagle-eye view of the drunks below who are counting their losses in the emptying seats. Fans are having one last round of mint juleps, collecting discarded Derby glasses, and women are finally caving in to wearing jackets over their skimpy dresses. It's a beautiful carange in the Derby aftermath.

I went to the paddock one last time and saw Calvin Borel come down the chain-link jockey path to a round of applause and cheers. He mounted his horse and grinned like a kid who'd just snitched one of his momma's cookies. Then he gave the patented Cool Cal peace sign and welcomed the applause like the humbled gentleman he is. He's just a little Cajun man having the time of his life, and everyone smiled as he passed by, so happy for him.

We found Steve in the emptying infield. His eyes were bloodshot from a few too many mint juleps, and from the contraband liquor he'd managed to smuggle inside his cooler. He, too, had lost a ton of cash on Mine That Bird, but later remembered he'd made a wheel bet and made $200 on the race. Such is the experience of a good handicapper. I'll remember to take his lead next time.

Just a week earlier, I'd seen the movie Woodstock and marvelled at the aftermath of the grounds after the festival was coming to a close. The Churchill Downs infield looks like its twin after the Derby. The only difference is there may be less discarded condoms lying about the abandoned tents, beer cans, and lost articles of clothing.

As Hunter S. Thompson once said, "the Kentucky Derby is decadent and depraved." It offers the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This year was both of that in one swift move by Calvin Bo-Rail, but ultimately, everyone left the Downs in good spirits. Sometimes, it's not about if your horse wins, it's about being carried away by the experience; the symbol of Louisville, the fleur-de-lis, symbolizes the "heraldry in everyday life." Even a pauper can be a king or live the life on high. It's about a common joy, and feeling camaraderie among the fans surrounding you.

The Derby is an experience like none other. And if you've yet to know its embrace, you're missing out. Be sure not to miss it next year. It's intoxicating and addictive, and once you've been swept away in its whirlwind, good luck dismissing its call next year, and the year after.

Borel will ride Alexandra, not Derby winner, in Preakness if filly enters

The news feed is buzzing like a nest full of hornets right now. Soon after Jess Jackson was announced to have bought Rachel Alexandra, confirmation came that the filly had been moved to trainer Steve Asmussen's barn at 5:15am ET this morning.

In an interview with Blood-Horse, Hal Wiggins, her former trainer, had positive things to say about the deal and was graceful after having his champion filly ripped out of his hands overnight:

“My wife was hurt (when she heard that Rachel was sold), because she knew it
was hurting me,” said Wiggins. “I talked to her this morning, and I told her the
sun was going to rise just like it does every morning. Time does a whole lot no
matter what it is, and we have a lot to be thankful for, so we keep thinking
about that.
“When you walk by and see that empty stall, you can’t help but
think what was in there. It’s tough—it’s hard, but that’s just part of the game,
and we have to realize that, but we did have some great times with her, so we’re
appreciative of that.”

Wiggins expected, after the quick purchase of Rachel after her stunning Oaks victory, that Jackson would supplement the filly into the Grade I Preakness Stakes on May 16th.

My head is spinning like a top right now. I'm feeling sorry for Hal Wiggins and Rachel's previous connections, but am happy, on the other hand, that she will finally be given her shot to take on the boys. She deserves no less. The article also says IEAH had tried to buy her in the fall, but backed out because at that time, she had a bone chip in one of her ankles. I hope that doesn't mean she's prone to chips and injuries, but as I haven't heard anything else about her health conditions, she sounds pretty sound.

If Rachel does enter the Preakness, Mike Smith will likely board Mine That Bird. I know how racing fans will likely react to this news, but what about the public who is rooting for the underdog? Will the non-racing public root for a champion filly who's at the top of her game, or a longshot horse who will likely not be able to win a race like the Derby again without Borel in the stirrups?

For the sake of horse racing, let's hope the non-fans are titilated by this instead of being turned-off. Rachel has the opportunity to make the people put Eight Belles's tragic death behind us, and the industry could really use a boost like that right now.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Right, I know, this isn't Part II of my Kentucky Derby overview. Please excuse the time lapse-- it'll be up for tomorrow. I couldn't not comment on these several bits of news that cropped up over the past two days.

1. I Want Revenge's injury is more serious than previously thought. Hearing this news made me almost ill. Thank God his connections did the right thing and kept him from running in the Kentucky Derby. I would rather the horse be safe and sidelined for several months than meet a tragic end on the path to glory.

I am worried, however, that he will be retired even if his therapy leaves him completely capable of having a comeback. If he does recover completely, and will be able to race at the caliber that he had prior to the injury, I hope his people consider racing him as a 4-year-old. We need more older horses to root for, and I Want Revenge is a horse with a heart worth following. By the comments David Lanzman, breeder and co-owner of the colt, made in this Daily Racing Form article, it seems the chances of him racing at 4 would be great if he should fully recover.

2. Desert Party injured himself in the Kentucky Derby. A bone chip in his left front ankle will be surgically removed, and the horse will be sidelined and Godolphin hopes to return him to racing in the second half of the year and continue racing him in 2010.

Maybe this is a clue to why Desert Party faded in the few final furlongs of the Kentucky Derby? I had him highly-rated after re-watching the 2000 Guineas and the UAE Derby. Desert Party is a fine colt and hopefully is able to come back and prove his talent in America, his birthplace.

3. Rachel Alexandra has been sold to Jess Jackson (Stonestreet Stables) and some other dude (Harold T. McCormick, whoever that is). Not only has the ownership transferred hands, but the Daily Racing Form says the trainer will, as well-- to Steve Asmussen.

Now, I've been as bitter as anybody about Alexandra's current trainer's (Hal Wiggins) adament stance on fillies racing against colts: keep 'em separate; I think she deserves better competition, and she will find it racing against the boys. I'm sure this is what Jess Jackson, the sportsman is also thinking, because he created a stance a year ago when he decided to bring Curlin back as a 4-year-old to help improve the complexion of the sport. I don't think, however, that means he should mess with a good thing.

Hal Wiggins has trained Rachel Alexandra into her winning ways, and whatever he's done, it's working. I don't know one thing about training differences, but I'm superstitious, I guess you could say. I don't think it's good karma to rip a filly out of winning connections when she's just raced the best race of her life, and place her into a new environment, under new hands, with different people caring for her. Even though they have their differences, couldn't Jackson and Wiggins reach some sort of agreement?

Whatever the case, Wiggins had her targeted toward the Grade I Acorn on the Belmont undercard for her next start. This disappointed me, since I believe she could've blown away the competition in the Kentucky Derby. Will Jess Jackson pave a new road for Alexandra, toward the Preakness and the Belmont? Could it be move over boys, the princess is coming to town? I, for one, hope so.

How amazing it would be for the sport to have a "super filly" (as Durkin dubbed her) take the Preakness and Belmont? Obviously, she will have plenty of competition, but it would once and for all silence the critics who made the ridiculous accusation that Eight Belles never should've raced in the Kentucky Derby.

Rachel Alexandra racing against the boys? I'm so there!

4. Musket Man is confirmed for the Preakness, with Eibar Coa sticking to the irons. Musket Man will not go on to the Belmont, says his trainer, Derek Ryan; he will target toward the Haskell after the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

I think this is a pretty good decision. A lot of horses are opting for the Belmont instead of the Preakness, surprisingly. Musket Man doesn't have the breeding for the Belmont, though he's been pretty much making up his own blueprint as far as distance goes. He'll have a nice, long rest after the Preakness and be fresh for the late summer meet.

5. Don't forget to pick up the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, where Mine That Bird becomes the first horse since Smarty Jones to grace the cover!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Kentucky Derby, through the haze: Part I

Last year on Derby morning, I woke up much more nervous. I had never been to the Derby before, and anxiety hit me like a tidal wave. I'd barely gotten any sleep, I kept thinking about the year in racing leading up to that point, and I was nervous I wouldn't be able to see the race. I learned a lot from last year.

I took sleeping aids every day of the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby. I knew I would be able to see the race because it would be misfortune to anyone who dared get in the way of my giganto lens. The Oaks experience the day before had proven you can stand at the rail all day long, no matter where your seat was assigned (two drunks from the infield would later drive home my point as they got by security and found us on the rail, where they asked how to get back to the infield tunnel). More than anything, I was exhausted by the week of getting up at 6:00am, and I was still feeling the ghost of the 300mm lens from Oaks day in my shoulder and arm muscles. In short, a week of Derby festival culminates with simply trying to survive through it all; but I wouldn't have missed a moment of it.

I'd brought a breezy 20's-style dress and high heels to wear for the Derby, but as I thought about the prospect of hulking around that 300mm lens the whole day again, and the fact the news said the high was 60* with a chance of rain, I opted to buy a Kentucky Derby 135 hoodie; the hoodie cost more than my dress, but it was worth it to be snug and warm the entire day while other ladies in their sun dresses and big hats ended up stealing their men's jackets to find warmth. I still got to wear my straw fedora, so I was festive enough.

When I got to Churchill Downs, my morning agenda consisted of 1. Retrieving the Hulk, as I have dubbed the 300mm, from Horse Photos (I had been told, after giving them my Oaks pictures, to "take two Tylenol and come back in the morning") and 2. Find Steve 3. Make bets

I ate at Wagner's one last time (and a little gladly it would be the last time that week-- I'd become a little sick of eating grease and fat each morning, but the tradition must live on!) and was in the restaurant when a news reporter said to a patron off-handedly, "I hope I'll have better luck later on. My horse scratched this morning."

Instantly, I was on alert. When the camera was shut off, I got the news from him that MY pick, I Want Revenge, the favorite for the Derby, had been scratched with "a foot abscess" (it later turned out to be a swelled ankle). I couldn't believe it. Just a moment before, I'd been grinning ear-to-ear at an ad in the Daily Racing Form with the profiles of a snarling I Want Revenge and Pioneerof the Nile: "Duel at the Downs." I couldn't WAIT to see the re-match.

Duel scratched. I was crushed, utterly crushed. It wasn't as bad as Zenyatta's scratch, because there were more horses in the Derby I liked, but still... my previous favorite, Quality Road, had been scratched Monday. It seemed there was no end to the last-minute disappointments. I only hoped there would be no injuries in the races that day. At least, I consoled myself, they'd been looking out in the best interest of the horse.

I made my new picks Friesan Fire, Pioneerof the Nile, and Chocolate Candy; with General Quarters, Mr. Hot Stuff, and Dunkirk as the orbiting exactas. Stupidly, I left out Musket Man, who I'd been rooting for all year. I figured he wasn't up to the caliber of horses in the Derby. Idiot me. Always root for what's in your gut, not in your head.

I entered Churchill Downs through the infield entrance. I really don't know how to explain the infield experience to a full effect. It's a little like Woodstock, but instead of legenary music, they barely get to see historic horse races. There's the same discarded trash, sandals, sleeping bags, and tents to be found in the aftermath, and the same intoxication and clouds of smoke, only it's from cheap beer, over-priced mint juleps, and cigars. Much to my chagrin, cigars are EVERYWHERE.

Herein I found Steve, the cool track regular I'd made friends with during the workouts. He'd shown me the silks of past stakes winners in one of the cafes inside the grandstands, explained some quirks of Churchill Downs (like the turf rail being pushed out to keep the rail grass nice for stakes days), and was a good handicapper. Every year, he and his Derby buddies set up camp in a corner of the infield next to the fence, where they are literally inches away from the horses during the turf races. You can find him by the little American flag his camp sticks in the fence.

It turns out, Steve placed what he called a "wheel" bet on the Derby field, which ended up paying him off pretty well. I'm not sure which sort of wheel bet he placed, but it sounds he at least broke even, which is more than I can say about my bets.

When I went to go pick up my lens, I found out another photographer had already secured it, so I was left with my old faithful Li'l Bastard. That's okay, that meant I wouldn't have such an arm ache for Derby day.

I had an aisle seat in section 120; not bad. I didn't end up using it much, though. Sadly enough, the day was pretty much an endurance test of standing at the rail and trying to break out of my haze. Churchill Downs only sells Lillies on Oaks day, and I wasn't about to touch another mint julep, so I had to sustain myself on bottled water, the Wagner's in my stomach, and some nachos for lunch.

Of interest around me in the grandstands was this little girl, she had to be about 8 years old, who kept picking winners seemingly out of no real knowledge at all. From what I was gathering, she was picking her horses based on the color of their saddle towels. It truly was a sight to see. She picked 4 winners in a row, but her streak was snapped when my boy Einstein came out to win his second Woodford Reserve in a row, the first horse to ever accomplish the feat. I was screaming for him at the top of my lungs. Cowboy Cal really put in a good fight to the end, but it was the champ who won out in the end. I was so happy for him. There's nothing to wake you up quite like a neck-and-neck battle to the wire!

Part 2: The Jaw-drop Reard 'Round the World coming tomorrow...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Best Derby summary I've read

I just read this fantastic overview on Blood-Horse's Triple Crown Talk blog. It pretty much sums up word-for-word how I felt the day of the race and afterwards. The shock, the realization about how dumb we are for overlooking Borel "The Rail," and what a good story all of this makes.

I will try to write my own day of overview for tomorrow. It's really hard to sum up the Kentucky Derby experience; I do think it's something every person should experience. There's nothing quite like it.

In other news, Holy Bull's unbeaten son, Hull, is going to the Preakness. The second jewel of the Triple Crown is looking to be a lean field, with the exception of Mine That Bird and Papa Clem. Everyone is targeting the Belmont Stakes because they want a longer layoff. Rachel Alexandra, unfortunately, is being targeted toward the Acorn Stakes, a 3-year-old filly race on the undercard of the Belmont. It will be sentimentally nice if she wins, since it's one of the Triple Tiara races, which the legendary Ruffian won, but Rachel could do so much more.

Oaks Overview

It's hard to sift through the madness that was the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. The days went by like a whirlwind, leaving drunks, high-rollers, and countless discarded tickets in its wake.

Of the two huge days of racing, the Kentucky Oaks day stands out to me as one of the best days of racing I've ever experienced. This could have something to do with my personal cloud-nine incidents, but the people around us and the pinnacle race really made it something to remember, as well.

My day began with a call from; immediately, I thought I was doing something wrong, because this is the way my mind works. I'd been uploading some of my racing photos to their site, including the best of my morning workout images from the week. It turned out, they actually liked me so much, they just wanted to give me a little push in the right direction. I ended up meeting several of the head honchos in the paddock at Churchill Downs and was bestowed with a 300mm prime lens to shoot with for the major races of the day. F-ing A!

If you're not familiar with camera lenses, a 300mm lens is akin to a bazooka. Well, that's what I call it, anyway; I've never actually held a bazooka, but can only imagine it's like this big honkin' lens. It's about two feet long and weighs around 20 pounds. Now, it's not the largest lens I've seen, but it's certainly the biggest one I've ever used. It was cumbersome, awkward, made my arm ache through the next day, and I absolutely loved it. It allowed me to zoom in to tight shots, like this picture of One Caroline breaking in the Louisville Distaff, and made it easier to spy on cool hats that were some distance away from me. That awesome picture of Rachel Alexandra with Calvin Borel giving the #1 sign in my previous post was also taken with that lens.

Carrying around a gigantic lens is a magnet for conversation. I made instant friends at the rail and wherever I walked on the grounds. Even other photographers, walking by on the track, would stop and ogle at it. It amused me that they were the ones with the press pass, and I was the one hulking around this mega lens. I felt pretty special being given the privilege to use it on such a huge day at the races.

Speaking of the races, the day didn't start out so hot. When we first arrived at the paddock, the day's scratches were announced and it was revealed my horse heroine, Zenyatta, had been scratched. Hearing that news was like a stab in the heart. I'd been looking forward to seeing her race even more than the Kentucky Derby! So it was that my Woody Allen moment would appropriately be the last time I'd probably ever see her in person on a race track. Such is my luck. Well, at least for the horses I seem to like (more on that on Saturday. ugh).

While we were in the paddock, we did get lucky on one account. As the scratches were being announced, and a huge collective groan was heard 'round the paddock when they announced Zenyatta's scratch, some un-numbered horses were being schooled right in front of us. Turns out, two of them were Kentucky Derby favorites, I Want Revenge and Chocolate Candy. Since my previous photos of Revenge had been in near-darkness, I finally got my chance to take a boatload of pictures of him. Little did I know it would be my last shot that weekend. He looked fabulous, and extremely calm. Only a couple times did he raise his head and pause to observe the calamity in the crowd. These moments, along with my Horse Photos connection later, would eventually dull the pain of not being able to see Zenyatta race.

I was disappointed in One Caroline's race. If there was anybody that would give Big Z a run for her money, I thought it would be her, but the speedy daughter of Unbridled's Song was brought down by Miss Isella, a daughter of Silver Charm. Go figure, it was Calvin Borel in the irons of the upset. Looks like she'll be going into my equibase barn now. It's good to see some Silver Charm babies making it back to Kentucky.

We were also disappointed to hear about the scratch of Justwhistledixie, who was supposed to be Rachel Alexandra's main competition in the Oaks. I'd seen her every day I'd been at the morning workouts and thought she was tuning up for a good race. Not that I thought she'd beat Rachel, but she'd at least cut into some of that 20 1/4 lengths the Oaks winner ran away by.

I couldn't belive, after a week full of rain, it didn't rain at all on Oaks day. The track was even upgraded to fast in a soggy, gray week. Truly, the sun shone for the Oaks. It was one of those magical days that leave you grinning from ear to ear. I'd been telling anyone who would listen that Rachel Alexandra was going to smoke the field in the Oaks. Surprisingly, and a little bit tragically, many of the people I told this to didn't even know who she was. You never know who you're going to see at the races. There were quite a few college-age people there who were attending just to bet and have a good time and knew next to nothing about the sport. I hope that Rachel made them fans that day.

When she came out, those in the know began to cheer. The spirit in the grandstands began to raise to a party atmosphere. We knew we were in store for a coronation. Rachel Alexandra stepped onto the hallowed grounds of Churchill Downs ready, her eyes bulging, her neck arched. She has the appearance of royalty.

The entire race was set up perfectly for her. Stalking in the second position, the lead filly didn't have a prayer when Borel loostened the reins a bit and let Rachel go. As she began to wind around the final turn and into the stretch, I remember screaming, "There she goes!" And by God, she made my words truth. She did run away with them. The crowd began to roar with every lengthening stride. It was no contest. Borel wasn't even moving on her. Rachel Alexandra was turning the most prestigious 3 year-old race for fillies into one big laugh. "Is this the best you can do?" For her, it was a glorified workout. She ripped past me, balancing my huge lens over the rail, as Borel began to wave his finger back and forth. It was a gesture that symbolized more than #1, it was almost as if to say, "I told you so."

I don't know if I'll ever see such an impressive race like that ever again. The only race I can compare it to that I've seen with my own eyes was Big Brown's Kentucky Derby, but that was an entirely different feat. Rachel won so easily, with no effort at all, by what historians are saying is the largest margin of victory ever won in the Kentucky Oaks. And she almost set a new track record. Her final time was 1:48.97, and the record is 1:48.64. Without even trying!

I know that her trainer, Hal Wiggins, doesn't believe in racing fillies against colts, and it's a shame. She could've not only won the Kentucky Derby, she has the talent to be the Triple Crown winner. There aren't nearly as many talented fillies in this crop as there was last year, and I fear Rachel will not face worthy competition until she faces Zenyatta, and that may only be in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic... on Pro-Ride. She deserves the opportunity to compete for Horse of the Year, and to do that, she needs to face the boys.

My Kentucky Oaks day ended beautifully, as well. I went back to Bardstown Road, that strip of cool shops and restaurants in Louisville, and went to a pizza place where a band named Hambone was playing live. Talk about a perfect way to end a fantastic day at the races! The garlic cheese sticks were awesome; I can't remember the name of the place, but it's got an outdoor seating area and there's a bunch of lights hanging on the front of the wooden building.

Did I mention I love Louiville?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What in the heck just happened?

This is most definitely not the scene anyone expected to see at Churchill Downs after the Kentucky Derby. A 50-1 longshot steals the Kentucky Derby, winning the race by 6 3/4 lengths (the longest margin of victory since Assault in 1946), and produces the second-largest payoff in Kentucky Derby history at $103 for a $2 bet.
I'm happy for Cool Cal, but I would be lying if I said I thought the best horse won today. What we did see is that Pioneerof the Nile is no slouch on dirt, being able to handle the slop in his first race over the surface, and that Musket Man is the real deal.
Congratulations to the winning connections!
More Derby and Oaks wrap-up to come, once home is reached and sleep is caught up on. But first, I will drive by Lexington and kidnap Curlin and ride him home to Illinois.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Alexandra the Great

I'm forcing myself to go to bed in a timely manner, so I'll make this short for now. I'm still trying to digest all that happened today.

Rachel Alexandra is a new racing legend. And I was there, leaning on the rail, witnessing history.

All hail, the newly crowned Princess of Racing!