Sunday, August 2, 2009


The title for today's blog entry obviously refers to me, not Rachel Alexandra. She's fearless, I was skittish.

It goes back to sitting in my living room three years ago and watching what we all hoped would be Barbaro's big moment at the Preakness. My best friend and I were sitting on the sofa, we'd prepared special food, made special drinks and were just waiting for Barbaro to achieve the next milestone on his run into the history books. And then, the unthinkable. The brave and beautiful Barbaro broke down. I cannot forget seeing Edgar Prado holding onto the's burned into my memory. And the look of pain on Michael Matz's face. (Needless to say, we drank more than we ate that afternoon.) I followed all of Barbaro's updates and every time he beat the odds I thought maybe he'd get to just be a horse again. When he lost his battle after a bout of laminitis, I was heartbroken. It's of course much worse to see an animal--any animal--in pain, so I knew all to well that the Jackson's were doing what they had to do, but it was just too, too sad.

For the past three years then, I've enjoyed watching all the Triple Crown races, but I've kept it to being a handicapping test. I prided myself on not really becoming emotionally attached to any of the favorites. I was (mostly) able to see the horses for what they were , rating their past performances and competition as opposed to just falling for one of them (and usually cashing in on bets with my boyfriend!) Over the past few years I've cheered for Smarty and Funny Cide, jumped out of my seat at Belmont when Afleet Alex crossed the line as a winner, so I've had my share of great racing moments, and I'm not complaining. But it's not much of an exaggeration to say that Barbaro was like Mr. Right to a single girl. He was handsome, had a great family who loved him, a compelling personal story, and most of all, a great heart. And just like Carrie, Charlotte and even Miranda before me, I fell for Barbaro in a big way. So the fall hurt. A lot.

Since then I've followed with interest the careers of Barbaro's two full brothers, Nicanor and Lentenor, as well as another yet-to-be-named foal that they are nicknaming "babynor." Both Nicanor and Lentenor are really lovely and Nicanor seems to like the turf, or he did, until a recent bone bruise. They carry on Barbaro's legacy regally and are a joy to follow. The best news from a few months back was that their mother, LaVille Rouge, was in foal to the productive Dynaformer again, this time with a filly. A full sister to Barbaro.

All of this brings us full circle Rachel Alexandra. As much as I read the DRF and check the past performances, part of horses and racing will always be a bit of a beauty contest for me. I'm partial to bays or roans as opposed to chestnuts, so when I first caught a glimpse of Rachel Alexandra, well, I was intrigued. (I had a similar WOW moment the first time I saw Zenyatta, Einstein, Holy Bull, etc.) For all of my studied distance and careful nonchalance, she'd gotten to me. I'd fallen again.

This time the ride, or fall, has been pretty spectacular. A few days ago I commented on the level of class, sportsmanship, and competition exhibited by Tom Watson during the British Open. Today I feel just as proud to have been able to watch Rachel Alexandra win against some talented colts in The Haskell with such great style. She hasn't yet had to weather the test of time that Watson has, but I hope and trust (knock wood) that she will have the opportunity to do just that--to race against the best and show the world what she's got. She's earned that chance.

While I know in both my head and my heart that Rachel and Zenyatta--and their budding rivalry--cannot alone save horse racing, I also see what they bring to the table. Kids with signs at Monmouth (in the pouring rain for most of the day, no less) with words of encouragement for Rachel--most of them having to do with a girl beating the boys. (That's something we gals rarely get tired of!) When was the last time a large collection of fans had this sort of connection to a horse? It doesn't happen often and I can say it did my heart a large amount of good to see these kids--like I would have been at 9 or 10--falling so hard for a horse. It's a good thing...for horses, for kids, and for racing. And the heartbreak ? It's part of the deal. Great love means great loss. But it's worth it. Seeing an athlete like Barbaro or Rachel Alexandra is worth all of the anxiety, nervousness, and skittishness.

I am, therefore, thrilled to say that from my kitchen, where I was doing some dishes, I finally did have to run into the living room to see Rachel pulling away from the field, Calvin Borel perched on her like a statue. She'd proved yet again to be more than worthy to the challenges of her competitors. Like I said, I was skittish, she was fearless.

If you didn't see the race, watch it HERE. Really well written piece is HERE. Enjoy!

So let's raise a glass to our favorite horses, past and present, in appreciation for the joy and heartbreak they bring to us. Like love, it's a glorious ride. Congratulations to Rachel Alexandra, Jess Jackson and the crew of Stonestreet Stables, Steve Asmussen, and all their connections on a job well done.

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