So, what can I say about Rachel Alexandra that I haven't said before? What can I possibly add to the chorus of adulation ever since her win in the Woodward Stakes Saturday?
She is everything, and more, that I thought her to be. Prior to Saturday, I constantly proclaimed to anyone who would listen how historical her run in the race would be, regardless of whether she won. I became so practiced at listing dozens of reasons why she couldn't win that I nearly forgot to just be excited about the race. Hell, let's face it, I was worried sick. It's not that I didn't believe in her. I've just become so accustomed to having my heroes torn down when I least expect it -- I do love tragedies, mind -- that I find it hard to keep the hope alive. Secretariat, Native Dancer, Spectacular Bid, Citation, Man o'War...they all lost at least once while on their winning streaks. But my Rachel Alexandra eked out a victory. A small one, but a victory just the same. Her place in history is now guaranteed, as it should be. Books will be written. Maybe a movie made. I feel she is my generation's only superhorse, pushed to her limits and rising to the challenge. She is not simply a good or great racehorse. She is a champion, a tough champion that isn't going to be retired after two wins with a bowed tendon or some such. She is the perfect combination of speed, gameness, and physical toughness.
Despite my hatred for large crowds, I wish I could have been at Saratoga to have seen the race live. I wish I could have felt the crowd's energy swell when she entered the track, and heard the wall of noise that cheered for her. The story is that the filly got so spooked by the intense roar that she dumped Calvin. I wish I could see video of that somewhere, but really...that's just a perfect touch to her entire story. The tense dramatic moment that could be interpreted as a bad omen.
I just know Steve Asmussen's heart dropped when he saw the blistering pace being set in the first quarter mile. I can't blame the man -- I'd have been hyperventilating (I saw it on replay, so I was spared the fear of an unknown outcome). People can (and most likely will) critique Calvin all they want for this ride, but I think he is a genius. A bloody lucky genius, to be sure, but a genius all the same. That race was all set up to exhaust Rachel Alexandra with two sprinters determined to gun her early, box her in and leave her struggling to recover ground at the very end. But Calvin just beat them at their own game -- he simply outran the sprinters. It was an incredibly brave thing to do, to think you could do that and still have enough horse left over to pull out a victory. Part of it was probably blind faith, but I think you have to realize just how important his relationship is to their partnership. Working her regularly in the mornings can only give Calvin the edge when the duo is tested. There is trust there and love. And sometimes those are the only two things you need to pull off the impossible.