It’s a rare year in which the Woodward could determine Horse of the Year; we are lucky enough to be living through one of them now. While some have scoffed at the level of competition Rachel Alexandra (pictured yesterday in the paddock at Saratoga – courtesy of NYRA) will be facing in the race, others have continued to note how unusual a win would be – Jeremy Plonk cites Lady’s Secret and Shuvee, who each had a single victory against males in multiple starts. Bill Finley points out how impressive those horses dispatched by Rachel Alexandra have proven in their next Rachel-free outings – and it’s a strong list.
The Woodward field may not be quite as strong as the Pacific Classic field this year, but it’s still got plenty of firepower – recall that Past the Points really made Curlin work for his victory in this race last year. And Macho Again is no slouch – although you have to respect West Point’s Terry Finley’s attitude toward the horse’s participation in the race:
“How many times do you get a shot to really be part of history?” said West Point president Terry Finley, who estimates the 17 partners in Macho Again will bring about 500 friends and family members to the race. “I would hope that in 50 years people would talk about the 2009 Woodward.”
“He hasn’t really garnered a ton of attention to this point,” Finley said. “So what do you do to market a stallion? One way is to be in a race that the whole world is going to be looking at.”
I like the fact that ‘Second to Rachel Alexandra in the Woodward’ could appear in the Stallion Register at some point down the line – and that it would be a selling point. Summer Bird can use his second in the Haskell and Musket Man should feel no shame in listing his third-place finish in the Preakness.
Bullsbay has also come into his own of late – the Whitney winner has been improving against the tougher company he’s been facing recently. Asiatic Boy may not have been able to maintain his Dubai form Stateside, but he’s talented – he just seems to prefer to express that talent in second-place finishes. I’m presuming that Da’ Tara is in here as a rabbit for Cool Coal Man – I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cool Coal Man hit the board, but I think that honor will more likely go to Macho Again and Bullsbay. It’s a Bird has had ups and downs lately, but he seems more like a solid G2 contender.
Even the DRF has Rachelmania; they ran a nice article on her exercise rider, Dominic Terry. And Gary West proclaims that seeing her is ‘as close to greatness as we will see’ (a notion which my fellow Haskell attendees would agree with).
But perhaps nothing is more telling than Andrew Beyer’s take on the race – it seems rare enough for Beyer to praise a modern horse, so his words about Rachel Alexandra should not be taken lightly:
Rachel Alexandra can lock up the horse of the year title with a victory, but she can also earn an even rarer distinction. While other members of her sex have won the sport’s top honor without beating the best males, this will be the first time in the postwar era that a filly, running on dirt, will be regarded as America’s best racehorse, regardless of gender.
It almost seems unfair that she gets a weight break (for both age and sex). That’s not to say she’s unbeatable – any horse can have an off day – but here’s hoping for another decisive victory on Saturday.