Lady and The Track | September 23, 2023

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Rachel Alexandra: Royalty on the Racetrack

Rachel Alexandra; Royalty on the Racetrack: The first of a trio of leading ladies on the racetrack, Rachel Alexandra evolved from a simple darling on the dirt to the queen of it. Her relatively lengthy introduction to the track as a two-year-old set the stage for her eventual overabundance of accomplishments.

A bay filly with a prominent facial marking of an upside-down exclamation mark, Rachel Alexandra was first led to the Churchill Downs oval in May of 2008 to run against other young fillies in a 4-1/2 furlong maiden special weight event. Racing on the inside throughout, Rachel Alexandra was no menace and finished a lackluster sixth. She then seemed to put it all together to break her maiden her next time out at five furlongs, denying would-be challengers to win by a solid 1-1/4 lengths.

Trainer Hal Wiggins then decided to try Rachel Alexandra in stakes company, entering her in the six-furlong Debutante Stakes (GIII) in which she finished second by a half-length to Garden District. Rachel Alexandra then returned to the winner’s circle in an allowance over Keeneland’s all-weather track before finishing second in stakes company in the Pocahontas Stakes (GIII). Our bay heroine completed her juvenile season with a stakes record-shattering and 4-3/4-length victory in the two-turn Golden Rod Stakes (GII), laying the foundation for what would be an undefeated year in 2009.

Rachel Alexandra

The first of a trio of leading ladies on the racetrack, Rachel Alexandra evolved from a simple darling on the dirt to the queen of it. Photo:

Rachel Alexandra returned to the racetrack as a three-year-old filly with an unquenchable and obvious thirst for victory. Her first conquest came in the one-mile Martha Washington Stakes in which she won by eight lengths under wraps. The bay filly with her unmistakable striped face then laid waste to the fields in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and the Fantasy Stakes (GII), winning with only light encouragement each time by 1-3/4 lengths and 8-3/4 lengths, respectively. Regular jockey Calvin Borel responded to inquiries of his racing strategy upon the rising princess of the track with a statement that he never fought her, opting instead to let her run as she wanted.

Donning the colors of owners Dolphus C. Morrison and Michael Lauffer, Rachel Alexandra was then tasked with proving her supremacy in the 1-1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks (GI), the ultimate feat available for three-year-old fillies. As the pinnacle of her tour de force over her female cohorts, Rachel Alexandra drew off in the stretch without asking to win by a record-setting 20-1/4 lengths, the largest winning margin in the history of the Oaks. Shortly thereafter, the extraordinary filly was sold to a partnership of Stonestreet Farms and Harold T. McCormick for a rumored $10 million and was gifted to the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen.

Under different ownership and with the realization that Rachel Alexandra was truly a force to be reckoned with, her new connections took it upon themselves to engrave her dominance into the male division. Thus, she was entered in the Preakness Stakes (GI) to take on a group of colts that included the Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. Leading throughout over the Pimlico oval, Rachel Alexandra was finally forced to fully extend herself at the wire to hold off the charging Derby winner by a prevailing length.

After besting that batch of boys, Rachel Alexandra was returned to competition amongst fillies in the Mother Goose Stakes (GI) around the behemoth track of Belmont Park. Only two fillies arrived to face the emerging queen, and their trainers likely believed that they would be running for the second and third finishing spots rather than for first. Rachel Alexandra affirmed their beliefs, winning by another record-setting margin of 19-1/4 lengths while also crushing the stakes record time for the race.

Rachel Wins the Woodward

Rachel Alexandra remained in male company for the final start of her three-year-old career, the Woodward Stakes (GI), in which she would face older males. The filly did not disappoint, extending her winning streak to nine after defeating top older horse Macho Again by a determined head. Photo:

To remind the racing world of Rachel Alexandra’s dominion over male and female runners alike, connections returned their leading lady to male company in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (GI). Racing over a sloppy track, Rachel Alexandra completed the race six lengths ahead of top colt and Belmont winner Summer Bird in the fast time of 1:47.21, a mere tick off of the 1:46.80 track record set by champion Spend a Buck. Rachel Alexandra remained in male company for the final start of her three-year-old career, the Woodward Stakes (GI), in which she would face older males. The filly did not disappoint, extending her winning streak to nine after defeating top older horse Macho Again by a determined head.

When it was time to bestow the honors of Eclipse Award champions upon the top runners of the year, there was no argument as to who deserved the title of Champion Three-Year-Old Filly with Rachel Alexandra taking the crown unanimously. The accolades of Horse of the Year were a bit more contested, but Rachel Alexandra ultimately claimed that appellation too over that year’s top older female Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra’s designation as Horse of the Year was yet another monumental achievement as she was the first and is thus far the only three-year-old filly to be honored with the title since voting began in 1971.

Stonestreet Farms, always gracious to the racing industry, returned Rachel Alexandra to training for a four-year-old season. In an interesting twist, Rachel Alexandra was defeated by three-quarters of a length in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes by Zardana, a stablemate of Zenyatta. Zardana would forever afterwards be referred to as the filly who ended the winning streak of Rachel Alexandra.

Rachel Alexandra again just missed in the La Troienne Stakes (GII) to lose by a head to Unrivaled Belle. She finally returned to her original style in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII) at Churchill Downs by repelling challengers to win by 10-1/2 lengths. Shipped to Monmouth, Rachel Alexandra flew under the wire three lengths in front in the July edition of the Lady’s Secret Stakes. As her final start, the champion filly ran in the Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes, but she was unable to hold on and relinquished her lead to Persistently to lose by a length.

Rachel Alexandra was retired to Stonestreet Farms in September of 2010 to begin her career as a broodmare. She retired with a race record of 19-13-5-0 and with earnings of $3,506,730. Aside from her Eclipse Awards, Rachel Alexandra attained a multiplicity of triumphs. She was the first to win the Preakness in 85 years after Nellie Morse won in 1924, and with that victory she became the first to manage a Kentucky Oaks-Preakness double. She was only the second female to win the Haskell since Serena’s Song‘s initial victory, and she was the first filly or mare to ever win the Woodward.

As a broodmare, great things are expected from Rachel Alexandra. Her career on the racetrack certainly enhanced the success of her sire Medaglia d’Oro who threw the filly in his first crop. As a racehorse, Medaglia d’Oro won or placed in fifteen of his seventeen starts, racking up $5,754,720 in earnings after winning multiple graded stakes from ages three to five. In addition to his champion daughter Rachel Alexandra, Medaglia d’Oro has sired Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty, Grade I turf winner Mshawish, and the good older horse Lochte. 

Rachel and Jess's Dream

Thus far, Rachel Alexandra has produced a 2011 colt by fellow Horse of the Year Curlin, appropriately named Jess’s Dream in accordance with Jess Jackson’s ownership of both of the horses. Photo:

Rachel Alexandra’s dam Lotta Kim, by the good stallion Roar, was a graded stakes winner in only four starts but was retired after enduring a gaskin injury. She stems from an immediate female line of multiple stakes-winners and producers, so it was no huge surprise that she produced such an impressive runner in Rachel Alexandra. She has since produced a non-winning full sister to Rachel Alexandra, Samantha Nicole, and a 2013 unraced colt named Dolphus by Lookin At Lucky. 

Coupled with her own phenomenal success on the track, Rachel Alexandra’s bloodlines lend credence to the idea that she will see some success as a broodmare. Thus far, Rachel Alexandra has produced a 2011 colt by fellow Horse of the Year Curlin, appropriately named Jess’s Dream in accordance with Jess Jackson’s ownership of both of the horses. Jess’s Dream is the first offspring of dual Preakness winners and is currently in training towards a highly anticipated future debut. She was then bred to Bernardini in 2012 and produced a filly from that mating, but she experienced serious post-foaling issues that forced her to miss the 2013 foaling season.

Regardless of on which side racing fans stand in regards to the Rachel Alexandra/Zenyatta argument, no one can deny that the bay filly with the unique stripe on her face emblazoned a series of accomplishments on the track that are not likely to be repeated anytime soon. While racing fans still certainly miss Rachel Alexandra’s domineering presence, excitedly awaiting the arrival of her progeny is almost able to replace the absence of the imperial queen of the racetrack.

Related Links:
Zenyatta: The Nonpareil Matriarch of Racing


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