Monday, May 18, 2009
It is not often that a horse race lives up to the hype, but the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday certainly fulfilled all the pre-race expectations. How often do you see the winner of the Kentucky Oaks hold off the winner of the Kentucky Derby in a captivating stretch drive at the Preakness? Well, the right answer is never.
Rachel Alexandra was challenged early by Big Drama and late by a charging Mine That Bird and Musket Man to win the Black-Eyed-Susans in 1:55 flat. She almost single-handedly pushed the TV ratings of the Preakness up 27% from last year, when we all thought Big Brown was the real deal. She is being talked about in the same breath with Ruffian as maybe the greatest filly runner of all time. And you know what, I think she might be deserving of the comparison.
Mine That Bird was a large part of the Preakness story also. No one thought his Kentucky Derby win was legitimate. Now, everyone thinks it is. He came rallying late from last place up the backstretch (sound familiar?) to very nearly turn himself from a 50-1 outsider to a potential Triple Crown champion. If he had won Saturday, the movie script was already being written somewhere in the Disney studios.
Calvin Borel might become a certified Hall Of Famer in his own right as a result of the last several weeks. He rides the Kentucky Oaks winner to a Secretariat-like score. He then wins his second Kentucky Derby in three years with a rail ride, matching his effort with Street Sense on Mine That Bird. He then gets off the Derby winner to ride the Oaks winner in the Preakness and gallantly holds off the Derby winner to win on the Oaks winner. Now that I think about it, I might get into the Hall Of Fame just for understanding and explaining that whole deal in a single paragraph.
So, the new question is will the filly run in the Belmont? We already know that Mine That Bird will go in the Belmont and he probably should be the favorite. After all, his Sire (Birdstone) won the Belmont and denied Smarty Jones the Triple Crown in 2004, so the distance is in the lineage. Should Rachel Alexandra go in the Belmont? Well, I am glad this is not my decision. One thing I think I can say with certainty is that Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen will do whatever is best for the horse, regardless of what the public wants them to do. If they run her, we might have a great rivalry on our hands. If they don't run her, she might put together a record-setting campaign in 2009 and already be a Classic winner.
Speaking of Classic, this might be a Classic win-win situation for all of horse racing.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!
Photo courtesy of newsday.com