Owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen announced this weekend that Rachel Alexandra will not participate in the Belmont Stakes this Saturday at Belmont Park. She was obviously exhausted after the Preakness and it was a tribute to her greatness that she won so strongly while she was out of gas and, according to Calvin Borel, did not handle the track at Pimlico well.
I know that a lot of folks will remember that another quality filly, Rags To Riches, held off the great Curlin to win the Belmont two years ago to become the first filly to win the "Test Of Champions" in over a century. I also know that a lot of folks will say that the TV coverage will be largely inconsequential with Rachel vs. Mine That Bird in the Belmont, or even just Rachel in the Belmont. I am positive that the overall attendance and handle will be slightly lower than it normally would have had Rachel been able to run. There are those who will say that Rachel Alexandra running in the Belmont would have been "what's best for the sport".
Well, in my opinion, I think you have to attach the phrase "what's best for the horse" to "what's best for the sport". A tired Rachel Alexandra running in the Belmont and possibly running badly or, heaven forbid, having something catastrophic occur would not be "what's best for the sport". I think in this case "what's best for the horse" is "what's best for the sport". In the wake of Eight Belles last year at the Derby and Barbaro three years ago at the Preakness, horse racing cannot afford to have another high-profile disaster. It is true that Rachel Alexandra winning the Belmont would have been a great story, but I believe it is a greater story that she will wait and run against fillies and her connections did the clearly right thing for her and allowed her (and them) some well-deserved time to enjoy her Preakness performance.
Tune in for more from the Belmont tomorrow from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!