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Monday, August 30, 2010

Irrelevant Rachel

When I wrote that nobody (well, almost nobody) would possibly travel to Saratoga specifically to see Rachel Alexandra, I figured, OK, at least some people would. Or, at the very least, that a fair amount of people who were already there for the Travers would stick around! But 23,347? Hell, I would have been writing I-told-ya-so at 30,000. While we'll no doubt see a NYRA press release touting the 30% attendance increase over the 18,014 who attended the day-after-Travers program last year (when a rainy Travers day held that day's crowd down to some 34,000 as opposed to the 45,000 on Saturday), don't believe the hype. On a perfect weather day as it was, Sunday's crowd was an unqualified failure.

I do feel bad for NYRA and their hard-working promotion department, who pulled out all the stops to promote the appearance. But as I've contended many times, you can't promote in a vacuum. There was no real compelling reason to come to Saratoga on Sunday - no rivalry renewed, no defense of her Woodward title, little perceived competition to face. Interest in the filly peaked and died between late last year and early this with two high-profile duckings of Zenyatta by owner Jess Jackson. She subsequently stuttered her way through a soulless campaign of four races against nondescript competition that she only dominated once (and only beat twice). Whatever drawing power she once might have had, she apparently no longer does.

As far as the race goes, Rachel apologists will try to tell us that she tired from her efforts to valiantly fight off Life At Ten. But, for one thing, who the hell is she, really? A nice mare who's learned the game at age five, but whose six race winning streak, which included two on the Big A inner track and two others against short fields, and in which she failed to Beyer over 101, was hardly the stuff of greatness. Besides, Rachel set a comfortable pace - 1:12 1/5 to the 3/4s....that as compared to the 1:10 2/5 in the Woodward last year. You can explain her final quarter of 27.12 and her stopping cold at the eighth pole - "We must have come home in 14," according to Borel - by saying that she simply can't get the mile and a quarter distance, or that, for whatever reason, she's not the same filly she was last year. But not because she was subjected to any kind of race conditions that a horse who was, not long ago, touted as the greatest filly of all time, shouldn't have easily been able to brush off.

And as to whether or not she will run again? Spare us the drama, please. If nobody really cared when she was running, nobody will certainly care whether she does or doesn't again. And Jess Jackson has nobody to blame but himself for her descent into irrelevancy.

- Afleet Express got a Beyer of 105 for his win in the Travers. LOL. Are you kidding me? It was the only two-turn dirt race of the day, and I'd love to hear an explanation of that. As far as I'm concerned, Beyer figures are meaningless anyway when horses come home as slow as they did....they should have gotten an N/A. By whatever logic was used to project that number, if Afleet Express had run merely an average Travers time by historical standards, he could be sitting with the high Beyer of the year!

- Sunday's crowd can't bode well for the remainder of the meet as far as attendance goes. Last year, NYRA had Rachel's appearance in the Woodward to promote, but there's not much about that race to get excited about this year. It is a great weekend to go up there though, with the track, and the town, usually less crowded. The fields are generally large as stables try to get one more race in, and the long-range weather forecast is favorable. Plus, there's the awesome Final Stretch Music Festival in town on Saturday and Sunday nights. So go, if you have the time and the means. I'd be there myself. If I wasn't instead going to be here.

20 Comments:

DiscreetPicks said...

So Afleet Express got a bigger Beyer figure for winning a slow Travers than Sidney's Candy did for destroying the field in the LaJolla Handicap while setting a new track record?

Oh wait, it was a Grade 1 at Saratoga. I get it now...

Btw, did anyone happen to see that comment from Steve Crist over the weekend, where he said that Rachel was facing a stronger foe in the Personal Ensign (Life at Ten) than either Rachel or Zenyatta had faced all year??? That's just wrong. There's no way Life at Ten is/was better than St. Trinians.

El Angelo said...

I don't completely buy the 105 figure, but I'll try to justify it. First Dude lost by 7 lengths and more or less ran his usual race. Afleet Again clunked up to lose by 8 1/2 lengths and also appears to have run his usual race.

First Dude's last two figures: 97, 93
Afleet Again's last two figures: 95, 94

Putting those two horses somewhere in the 92-96 range, therefore, you have to put Afleet Express and Fly Down somewhere in the 101-106 range, I think.

Handride said...

i hate beyers too, but i agree the track was getting miserably slow in the end of the day. I bet all closers in teh Travers thinking the Bias had to disappear on two turns, but it got stronger. what a sham of a show. i hate these track supers who fashion the track one way for one race one day a year. consistancy is the mark of a truly great surface, and Saratoga Saturday was not that. It was a f'ing merrygoround the whole day and when it did get tiring you still couldn't close into. Joke.

Anonymous said...

If the track was that biased, then wouldn't Miner's Reserve have wired them? It did seem as if it was playing friendly to speed. We saw three consecutive wire jobs on the dirt prior to the Travers, but all three horses were pretty logical winners. jp

Anonymous said...

Longtime Daemocrat congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has awarded thousands of dollars in college scholarships to four relatives and a top aide’s two children since 2005.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I believe you're getting stupid, if start commenting and fail to realize that the Saratoga races going 2 turns on the main track were very different from the speedway conditions on Jim Dandy day. Outside of the Jim Dandy, Quality Road couldn't win despite not being pressed early and putting up a first half mile in 48, and no one could believe it, let alone want to accept it. The time was pretty slow but, the heretofore "best horse in the country" could not handle the field, nor post a "quality timed" race. Moderate speed in the early portions of the Travers, and a lot of people were expecting that the speed that they saw in the shorter races would/could prevail. The first 2 finishers finished more than 6 lengths ahead of the rest of the field in a field made up of the best 3 year-olds in the country, minus Looking At Lucky. The time of Rachel's race was totally consistent with all the other 2 turn races that I have observed being run at the Spa this year, except for the "speedway" race in the Jim Dandy. As for the winner, Afleet Express, he was an easy winner to come up with. In a very mediocre crop of 3 year-olds this year, Afleet Express was the rapidly improving fresh horse facing off against the Derby winner and the runner-up, the Preakness runner-up, the Belmont runner-up, the Haskell 2nd and 3rd place finishers. Beyers may indeed be very subjective. Maybe it explains the fact that Afleet Express' May 22nd race was initially given a 115 Beyer, Changed a week later to 108 and, a week late to 101. Anyone who saw the race was awed by the performance. People must have started thinking about it real hard afterward, wondering how a horse could possibly improve from a previous best Beyer of 86 to a lofty 115? He came back from Florida a very, very different horse. And if you saw, and recognized what you had seen in the May 22nd race you would have been all over him in the Travers. Your banter now, trying to make sense of what you saw is just plain stupid.

Anonymous said...

You need to learn to economize your words, Mr. Know-it-all (anon 8:03).

Anonymous said...

Stupidity is a realm you have learned to feel most comfortable in (anon 9:39). I love idiots who think they know what they think they saw, and are too dumb to know that they don't have a clue. It's reassuring to know that your ego prevents from seeing things clearly.

steve in nc said...

I've been out of touch for awhile, so I must have missed the posting of the rules for this essay contest. But looking at this string of posts, the rules must have been something like this:

1) The essay must have the theme, "Why you are a moron."

2) It must make at least one totally irrelevant political point while misspelling the enemy's name.

3) It must be at least 800 words with no paragraph breaks.

Alan, you deserve better hecklers than this.

John Manley said...

With all the hullabaloo over Rachel and Zenyatta, and accompanying analyses of their positions among the greatest race fillies/mares of all time, I'd like to take this opportunity to ask if anyone shares my fondness for what I believe to be a truly forgotten mare -- SHUVEE. Mike Freeman got her to hold her form over several campaigns, punctuated by winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup, not once, but twice, and not at 10 furlongs, but at 16 furlongs. Yes, 2 miles. Twice.

I'm not saying that Shuvee was the greatest of all time, but that's a rare accomplishment that has stood the test of time and will in all likelihood remain unique for decades to come.

Anonymous said...

John

In 1973 Preston Burch called Man O War the greatest of all time. His opinion I respect. For anyone to claim Rachel as the greatest mare of all time makes me wonder who they rank 2 through 10 on their list.
RG

Figless said...

Shuvee was obviously awesome, my mom (87yo) still loves her.

I think Zenyatta could win at two miles if given the chance, I know RA could not.

When these horses are put in their historical places, twenty years down the road, if Z wins out this year and retires undefeated, will be on most folks list of ten best female thoroughbreds of all time, although some will downgrade her due to the AWT.

Rachel will be lumped with Rags to Riches or Winning Colors, very good classic winners who are not top ten worthy.

Anonymous said...

Rags to Riches -- SEVEN career starts, 5-7 lifetime with 4 grade 1 wins, one vs colts.

Winning Colors -- 8 wins, 3 seconds in 19 career starts. I believe she won twice against 3yo colts. Only won one race, an allowance after her Derby score.

Rachel Alexandra -- 13 wins in 19 career starts. Five Grade 1s, three wins against colts. Never worse than second after her career debut.

Surely we can put her well above those other fillies in the all time rankings. Top 10? Maybe. -jp

El Angelo said...

Goldikova is still the best female horse in training and has been since Zarkava retired.

alan said...

jp - I'm not going to argue with your assessment....surely, Rachel's 3 yo campaign was one for the ages. However, regarding Rags to Riches, I'd also say that Rachel never beat any horse comparable to Curlin at that stage of his career.

DiscreetPicks said...

Agree 100% with recognizing Goldikova and Zarkava, although i think it's foolish to declare any filly/mare better than Zenyatta. The lack of recognition of Europeans by the American racing media is stunning. All last year, Rachel was being declared the "best 3yo filly of all time", when in truth she may have been only the third-best in the last couple of years (the afore-mentioned Zarkava and Goldikova being the other two). And i guess Ouija Board's 3yo campaign never happened eaither...

DiscreetPicks said...

Btw, to the guy that said Afleet Express was "easy" to come up with, LOL. Yeah, real easy.

I actually did give out Afleet Express on my site, but it wasn't easy. I struggled with that race for quite a while. That doesn't mean that some people might've had a stronger opinion on Afleet Expres than i did, i'm sure a lot of people did, but to say he was an "easy" selection is just dumb. Especially after the race is over.

Btw, it's true he was an improving fresh horse facing a mediocre field, but so was Trappe Shot. So was Friend or Foe, for that matter. Just a tough race to sort out. The reason i landed on him was that i thought he had a disadvantageous trip in the Jim Dandy (where i picked him also), and it looked like he found his best stride late in that race, and was probably moving best of all late (pretty close between he and A Little Warm, i thought). I thought he'd sit a better trip here and have some definite pace to run at, and judging by his late effort in the Jim Dandy i thought he was more likely to appreciate the Travers distance than most. Incidentally, i really thought he had gotten nosed at the wire. I was pleasantly surprised when they put his number up.

alan said...

DiscreetPicks is being a little modest. That day, he also selected Forum ($10.80), and My Jen, second at 22-1 in the Victory Ride. Don't quite recall if those were his only Spa picks that day or if there was one more, but hell of a day nonetheless!

Anonymous said...

Discreet Picks, I purposely spoke to the discussion concerning Beyers being subjective as a lot of posters seemed to agree with, and also included it my discussion of Afleet Express being an easy selection. I'll remind you that his May 22nd race had an initial Beyer of 115, later reduced to 108 and finally to 101. Why? Because his previous highest Beyer was only 86? Did you ever consider that the original Beyer number, or something very close to it was the real deal, or even the 108? His Beyer should have been higher than 101. This was a very different horse. I posted 2 months ago, that he would win the Travers, and no one took me seriously. After the May 22nd race, the barn knew what it had. The goal was always the Travers. Think about it again. He went from NW2 allowance to a Grade 3, to a Grade 2, to a Grade 1, at 7 - 5, 2 - 1, 5 - 2, and 7 - 1 respectively. The barn knew what they had, whether the Beyers were recorded accurately or not. The horse was that good. If you saw his May 22nd race, it left no doubt, the ease at which he did it.

As for Trappe Shot, he got a suck up 2nd to Looking At Lucky. He was completely one paced in the stretch and was a struggle to beat First Dude. Friend or Foe? Please!!!, he was a dead horse going backwards in the stretch in Jim Dandy.

Looking At Lucky appears the standout 3 year-old, and everyone appears to be conceding it to him as of now. I suggest you wait before you crown him. You might be just a little disappointed. Don't say, that I didn't tell you.

Figless said...

Anon, excellent handicapping but you write as if AE won by ten lengths instead of a head bob after a PERFECT trip. What would you be saying if the photo went the other way, as I an many other thought it did?

He may be developing as you claim, but he is still a long way behind LAL.

Any discussion of top 3yo HAS to include Fly Down, who if not for some awful trips(rides) would have much better pp's.

Like LAL did, he needs a rider change badly. Lezcano actually got a clean trip this time, but had to go 7 wide to accomplish that feat.

Waht the trainer sees in this kid I do not understand.