Rachel basks in historic win
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A blanket of pink carnations hung over the rail in front of Rachel Alexandra's stall at the upstate New York barn of trainer Steve Asmussen this morning.
The floral swag was created specially for the superfilly prior to her history-making victory over older males in the Grade I $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
"If she lost, they didn't plan on giving them to the boy, did they?" Asmussen joked. "Did they have another one? I just want to know. We were thinking that last night. That's pressure."
As she has throughout her stellar career, Rachel Alexandra handled the demands of her celebrity and talent in style, fighting off a salty group of seasoned horses all the way around to win the Woodward by a head over late-running Macho Again.
"What a tremendous effort she put in," Asmussen said. "I'm just so proud of her and proud for her.
"That's who she is. She's different.It's impossible to measure somebody with her, and to imagine what a 3-year-old filly has done. She's not a 3-year-old filly; she's Rachel."
Only the sixth female to try older males in the Woodward, Rachel Alexandra became the first to win in the race's 56-year existence. It was her ninth consecutive victory, eighth this year, and third in 3 1/2 months over the boys.
Co-owned by Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick, Rachel Alexandra's Woodward also appears to have been an early coronation for Horse of the Year. Azeri in 2002 was the last female to earn the honor; prior to her was Lady's Secret in 1986.
"We're responsible for Rachel, and we take that extremely serious," Asmussen said. "The rest has to take care of itself. You can't worry about everybody; you worry about Rachel, and she did her job yesterday. Everybody who was there was proud of her. What an outcome."
Asmussen said Rachel Alexandra will go back to the track on Wednesday, and remain at the Oklahoma training track until next month.
"You want to keep the routine and keep her happy," Asmussen said. "She's a very physical animal. She's going to want to do something.
"She's a professional. She doesn't rest on her laurels. She puts in the work, that's what gives you so much confidence about her. She doesn't just take a day off. The thing about racing is, you've got to do it again. She seems up to the task, mentally and physically. [She] accepts it and puts in the work."
It remains unclear when or even if Rachel Alexandra will run again this year. Jackson hinted before the Woodward that he would strongly consider giving her the rest of the season off to point for a 4-year-old campaign, and echoed the same sentiment after the race.
"I can't honestly say," Jackson said. "Hal and I will have to talk about it and Steve will, of course, have to bless her coming out and what her condition is. You can't expect them to keep going all the time. You have to give them a break. We'll talk that over very seriously. I hope we can see her come out healthy, get a nice rest and give you a campaign in 2010."
Asmussen said Rachel Alexandra came out of the Woodward tired, but satisfied — much like her connections.
"She looks great. She really does," he said. "She ran hard. She's very proud of herself. Watching the DVD of the race last night, the expression on her face galloping out and coming back, I think she got a true acknowledgment of who she is."