I used to think that horse racing was nothing more than a substitute for real gambling. I would watch but only enjoy it if I had cash riding on it. My family owned racehorses but that was long before I was in the picture so I was never bit by the racetrack bug until the summer of 2009.
I can remember sitting alone in the room watching the Preakness Pre-Show, I had money on the race so wanted to catch a little of it. I actually enjoyed the station’s coverage of the event, they documented a few of the jockeys and horses that were in the race and the stories were usually interesting and heartfelt.
That was the first time I saw Rachel Alexandra, she was beautiful. She galloped through the post parade, no sweat, no stress. She had determination in her eyes. She had a job to do and despite the whispers, she was going to do it. She seemed startled at the roar of the crowd, she was a confident lady but not comfortable with the fan fare. Calvin Borel leaned over to give her a kiss to calm her nerves and you could see her immediate response to him. She was amazing; she walked so calmly to the gate and entered with no caution. It didn’t seem to bother her that she was the only woman on the field. She had no thought of the fact that it was over 80 years since a girl won this prestigious race or that no filly or colt had won it out of the 13 hole, or that for the first time in history her Kentucky Derby winning jockey chose her over his champ.
The gates flew open and she bolted out, round the first turn in her favorite stalking position, she kept up with the boys all down the backside and helped set the pace as they rounded the final turn, then suddenly Borel asked America’s filly for more down the stretch and she would not disappoint—she did open up her lead and managed to finish first, just ahead of a charging Derby winner, Mine That Bird.
She had done it and at that moment I got it. I got the sport, the sport so rich in tradition. I understood that although it is the sport of kings, we could all enjoy it. I fell in love with the sport. The stories, good, bad and the jockeys and most of all the horses; especially that horse, and I have never missed a day since. Thanks Rachel!