As I was pulling up to the gate at Stonestreet my mind was a blur. My heart went pitter-patter. And I was sweating. Sweating because it was about 98 degrees outside,yes. But sweating just the same.
Above all, I had butterflies. Lots of them.
This was meet Rachel Alexandra day. To say I am a Rachel fan, is a gross understatement. I'm border-line nuts!
I've loved Rachel since the first time I laid eyes on her. How can you not love her? She has those piercing honest eyes, a fierce broken blaze, a coat fit for a queen, and the heart of a champion. She's everything a legend should be.
For those of us that have had the honor and privilege over the past few years to experience what I call “The Rachel Effect,” it's life changing. Some people out there that believe she's just another horse. But to me, and those of you who have been similarly transfixed, she's so much more. She symbolizes what is good and right, not only with this sport, but with life as a whole. I realize I must sound like a loonatic to you, if you are among the unfortunate few who follow this sport closely, and have not fallen prey to Rachel's incredible charms. But if you too have been overcome by "The Rachel Effect," then you know excatly where I'm coming from.
The “Rachel Effect,” has had profound implications, both on and off-track. It helped introduce me to Tim Reynolds, a man I know consider one of my closest friends in the world. Our love for Rachel and her sheer brilliance brought us together, and we have now become like brothers.
In the past year, our friendship has gotten us through some of the most trying times of our lives. Without Rachel, it is very likely I never meet Tim.So it was only fitting that I spend this special day with Tim and his mom (along with my mom.)
What a wonderful experience it was.
As we walked into the facility (which is a quaint little house) where we waited to see Rachel, we were hit with memories and emotions. Stonestreet really does it right. On a table we saw a replica of the Woodlawn Vase – The trophy given out each year to the Preakness winner. Then we were given more eye candy as we were greeted with both of her Eclipse awards, as Champion 3 Year Old Filly, and Horse Of The Year in 2009. If that wasn't enough, they brought us back to the most heart stopping one of them all, The trophy for the Woodward Stakes.
They have a flat screen television that replays every race of her career, and pictures line the walls. We literally stood there and re-lived Rachel's career all over again. We remembered where we were and who we were with when she conquered her opposition in race after race in 2009. They actually have 4 of her horse shoes framed and these special shoes are filled with dirt from the track on which she gave all of herself. By this time we were hyped out of our minds, our emotions were running high, and we were re-living all those wonderful experiences.
After what seemed like forever (but in actuality was only 10 minutes) we were taken back in groups of 9. One thing I noticed as I stepped out of the shuttle, everyone came with someone, whether it be two people together or four, everyone had someone to share it with. I observed as each person went up to spend a moment with Rachel, old and young alike. Very diverse in age,gender, and ethnicity. I listened as people were talking, there were two ladies from Poland,a few people from Colorado, and South Dakota. I was taken back to see how far people traveled to see this incredible horse.
It became clear that Tim and I were not the only ones who succumbed to “The Rachel Effect.”
As each person went up to see Rachel, to kiss her and touch her, you could see what she meant to them. Each person would whisper something to her and they knew she heard them.
This was better then Christmas, it gave us a child-like feeling. We were meeting our hero, the one who gave us some much on the race track. I watched as Tim went up and I saw what I already knew, that deep and loving passion for her. I watched as my mom and Tim's mom spent time with Rachel, these two are not die-hard race fans, but they were taken back by her presence and beauty.
Everyone got enough time to enjoy her, and in actuality, it was more then I expected.There were thousands of pictures taken, hundreds of stories told. This really was an experience of a lifetime. I sat back and watched each person's face and it showed the joy she has given them.
When my turn came to spend some time with Rachel, I took full advantage of it. Several kisses, many thank you's, some more Schmoochy Poo's. She had stolen my heart from day one and given me so much. Because of her I was introduced to so many great people and beacause of her it lit a passion in me to write again, which eventually brought me to HRN, yet another manifestation of “The Rachel Effect.”
Finally, our time was up. It seemed so short, but it turned out to be a full 45 minutes. Each person got a moment to say good-bye to Rachel, give her a kiss and wish her the best of luck on her breeding career.
After saying good-bye to our champion, we were taken back to the place this all started, that wonderful little house that Stonestreet uses as there waiting facility. Strangely enough, as we got back there, none of us left, we all started talking and getting to know each other. I listened and heard some amazing stories how these people met each other. How their lives had changed since The Rachel Effect and how they miss her on the race track. Of course everyone buzzed about the future of the so-called “Super Foal.”
As we all began to file out and head back to reality, Stonestreet left us with a gift, which was incredible since they already let us spend time with one of the greatest fillies ever! As I got into my car, I wondered where I would be if there were no Rachel Alexandra. I definitely would of missed out on some incredible people and some amazing friends, and I certainly wouldn't be expressing myself through the written word.
“The Rachel Effect”... It is truly profound.
Thank you Rachel Alexandra!