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Zipse At The Track

The Rachel Diaries - Day 5 Revisited

Rachel Alexandra Woodward 615 x 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire


With the weather outside reaching ridiculous levels of snow and cold, I found myself locked in the house today. It's depressing.  Needing a pick me up, I turned to an old friend for memories always sure to put a smile on my face. Of course, I am talking about Rachel Alexandra and her magical season of 2009. One thing led to another, and I pulled up a series of articles I posted on my old blog chronicling a Rachel Alexandra specific trip to Saratoga. I thought this one from September 6, 2009 was a fun read, and I hope you do as well. Without further adieu, I give you The Rachel Diaries - Day 5 ...


Yesterday was the day. The day that Rachel Alexandra’s amazing streak of victories would come to an end. She had won her previous eight races going back to her two-year-old season in the most impressive fashion possible without actually sprouting wings. America’s heroine was in for it. Fate was conspiring in insidious ways to stop Rachel from giving the people what they wanted. Here is what I mean:

1) The race was at Saratoga. This beautiful and historic race place is not called the ‘Graveyard of Champions’ for nothing. Man o’ War was upset, his only defeat, by Upset, forever changing the American vernacular for a big favorite going down. Secretariat, riding a high like no other horse in the modern era, left Saratoga with a bad taste in his mouth, defeated by Onion. Shocking defeats are commonplace at this idyllic but lethal racetrack.

2) She was facing older horses and more specifically older males for the first time. 3-year-old fillies simply do not win classic American races against the big boys. This was the first race that Rachel looked physically smaller than most of her opponents. She is a young girl racing men.

3) A sense of overconfidence was starting to set in. There was no reason to be overconfident against the best older males East of the Mississippi, but many onlookers do not realize that anything can happen especially when very good horses are underrated. It always scares me when too many people say that something can not happen, the surest recipe for that very thing to happen.

4) The field was set and it did not seem to complement her running style. Da’ Tara was a rabbit. Past the Point has lots of speed. Cool Coal Man and It’s A Bird like to be close to the pace. All this pace against her, an uncomfortable inside post and every jockey in the race would be gunning for little miss Rachel.

5) The other horses seemed to have an affinity for the Saratoga strip. Macho Again, Bullsbay, Past the Point and Cool Coal Man had all proven to appreciate this track with their previous impressive performances. Rachel had never run here before.

6) The post parade was raucous. More than 31,000 people screamed their support for Rachel as she walked the stretch. She reacted to the screams with a bit of overzealousness that sent Calvin Borel flying off her back. Not a good sign for a racehorse who was about to be in for the race of her life. 

7) Early fractions were fast and Rachel’s pace was pressured. Da’ Tara gunned for half a mile. Past the Point pressured her from the outside, Cool Coal Man was up close on the rail. Rachel was forced to run fast all the way under constant pressure. It should have been too much for any horse to handle. The horses that did try to run with Rachel early would drop like stones finishing up the track in the last three spots.

8) The path for the rallying Macho Again and Bullsbay seemed to part like the Red Sea. With the fast early fractions softening up the speed they were poised for big rallies and they were firing their best shot. As they made their moves, they faced clear sailing with no impediments, as they pounced on Rachel.

Eight good reasons why she would be finally defeated, yet, she did it. Rachel Alexandra did it. To be there in person, within a mosh-pit of humanity and energy and emotion was surreal. My heart was pounding, my forehead was damp with sweat … I will never forget it. This race on September 5, 2009, a race that she was destined to lose, allowed Rachel Alexandra to show her true character and courageousness to the world and she did it. Rachel Alexandra did it. 



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Older Comments about The Rachel Diaries - Day 5 Revisited...

Rachel Alexandra in 2009: Fair Grounds(Louisiana), Oaklawn(Arkansas, twice), Churchill(Kentucky), Pimlico(Maryland, against the boys), Monmouth(New Jersey, against the boys), Belmont(New York, breaking the great Ruffian's record), and Saratoga(New York, against the boys). Seven tracks, six states, three times in the slop, three times against the boys, three times by the margin of nearly twenty lengths. It was a pleasure to see that wonderful run of eight races. Enjoy the replay.
LOVE this girl...she made 2009 for me-her and Z's BC Classic---the year of the gal!
I will never forget that year..you can write about it every day and I will never tire of it.We were blessed to bear witness!
I do look forward to the time when we can see all these famous broodmare's horses running next year.
OK. I'm a big POLICE music group fan. Yes, I know about Zenyatta, another retired racing broodmare. I just like reading about the horses running currently thats all.
You want to stop talking about retired from racing mares, now broodmares. Nothing wrong with the name, just reminded me of one of them.
whats wrong with this username?
check out this username^^, lol
I love Rachel just like you do . but for the love of God can we quit talking about these retired broodmares.
Boy I sure wish I had been one of the 31,000 at Saratoga that day, to see a great horse win a historic race is what racing is about to me. 2009 was a special year in racing.
It was a magnificent performance....but they gutted her to do it. She was never the same as the next season proved. She truly laid it all down on the track that last day.
Don't know when we will ever see a campaign again like Rachel in 2009!
This was a great write - I'd forgotten just how immortal she was! Thanx for reposting, Brian. :)

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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