Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Derby, Oaks and Rachel Alexandra

Posted by Brian Appleton on May 3, 2010

Calvin Borel has done it again. On Saturday May 1st Borel won the Kentucky Derby riding the rail for the third time in the last four years. Victories in 2007 aboard Street Sense, 2009 aboard long-shot Mine that Bird and now on Super Saver in 2010 instantly place Borel among the elite company of the greatest Kentucky Derby jockeys of all time.

On a track that looked like a mud slide just washed down from the mountain, Borel guided second favorite Super

Super Saver

Saver to a thrilling 2 ½ length victory in the 136th Kentucky Derby. After stalking the pace in a perfect posititon down the backstretch, Borel guided Super Saver up the rail  and burst past Noble’s Promise off the turn to seize the lead. Charging for the wire Super Saver began to gradually open up on the field while Ice Box came flying late with a terrific rally on the far outside and Paddy O’Prado surged from between horses to emerge from the pack. Down to the wire Ice Box was closing faster than any horse in the field but his amazing rally came up more than 2 lengths short of a victorious Super Saver after a nightmarish trip.

Race favorite Lookin At Lucky rallied well for sixth following the worst trip of his life in which he got jostled back to the rear of the field after breaking from the #1 hole and was the recipient of several aggressive bumping sessions. He was bashed into the fence three times before the field had gone by the wire the first time and when he finally got into gear at the top of the stretch a wall of horses provided nowhere to run. Garrett Gomez guided him inside of horses and he amazingly threaded his way through the pack and kept coming on, breaking through the field to take 6th in another amazing show of heart, courage and tenacity. Hopefully he will come back in the Preakness with a better post position and a fair trip. After watching the Derby replay multiple times I feel more than ever that this is the best three year old in the land.

Ice Box was undoubtedly the most impressive horse in the Derby this year, closing like a bolt of lightning out of nowhere with a dazzling turn of foot just like he did in the Florida Derby. After the race trainer Nick Zito expressed disappointment and hinted that he believed the best horse lost. But he added, “I have to be happy with the way he ran today.”

Super Saver is now headed to Baltimore to contest the Preakness Stakes and stake his claim at a Triple Crown attempt but something tells me this horse just isn’t good enough. He won the Derby in great style and is very talented, no doubt about that, but the wet track was his big break and he got a perfect trip from a jockey that knows Churchill Downs like the back of his hand. By the way, guess who completely left this guy off his last Derby Dozen? That’s right, I completely left out Super Saver in my final selections even though I knew Calvin Borel was riding.

In winning the Derby, Super Saver became the first Kentucky Derby champ for perennial leading trainer Todd Pletcher. The monkey is now off his back and deservingly so. After the withdrawal of his top colt Eskendereya who figured to be a heavy favorite in the Kentucky Derby, victory in the Derby must have tasted something like sweet redemption for Todd Pletcher.

Overall the Kentucky Derby proved to be a huge success this year, attracting the 6th largest attendance in history with 155,804 on hand and posting the highest TV ratings in 18 years for the NBC telecast.

The Kentucky Oaks proved to be just as much a success as the Derby with a record crowd attendance totaling  116,046 and the weather couldn’t have been better. Under blue skies, shining sun and to the roar of more than a

Blind Luck

hundred thousand cheering fans, Blind Luck prevailed in one of the most stunning Oaks victories in history.

Breaking from the gate the field of 14 fillies it was the Calvin Borel piloted Tidal Pool who was up for the lead. Behind her and glued to her side was Age of Humor with Ailalea and Evening Jewel not far behind. Going into the first turn Blind Luck was dead last. Down the backstretch the field began to bunch closer together approaching the far turn and then Blind Lucky began to roll. At the same time Evening Jewel took over the lead from Tidal Pool and began to inch away. Into the stretch they came with Blind Luck rushing up four wide, relentlessly closing the gap between her and Evening Jewel. The two fillies hit the wire together and from my vantage point it appeared Evening Jewel had the advantage. Minutes later the numbers were posted and a roar rose from the crowd as number #5, Blind Luck lit up the board.

Evening Jewel and Blind Luck have quite the rivalry going now after finishing in the exact same order by the exact same margin in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr.1) on February 10th at Santa Anita.

What are the chances of a Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra meeting after the results of the 2010 La Troienne Stakes (gr. 2)? Rachel Alexandra, making just the second start of her 4 year old year failed to win for the second consecutive time when finishing second to Unrivaled Belle.

In front of a record Kentucky Oaks day crowd at Churchill Downs Rachel Alexandra took control of the La Troienne

Unrivaled Belle

field coming off the final turn and looked poised to extend her lead at will. Entering the stretch she was in front and riding hard for the wire when Unrivaled Belle and jockey Kent Desormeaux, swinging four wide into the stretch, collared her off the turn. Showing true heart and courage, Rachel Alexandra fought back along the inside to regain the lead by a mere nose. Back and forth the two fillies fought, separated by only the bob of a nose. Charging to the wire, Unrivaled Belle inched ahead ever so slightly, desperately holding onto her slim lead. At the wire Rachel Alexandra was defeated by a nose after the most exciting stretch duel of the Churchill Downs meet to date.

What this means for her chances of meeting up with Zenyatta is anybody’s guess but, she has proved this year that no matter what is thrown her way she will not quit and that is the quality of a true champion. She did finish well ahead of Zardana who beat her last out in the New Orleans Ladies so she appears to still be improving. Now that she has lost two races Jess Jackson and Steve Assmussen should have nothing to fear facing Zenyatta. If Rachel loses again it will probably be a second place finish and losing to Zenyatta is better than losing to Zardana or Unrivaled Belle, aside from the fact that the “greater than” talk will begin.

My first trip to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks was amazing. I got some good pictures of Rachel Alexandra which I will share as soon as I get them downloaded onto my computer. Unfortunately something happened with my camera just before the Derby so I didn’t get any good pictures of the big race.

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4 Responses to “Derby, Oaks and Rachel Alexandra”

  1. Brian,

    Sounds like you had a great time. I’m happy for you and envious at the same time.

    RE: Rachel…I’d be worried about her in a dog fight. Two races she was headed, two losses. I think she’ll be attacked ferociously from now on. I really can’t see her surviving a duel with a healthy QUALITY ROAD. ZENYATTA, well, she’s always in a race of her own. She’s never had to run down the “quality” speed of a horse like ‘ROAD on a dirt track…I’m really looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup this year!

    • Thanks Rob, I had a blast!

      Rachel doesn’t seem to have the same vigor she had last year. She’s run two very good races but they are not up to par with her 2009 campaign performances, so right now I would have to agree with you, she is not ready to face/defeat either Quality Road or Zenyatta right now.

  2. Great article, Brian. (It looks like you enjoyed your first Derby!) :)

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