By: T.R. Slyder, TRSlyder@yahoo.com, AndyDisco on Twitter
Rachel Alexandra won an AWESOME race in the Woodward today, narrowly holding off a charging Macho Again. That was an uber-doozie for the ages. Great race by Rachel, great ride by jockey Calving Borel and a fabulous call by announcer Tom Durkin. My brother was at the race and said that was the loudest he has ever heard Saratoga.
Here's Rachel Alexandra's 2009 Woodward on YouTube, it was post just a minute ago
Some random notes:
- To show what an impressive horse Rachel is, watch how quickly Da Tara runs in reverse at the far turn. Staying a length behind Rachel Alexandra for a half-mile proved too taxing for the 2008 Belmont winner and he just stopped. (I hope that wasn't caused by injury. If he did get injured I take that back, but I haven't heard that he was injured during the race yet, so I am assuming he was sound).
-Rachel turned away Da' Tara, Past the Point, Bullsbay and Macho Again. All four had their shot, took their best shot, and got dirt kicked in their face.
-At the 1:52 mark I am 100% positive that Macho Again will run her down. Despite knowing the outcome of the race, and having watched it 4 or 5 times already, I keep expecting Macho Again to pass her (Psychology scholars will note well that Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, and that has served as the general functional definition ever since).
- That race had to have been ridiculously grueling for her. I hope she comes out of it in good shape. Not many three year olds go 8-for-8.
- Great job Breeders' Cup. Yes, I'm still harping on it. Synthetic surface TWO YEARS IN A ROW. You reap what you sow, get what you deserve, get back what you put in, etc. And what you deserve is not having Rachel Alexandra. You earned getting your nose turned up in your direction. (Editor's note: Mmmm, those Hater-Tots were delicious)
-You really can't overetate how good of a filly she is. It's not like she just broke her maiden and won by 15 lengths, then after getting all excited about it someone said, "Ok calm down, she still has a lot to prove. We can't call her the second coming of Ruffian just yet." Well, that isn't the case with Rachel Alexandra. She is the second coming of Ruffian and as long as you don't say she is clearly better than Ruffian you aren't getting carried away. It is ok to go nuts over here.
- She also bucked Calvin Borel off before the race. I just thought I'd add that. Usually that isn't a great omen, and I am pretty sure she'd never done that before.
-I will say it again. GREAT call by Tom Durkin. I'm 29 years old. The odds of me liking another announcer of any sport more than I like Durkin by the time can be measured only in scientific notation. 10 X 5^1-18th. I love Durkin, and this call ranks among his very best (I just updated my salute of him) He conveyed the heightened stakes with his voice alone. It just sounded different than a maiden claiming race- as it should have. It was a great call. He knew that regardless of the outcome, it was Rachel's race- she was the story, and he called the race as such. Lesser announcers would have pretended it was just another race. You could hear the release of his full theater-major gusto. I know for a fact that he had a lot stored up for when Smarty Jones was going to win the Belmont. Unfortunately, Durking had to tuck that away, but it sounded liek he culled from that reserve to call Rachel's historic race and Tom was among the people I was most happy for. He let loose and it sounded like it felt it great. It felt great hearing it, anyway. He's kinda the male announcing equivalent of Rachel Alexandra, I guess.
-I'm eager to see what her Beyer Speed Figure will be. That race, though visually stunning and fast early on, wasn't super fast as far as Grade 1 races go. I'm guessing she'll be in the 105-109 range, but that's just a guess based on how the Forego was raced before it, and the time for the Whitney this year.
- With Rachel winning by only a head, every single bit of ground-saving helped, another advantage of being a speed horse, drawing near the rail and being ridden by Calvin Bo-rail. If you're following Macho Again (in the yellow coming from off the picture on the far turn) it looks like he's a sure winner at the 1:33 mark. Then turning for home you see Rachel and Calvin on the rail, and Macho Again 3 wide. It's obvious that Macho Again ran substantially farther than Rachel Alexandra did. Macho Again's jockey, Robby Albarado, isn't to blame, he is an accomplished jockey and his horse has a late-running style and they are often caught going 5-wide around the far turn, but that's where the race was both won and lost.
I just saw Robby said this (here), "I never thought I had her," he said. "The only thing I was hoping for was that she'd tire. Champions show different dimensions. She's in a league of her own. Older horses, her own age, it doesn't matter. No matter what they throw at her, she'll beat them." That was classy of him. I also didn't expect it, not because he is not classy, but because I was positive on two different occasions that his horse would win, yet he was positive zero times. I guess its time to admit that that awesome jockey (who jockey'd Curlin among others) knows more about horse racing than I do.
-If a high school senior asked Rachel Alexandra to his senior prom and her handlers accepted, wouldn't that kid be guaranteed an internship at the Daily Racing Form?
-That race kicked hiney. She really is the Rachel Alexandra of horse racing.
Now I'm just being (more) self indulgent/autobiographical. It's totally fine if you don't read this portion.
I had to work until just before the start of the race, and I wasn't by an OTB. I don't get TVG or HRTV. Luckily I have a-hole/very good friends. My friend Joe sent me the following texts, "Do you get the Woodward on TV?" He read my blog and tweets, so he knows how big of a deal this race is, and how much I care about it. So I reply with, "No I don't", I assume he is interested in watching it, so I instruct him on how to watch the race replay on NYRA.com shortly after the race, or where to find a live radio feed. He smugly replies with, "Too bad, I get it on live TV". In so many words I reply with something to the effect of, "Though you are a gentleman, you do not deserve this honor.". Since I know I have no chance of watching it live, I ask him to place his phone by the speaker of his television during the race. He's a good friend and obliges. I sat at home watching my racing form listening to Tom Durkin's call. That race was every single thing I hoped it would be. I know that Durkin calls the race like a tv announcer (meaning for those watching on-track, as opposed to those listening at home without sound, a la radio) but I was still slightly misled. I thought Da' Tara still held the lead throughout, for one. That turned out to be irrelevant once Rachel ran her down.
But the tension I felt listening to Tom Durkin (via my friend Joe) will be something I can never share with anyone. Durkin did a tremendous job calling the race, but I still somehow wanted more. When he said it will be "a dramatic stretch drive awaits in the Woodward Stakes" I gripped my chair tighter. I hoped he meant it would be easy for Rachel, but dramatic....I don't know why....cuz it was historic? I didn't want a close race...I knew Rachel had the lead and was waiting to hear until she was overtaken, and she wasn't...Then I heard Durkin- who has never mislead me- say it will be "desperately close" and my heart sank. I knew he wanted Rachel to win and if he said it would be "desperately close" it would be that close. I also thought that it was his way of breaking the news softly to us. He'd be too kind to say, "Macho Again runs down Rachel", or "Macho Again inhales a tiring Rachel". I appreciated the passive voice and euphemism and was prepared my ears for the worst. I knew they'd hit the wire at the same time, and when Durkin says it will be close, it IS close....I know his calls. He says it's close.......he pauses........he announces the winner. That is what he does.
'It's going to be desperately close...here's the wire!!!" *************95 years of my life. seriously. 95 years. ***************** That was bad. Tom is the best. If he knew Rachel would win he would have said it. But the bravado in his voice as the super-talented Macho Again started his stride hurt my confidence. I knew he inched closer and closer, and since Tom didn't say Rachel kicked him away I feared the worst. They hit the wire together. My heart was residing behind my navel. The hit the wire together. The next name he says is the winner- that's just his way. PLEASE TOM. Just. Say. "Rachel". HOW MUCH LONGER CAN THIS GO ON!!! YOU ARE MURDERING MY SOUL!!! (it was half a second)
*room starts spinning*
I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.