Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Un-Like Mother, Like Daughter
At first I had an idea about writing about the exclusionary tone Mike Watchmaker took in this column about the presumption that turf writers with an Eclipse ballot didn’t take it seriously, by Watchmaker’s standards. So what if some folks wanted Rapid Redux to be Horse of the Year? That’s their choice and just because he’s not a stakes-caliber horse shouldn’t demerit the few who chose to vote for him. I’m sure they’d make an educated case. It’s that type of voice from the older guard of turf writers and handicappers I’ve found disheartening. I guess this means I'm not "reasonable." I like to think I am, but to each his own.
What should happen on January 22, 2012 at 2:40 p.m.? Rachel Alexandra delivered a 125 pound (!) colt at Stonestreet Farm in Lexington, KY. According to a press release he climbed to his feet about 90 minutes after birth and Rachel Alexandra kindly took to him.
Unlike her own mother.
Rachel Alexandra, as famously documented in this story, was orphaned by her mother Lotta Kim. When Lotta Kim dropped Rachel Alexandra she wanted nothing to do with her. The folks at Heaven Trees Farm promptly escorted a nurse mare (a nasty mare, to the humans at least) to Rachel Alexandra and the two hit it off.
“I am thrilled with the good news of Rachel's safe delivery and health of the handsome colt that resembles her. For me and my children, this colt represents Jess’ dream – to raise and race the best,” said Banke in the release. “Co-owner Hal McCormick and I look forward to watching him develop and are excited to see him carry the Stonestreet silks as his Mom and Dad did before him.”
Horse racing has a way of beating you down. Horse deaths, horse slaughter, late odds changes on the tote, uncouth training practices. Maddening though it is, January and February provide new blood. Horse racing forever renews itself, at times ad nauseum, but, at times like these, that renewal couldn’t be more welcome.
The three-year-old stakes are upon us and mares are delivering foals from our favorite champions. If Jess Jackson were alive today he’d be one happy fedora-wearing-mountain-naming-vintner. Everything he stood for in racing came down to Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.
Curlin represented a majestically campaigned three and four year old, a tribute to longevity and endurance while racing. He symbolized a global triumph, and guts (Man o’War, a game second to a Breeders’ Cup Turf champion in Red Rocks).
Rachel Alexandra was a tribute to a capitalistic coup. When told that Rachel Alexandra had the speed to wheel back two weeks later against the boys in the 2009 Preakness, Jackson wrestled her away from Dolphus Morrison to blast this filly into the stratosphere. She sparked an unprecedented debate as to who was better, her or Zenyatta (I think we can all agree who turned out to be the better race mare).
And that’s the kind of debate Jackson was all about. Whether he opined about synthetic “plastic” surfaces or held out to the last second on the projected race of a horse, this new colt shoulders the impossible burden of all his dreams and we are the lucky ones who get to watch it unfold.
Brendan O'Meara tweets.