Would any racing fan truly be surprised if it turns out that Rags to Riches has run her last?

They shouldnt. I know I wont be.

If thats what happens, that would be too bad. A filly who beats colts, a filly who shaves, doesnt come along in this country very often.

Maybe no one should be surprised by what happened in the Gazelle.

The filly has been trying to tell us something for the past three months, something that, when I asked Todd Pletcher a question about early one morning last month in Saratoga, it should have made me surmise something might still be amiss.

So, did you figure out what happened? I asked, following Pletcher on foot as he rode off behind a set he was sending out from his barn over to the Oklahoma track for training.

Theres nothing to figure out, he said.

Oh.

It certainly was nothing to figure out from radiographs, nothing that several pairs of examining veterinarian eyes could see, nothing that the games most dominant trainer whos won Eclipse Awards the last three years could find.

Maybe the filly cant figure it out, either. But she certainly has been telling us something these past three months.

Workouts dont abort themselves. Fevers dont spike for no reason.

Because sometimes things happen to even the most robust racehorses, especially a filly stout enough to look a classic-winning colt in the eye for the final two furlongs of a grueling marathon and outfinish him with a final quarter-mile of less than 24 seconds.

A hairline fracture of the right foreleg is not a career ending injury. With sufficient time and good care, it will heal itself completely. Rags to Riches figures to get plenty of both.

Or just maybe this case is different. Maybe theres something that technology and trained eyes cannot see, cannot figure out. All thats left to consider is the evidence.

The aborted workout, the spiked fevers. You may not be able to see it, but the body certainly was saying something.

That something manifested itself once the Belmont Stakes winner was put under pressure by a talented rival of her own sex, one that would be undefeated in six starts herself if not for falling short in two races by a total three-quarters of one length.

Rags to Riches changed leads awkwardly when challenged, over to her right leg, the one with the mushy looking ankle. But she kept trying, unable to re-seize the winning momentum.

Trained eyes that watched her in the Gazelle could only surmise one thing: She needed her first start in 98 days, physically and mentally.

As it turned out maybe she needed more time, putting more distance between her first race back after running that final quarter mile of the mile-and-a-half Belmont in under 24 seconds.

No one could see it, but she was trying to tell us something, in her training, in her stall and, ultimately, last Saturday on the racetrack.

The classy winner that she beat in the Belmont, looked like no world beater himself in his next start last month at Monmouth Park. To many, it looked like Curlin needed his race, too.

Or on Haskell day was Curlin, too, trying to tell us something?

But hes been training steadily since then for his next start, the prep that will take him back to Monmouth for a chance to regain some of his tarnished stature.

Rags to Riches will not be going to Monmouth Park, however. Her season ended in the Gazelle, completing a body of work that will carry her to a divisional title no matter what happens for the rest of this month and next.

Because you shouldnt lose a job, or a title, because of an injury, no matter what Lady Joanne and Lears Princess do.

It turned out that some of racings best practitioners, and the latest technology, couldnt figure anything out. The man who knows her best said there was nothing to figure out.

But there was. And Rags to Riches has been telling us that for the last three months.

Someday shell tell us when she wants to resume her career. Only no one should be shocked if she doesnt.