Pricci's Saratoga Diary
For the next 40 days of New York racing, Executive Editor John Pricci will provide his insights on all things Saratoga for the 35th consecutive year in his original "Saratoga Diary." It debuted in 1977, the year Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown and Jatski was placed first in the Travers Stakes following the disqualification of Run Dusty Run. So keep up with the cold exactas, hot issues, and build your own stable of live horses, all from John's unique perspective, exclusively at

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Time Has Come to Send Rachel Home


August 29, 2010

Dear Diary,

The time has come to formally introduce Rachel Alexandra to Curlin. There is nothing else to prove. All that there was to prove was proven last year.

That proof resulted in a Horse of the Year title. That honor is hers in perpetuity.

The time for guessing what‘s next, or what‘s wrong, is over. There are no more excuses.

In three of her five starts this year, the fire that burned so intently last year was absent. That fire now is more of a slow ember.

What remains is the memory of her singularly ferocious passion to run, the kind of passion that only the great ones have.

Her disappointing defeat in today’s Personal Ensign came over the same track 51 weeks after the greatest triumph of her life, the one that earned the sport‘s highest honor.

Rachel Alexandra can win more races, but she can’t be Rachel anymore. For the pleasure she gave her connections, and her handlers, and her fans, she deserves to be just horse now.

As if Rachel Alexandra could ever be just a horse.

Her people owe her, for taking them on the kind of ride that none of them had ever experienced before, the kind of journey that few owners and horsemen ever get to experience.

So was it the solid Personal Ensign pace she set, hounded all the way by a Grade 1 winner of six consecutive races?

Was it the distance that was her undoing, a sixteenth of a mile farther than she had ever raced before?

Was it the speed duel?

Does any of this matter?

Rachel Alexandra disposed of Life At Ten, opened a 3-length advantage with an eighth of a mile to go, the same place on the racetrack where she beat back Macho Again.

That Grade 1 winner was the third older male to seriously test her in last year’s Woodward. Her courage raised the rafters. The old Spa nearly shook itself apart.

When Persistently--brilliantly prepared by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey to win a race named for the best mare McGaughey ever trained--came to her, Rachel offered nothing.

There was nothing left to give; she had given her all. Not just yesterday but on all the other yesterdays that began at Oaklawn Park last February.

Rachel’s Horse of the Year fight was gone, just as it has been for the majority of her starts at 4. It happens.

Last year Rachel Alexandra gave everything she had and it was always, always enough. Now she can’t deliver all the time anymore.

What’s the point in watching the shell of a former unbeatable champion perform? For what she’s given the sport, and her fans, and her people, she deserves more respect than that.

A repeat of what we saw on the racetrack today would be unseemly.

Of course, Rachel Alexandra could be freshened. She could return to the scene of two of her most impressive triumphs and win a Ladies Classic.

Providing that Zenyatta runs in the Classic that’s held 24 hours later.

Lovers of the game, lovers of the filly, must ask themselves now is winning another race that important? Does it add to her legend? Would not doing so prevent her from becoming a first ballot Hall of Famer?

Rachel Alexandra the three-year-old absolutely loved to run. Even while being rated, she ran with a reckless abandon, willing her way to finish ahead of everybody else.

She’ll continue to run if that what’s asked of her. That’s what Thoroughbreds do. But does anyone really believe they will see the real Rachel again?

Watching the final sixteenth of a mile of the Personal Ensign was painful for fans who remember one of the greatest three-year-old filly campaigns over waged.

Rachel Alexandra’s plaque eventually will reside in the pantheon, in a place reserved only for the greatest of the greats.

In a race that was supposed to determine her future campaign, she looked very much like a Thoroughbred that tried her heart out, but less than an immortal, which is what she is.

What was missing in the Personal Ensign was fire and intensity. What was missing was the old Rachel. We will never see that one again. The time has come.

Rachel Alexandra has done more than enough. The slate reads (19) 13-5-0. The time has come to send her home.

Written by John Pricci

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