Wednesday, September 2, 2009

'Rachel' Poised to Make History in Woodward

'Rachel' Poised to Make History in Woodward
"SEE RACHEL RUN" promotional flyer from NYRA.

With her scheduled start against older males in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) Saturday, Sept. 5, Rachel Alexandra is taking a path seldom traveled by 3-year-old fillies.

According to research done by National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame historian Allan Carter, Summer Guest is the only 3-year-old filly who has competed in the Woodward, which was run for the first time in 1954. Summer Guest, trained by J. Elliott Burch and ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr., both members of the Hall of Fame, finished second to entrymate Key to the Mint in 1972, but was disqualified and placed third. The Woodward, then contested at Belmont Park, was a mile and half race. The Woodward is now run at a mile and a eighth at Saratoga.

Summer Guest also ran in the Woodward in 1973, finishing last in a field of five. In 1974, the Rokeby Stable homebred was sixth, just behind another female runner, Magazine. The only other fillies and mares that have competed in the Woodward are: Shuvee, who was fifth as a 4-year-old in 1970 and sixth at the age of 5 in 1971; Relaxing, fourth at the age of 5 in 1981; and Lady’s Secret, second as a 4-year-old during her Horse of the Year season in 1986.

Shuvee, who won two runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup against males, and Lady’s Secret, who won the Whitney (gr. I) as a 4-year-old, are members of racing’s Hall of Fame.

A victory in the Woodward would make Rachel Alexandra the first 3-year-old filly to win a grade I unrestricted route race on the dirt in New York since the system of grading races began in 1973. Carter has reviewed the history and results of every major unrestricted grade I dirt route race in New York and could confirm only one victory by a 3-year-old filly, Lady Primrose in the 1887 Manhattan, then a mile and a quarter race on dirt. In addition to the Woodward and Manhattan, the races Carter examined were: the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Whitney, the Suburban, the Metropolitan Handicap and the Brooklyn.

Rachel Alexandra is unbeaten this year, with victories over 3-year-old males in the Preakness and Haskell Invitational. She is a leading contender for the Horse of the Year award, which has not been won by a 3-year-old filly since Hall of Famers Twilight Tear and Busher received the honor in consecutive seasons more than 60 years ago.

During her Horse of the Year season in 1944, Twilight Tear compiled a record of 14-1-1 from 17 starts, with earnings of $167,000. She led all fillies and mares in earnings for the year and was second overall to Pavot. She defeated older males, including Hall of Fame member Devil Diver, in the Pimlico Special in her final start of the season.

In 1945, Busher defeated older males in the Arlington Handicap at Washington Park and the Washington Park Handicap at Washington Park. In the Washington Park Handicap, she defeated 12 others, including Hall of Famer Armed. She had a record of 10-2-1 from 13 starts that year and her purse earnings of $273,735 led the nation.

In his research, Carter found several other 3-year-old fillies with victories in stakes races, including sprints, open to both sexes, 3-years-old and up:

Miss Woodford (member of Hall of Fame) – October 17, 1883, District of Columbia Stakes, Washington D.C.; Pimlico Stakes (beat Iroquois et al.)

Beldame (member of Hall of Fame) – April 15, 1904, Carter Handicap, Aqueduct; August 20, 1904, Saratoga Handicap. (beat Africander, Caughnawaga, Major Dangerfield et al.) Saratoga Race Course; September 19, 1904, First Special Gravesend (beat Caughnawaga et al.); September 24, 1904, Second Special Gravesend (beat Broomstick, Africander et al.).

Artful (member of Hall of Fame) – August 6, 1905, Brighton Handicap (beat Beldame et al.).

Maskette (member of Hall of Fame) - October 12, 1909, Pierrepont Stakes, Jamaica.

Princess Doreen (member of Hall of Fame) - September 1, 1924, Labor Day Handicap at Hawthorne; September 13, 1924, Covington Handicap, Latonia; October 25, 1924, Falls City Handicap (then open to both sexes), Churchill Downs.

Black Maria - September 14, 1926, Twin City Handicap. Hawthorne; September 25, 1926, Aqueduct Handicap, Aqueduct; October 6, 1926, October Handicap, Jamaica.

Ta Wee (member of Hall of Fame) – August, 25, 1969, Fall Highweight Handicap, Belmont Park; November 1, 1969, Vosburgh Handicap, Aqueduct (beat Gamely, et al.).

Dahlia (member of Hall of Fame) – November 10, 1973, Washington, D.C., International Stakes, Laurel.

April Run – October 24, 1981, Turf Classic, Aqueduct.

Gold Beauty – September 10, 1982, Fall Highweight Handicap, Belmont Park.

Miesque (member of Hall of Fame) – November 21, 1987, Breeders’ Cup Mile, Hollywood Park.

Very Subtle – November 21, 1987, Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Hollywood Park.

Ridgewood Pearl – October 28, 1995, Breeders’ Cup Mile, Belmont Park.

Surfside – November 24, 2000, Clark Handicap, Churchill Downs.

Six Perfections – October 25, 2003, Breeders’ Cup Mile, Santa Anita.

Goldikova – October 25, 2008, Breeders’ Cup Mile, Santa Anita.