FORT WORTH, Texas — She probably won't have patsies on her non-conference schedule, probably won't confine herself to picking the cherries from the low branches. No pie or cake for her, nothing easy.
Rachel Alexandra won't have a campaign that's designed just to protect her position as the top racehorse in the country, said her trainer, Steve Asmussen.
Or, some might say, she won't have a campaign like Zenyatta's, but I'll leave that debate for the moment to suggest simply that, for the remaining months of 2009, Rachel Alexandra will have a campaign that's designed to secure for her a position in history.
"The objectives for her change," Asmussen said. "We want her to be horse of the year, of course, but we don't want to campaign her just to protect her position as potential horse of the year."
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With her stunning victory last month in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, Rachel Alexandra drew clear of any rivals and opened up an advantage shimmering with overheated air in the race to be horse of the year. Like most of her races, this is starting to look like a romp.
Yes, the Mother Goose offered no real challenge, only two hapless rivals made to look like turtles. But in winning by more than 19 lengths, she ran the 11⁄8 miles in 1:46.33. Forget the hapless rivals; Rachel Alexandra's clocking was the fastest in the history of the race, a history that includes such winners as Go for Wand, Serena's Song, Lakeway, Sky Beauty and Ruffian. And even though jockey Calvin Borel took Rachel Alexandra firmly in hand through the final sixteenth of a mile, her winning time was just four lengths (four-fifths of a second) slower than Secretariat's track record.
She's performing at a level not seen by a 3-year-old filly since Silverbulletday in 1999. But Rachel Alexandra seems to reach that level each and every time she steps onto the track, and she appears to reach it easily, as if surpassing it would only require a reason or an inclination to do so.
And so what would she have to do from here to become the first 3-year-old filly since Busher in 1945 to become Eclipse Horse of the Year? Well, having already won the Preakness and five other stakes, Rachel Alexandra could probably win the horse of the year by remaining in her division and winning the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Alabama and the Gazelle.
But that's probably what she won't do. Her owner, Jess Jackson, has proved to be aggressive and sporting, keenly aware of the sport's traditions and its fans.
And so, Asmussen said, she will be nominated to virtually every upcoming race of weighty import, including the Whitney, Delaware Handicap, Go for Wand, Coaching Club American Oaks, Haskell Invitational, Alabama and Travers.
The Delaware Handicap offers a million-dollar jackpot and an opportunity to face her elders; it glistens with reward and challenge. And then she could follow with the Alabama, a traditional showcase for the top 3-year-old fillies. But the Haskell, where she would face the boys, also has that alluring combination of challenge and reward. On the other hand, because it's run two weeks after the Delaware race, the Haskell would cramp the Alabama, and the Beldame doesn't come along until October, and, just to back up and think it through it again, trying the Whitney on Aug. 8 — now that would truly be historic, and ... well, the options are many.
She could run against her elders, and she again could take on males. But she probably won't feast on cherries and pastry. That would be too easy for a filly who's probably going to be horse of the year.