Rachel Alexandra is a currently active American Thoroughbred filly racehorse and the 2009 Horse of the Year winner. She came to fame on May 16, 2009 when she became the first filly in 85 years (since Nellie Morse in 1924) to win the Preakness Stakes. She has won races in six states (KY, LA, AR, MD, NY, and NJ.), on 8 different tracks, against fillies and top colts and older horses, achieving a long string of consecutive wins including many Grade 1 stakes races. She has broken or come close to the stakes and/or track records in many of her races, as well as broken records for largest winning margins.
Rachel Alexandra is a bay filly with a distinctive upside-down-exclamation-point-shaped white blaze on her nose. She is considered quite tall for a filly and stands an estimated 16 hands at the withers. Her preferred style of running is generally that of a front runner (running on the lead) or a stalker (running close to the lead) however, she can also come off of the pace (Mother Goose Stakes).
Rachel Alexandra was bred and originally owned by Dolphus Morrison who named her after his granddaughter. Before she became successful as a racehorse, Dolphus Morrison sold part interest in her to Michael Lauffer. Her initial trainer was Hal Wiggins, Morrison's regular trainer, who trained her up until the Kentucky Oaks 2009. After her Kentucky Oaks victory, Rachel Alexandra was sold for an undisclosed amount (rumored to be in excess of $10 million) to Stonestreet Stables & Harold T. McCormick, with billionaire Jess Jackson of Kendall Jackson Winery holding controlling interest. Her current trainer is Steve Asmussen, and her regular jockey is Calvin Borel.
Breeding and Early Life
Rachel Alexandra is sired by Medaglia d'Oro out of the mare Lotta Kim, by Roar.
Medaglia d'Oro (foaled 1999, Kentucky) was a successful multiple Grade 1 Stakes winner and earned $5,754,720 in his racing career spanning to 5 years old. His notable performances included wins in the 2002 Travers Stakes, 2003 Whitney Handicap, and 2004 Donn Handicap, as well as second place finishes in the 2002 Belmont Stakes, Breeders' Cup Classic (twice, in 2002 and 2003), and 2004 Dubai World Cup. On the track, Medaglia d'Oro was a frontrunner known for his consistency and tenacity. Medaglia d'Oro was retired from racing in 2004 and entered to stud. Rachel Alexandra is a member of Medaglia d'Oro's extremely successful first crop to race, which also includes major stakes winners Gabby's Golden Gal (Acorn Stakes) and Payton d'Oro (Black-Eyed Susan Stakes). In 2009, Medaglia d'Oro was the leading second-crop sire in North America, with over $7.7 million in 2009 progeny earnings.
Morrison bred and raced Rachel Alexandra's dam, Lotta Kim (foaled 2001, Kentucky), a moderately successful racehorse whose biggest win came in the Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course. Soon after that race, she was injured in a training accident and retired. Rachel Alexandra is Lotta Kim's first and only surviving foal; Lotta Kim's 2007 colt by Empire Maker succumbed to a rare neurological disorder known as Wobbler disease, while her 2008 foal was born prematurely and died. Morrison did not breed Lotta Kim in 2009, but plans to return her to Medaglia d'Oro next year, having declined numerous offers to sell the mare in the wake of Rachel Alexandra's success, and then to Darley Stud in June 2009.
Rachel Alexandra had a different personality than her dam. "Lotta Kim had a terrible disposition," Wiggins recalled. "She wasn't really mean, but plumb ornery. She made it a project every time you wanted to do something with her. Completely the opposite from Rachel Alexandra. I don't know what you could do to get Rachel Alexandra excited, except go into the starting gate."
Through Lotta Kim, Rachel Alexandra is a fourth-generation descendant of superstud Mr. Prospector. Another superstud, Northern Dancer, is in both sides of her pedigree.
Breeding and Early Training
Morrison stated that he bred Lotta Kim to Medaglia d'Oro because he was impressed with the stallion's physical presence and compatibility with the mare:
"I bred Lotta Kim as a good physical fit for Medaglia d'Oro. He was, in my opinion at that time, the best thing I'd ever seen. He was an awesome thing, physically. Great balance, great racehorse, and obviously with the way he could finish a race, he had a great airway. That's one thing I've always looked for in broodmares, horses that can finish two turns effectively. Some sprinters are okay, but I prefer the good airway. That's what makes a good racehorse, along with the rest of the physical machine."
According to Morrison, Rachel Alexandra looked "a little raw-boned and a little scruffy" as a foal. Morrison rarely sells the first couple of foals out of his mares, but he almost made an exception with Rachel Alexandra, entering her in the 2006 Keeneland November Sale as a weanling. When X-rays revealed a "minor development problem" - he scratched her, convinced she wouldn't bring the $125,000 he thought she was worth.
In August 2007 Morrison sent Rachel Alexandra to Diamond D Ranch in Lone Oak, Texas, where Jimmy (Scooter) Dodwell broke her in. In November of that year Morrison called Dodwell and asked if Rachel was ready to be entered in a Florida sale. Dodwell wasn't so sure. Rachel Alexandra was one of the best young horses he had seen. "She had a ton of speed, with a long stride, and [I thought] she might be able to run forever," recalls Dodwell. "I stuck my neck out and told Mr. Morrison, 'You might want to hang onto this one.'"
Rachel Alexandra's original Jockey was Brian Hernandez, Jr, who rode Rachel Alexandra to two wins in five starts. But by chance, Wiggins had used Calvin Borel to work Rachel and considered a change. Borel first rode Rachel Alexandra in the 11/29/2008 Golden Rod Stakes (Grade II) to a 4 ¾ length victory, setting a stakes record for time. Since that race, Rachel Alexandra has been on a winning streak with Calvin Borel on the mount, as well as broken several stakes records for time and winning margin. One of the secrets to success, according to Calvin is that he just lets Rachel Alexandra do her thing. Borel said he's learned not to hold back Rachel Alexandra, even if she wants to run the first quarter-mile in a fast 22 seconds or the half-mile in 44. "I don't fight her ever since I've been on her," he said. "The first day I learned that." Since Borel took Rachel Alexandra's mount, she won 9 races in a row before losing in her 4-Year-Old debut by half a length.
2009 Racing Campaign Highlights
2009 Fantasy Stakes
Following dominating wins in the Martha Washington Stakes and Fair Grounds Oaks, Rachel Alexandra stepped into the Oaklawn Park starting gate as the 1-10 favorite in the Fantasy Stakes and did not disappoint, leading wire-to-wire in the 1 1/16 mile race and winning by 8 3/4 lengths finishing with a final time of 1:43.35. A minus win pool of $3,382 and minus place pool of $227,722 resulted, with no show wagering offered for the 5 horse field.
2009 Kentucky Oaks
Shortly after her Oaks victory, it was announced that Rachel Alexandra was sold to Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables and Harold T. McCormick. ESPN reported that she would be transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen. Before this, she was not expected to run against colts, but with her change of ownership came a change of plans. Jess Jackson, owner of Curlin, paid the US$100,000 supplemental fee which allowed her to race in the Preakness Stakes.
2009 Preakness Stakes
Rachel Alexandra was the first filly to win the Preakness since 1924. Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird made a late charge, and placed 2nd in the Preakness Stakes of $1.1 million dollars. Rachel Alexandra became the first horse to win from the 13th post position. She is also the first Kentucky Oaks winner to both contest and win the race.
2009 Mother Goose Stakes
On June 27, 2009, Rachel Alexandra ran the $300,000 Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park, with Calvin Borel as jockey. Facing only two other rivals, she was sent off the 1-20 favorite and won the race by 19 1/4 lengths, breaking the stakes record with a time of 1:46:33 on a track listed as fast. She also broke the stakes record margin of victory of 13 1/2 lengths set by great Ruffian in 1975. Despite being eased in the stretch her time was less than a second slower than Secretariat's 1973 track record of 1:45 2/5 in the inaugural Marlboro Cup Sept. 15, 1973. A minus win pool of $18,698 resulted, with no place or show wagering offered.
2009 Haskell Stakes
On August 2, 2009, Rachel Alexandra ran the (bumped up from $1 mil purse of) $1.25 million Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park at a distance of 1 1/8 mi. Toting 117-lbs she won by 6 lengths in a time of 1:47.21 on a listed sloppy track which was just 0.21 seconds off the stakes record and 0.41 seconds off the track record. This impressive speed on a very sloppy track gave her a phenomenal Beyer Speed Figure rating of 116. This is the highest Beyer Speed Figure of any horse in North America in 2009. Despite heavy rains the track enjoyed a large attendance with 37,090 people at Monmouth. In the 42 runnings of the Haskell fillies have won just twice: Serena's Song in 1995 and now Rachel Alexandra.
2009 Woodward Stakes
On September 5, 2009, Rachel Alexandra ran the (bumped up from $500,000 purse of) $750,000 Grade 1 Woodward Stakes against older male horses at Saratoga Race Course. For the Woodward she carried 118 pounds compared to the 126 for the seven males. By the time Rachel ran this race, she had ran a grueling total of eleven races within the past 12 months and had been laying down for lengthy periods of time in her stall. By her owner's reports, she was not feeling her best that day, and bucked off her jockey Calvin Borel just 6 minutes before post time. Usually easy to rate, Rachel Alexandra surprised everyone and worried her trainer by jumping out of the gates in front to set a blistering 22.85 opening quarter. In the stretch, she held off a run from the late-closing Macho Again and finished the Woodward Stakes in a time of 1:48.29, winning by a head. Only five other fillies have ever attempted to run in this race, and only two others came in the money: Summer Guest finished third in 1972, and Lady's Secret finished 2nd in 1986. Rachel Alexandra was the only filly or mare ever to win the Woodward Stakes. She also was the first 3-year-old filly to win a grade I route dirt race against older males in New York since since Lady Primrose won the Manhattan in 1887. This increased Rachel Alexandra's winning streak to 9 in a row.
2010 Racing Campaign Highlights
2010 New Orleans Ladies Stakes
On March 13, 2010, following a 6 month break from competition, Rachel Alexandra entered her first race as a 4-year-old, the inaugural running of the 1 1/16 mile $200,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course. Sent off 1-20 favorite for the second time of her career, Rachel Alexandra finished second to the six year old mare Zardana by three-quarters of a length. Rachel toted top weight of 123 pounds, with Zardana at 121 pounds, and the rest of the field at 117 pounds. It was 11 1/2 lengths back to show finisher, Unforgotten, a 6-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet. Zardana achieved a career best speed figure of 101 in that race. Even though Rachel lost, her Beyer Speed figure was an impressive 100.
2010 La Troienne
Making her second start on April 30, 2010, Rachel Alexandra finished second by a head to the Rampart Stakes winner, Unrivaled Belle in the Grade II La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs. Rachel was carrying the top weight of 124 lbs and was giving 4 lbs or more to the rest of the field. Although she lost, Rachel Alexandra's finishing time was a little over a second away from the Churchill Downs track record for that distance. That put her (and Unrivaled Belle's) Beyer Speed Figure at 103. This was the career best speed figure for Unrivaled Belle.
2010 Fleur de Lis Handicap
On June 12, 2010, as the 1-9 favorite in a 5 horse field, Rachel Alexandra won the 1-1/8 mile $214,000 Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap in its 36th running at Churchill Downs. Carrying the top weight of 124 lbs, giving 7 to 11 lbs to the rest of the field, Rachel without any significant urging by Calvin she put away her rivals at the head of the stretch to win by 10 1/2 lengths. Her finishing time of 1:48.78 was a fraction faster than her Kentucky Oaks victory last year although still shy by a second and a half from the track record. She was assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 109, the highest for any filly or mare thus far this year.
2010 Lady's Secret Stakes
Her fourth start in 2010 was announced Thursday July 1, 2010 - a day after she arrived at Saratoga for the summer - would be at Monmouth Park Saturday, July 24, in the Ladys Secret Stakes at a mile and an eighth. The officials at Monmouth Park bumped the purse of the ungraded race from $150,000 to $400,000, contingent upon her starting in the race. The Monmouth race is not to be confused with the Oak Tree/Santa Anita race of the same name, Lady's Secret Stakes, which has since been renamed for 2010 the Zenyatta Stakes. Rachel Alexandra won the Lady's Secret by three lengths.
Honors and Awards
2009 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly
On January 18, 2010, Rachel Alexandra won the Eclipse Award for Champion Three-Year-Old Filly. Rachel Alexandra received unanimous voting with all 232 ballots cast for her in the Champion Three-Year-Old Filly.
2009 Horse of the Year
On January 18, 2010, Rachel Alexandra won the most prestigious of the Eclipse Awards, the Horse of the Year award, with 130 votes beating out rival mare Zenyatta who had 99 votes. Never in history had there been two females battling it out for the Horse of the Year, but in 2009 Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both had achieved unprecedented milestones. In one of the most controversial Eclipse Horse of the Year voting in years, two voters abstained from voting, and one ballot was voided because the voter tried to split his vote between the two horses. All three voting blocs went for Rachel Alexandra: The National Turf Writers Association preferred Rachel Alexandra by 71 votes to 51, the Daily Racing Form went for Rachel Alexandra by a 31-23 margin, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (which includes racing secretaries and members of Equibase) had Rachel Alexandra by 28-25. Rachel Alexandra was the only 3 year old filly ever to receive the Eclipse Horse of the Year Award since the Eclipse Awards began in 1971. (Azeri 2002, Lady's Secret 1986, and All Along 1983 - all were 4 years old when they won Eclipse Horse of the Year). Although before the Eclipse Awards, there were comparable awards called the Horse of the Year in which there were other 3 year old fillies who won (Busher, Twilight Tear, Regret, Beldame), and one 2 year old filly (Moccasin).