If I’m wrong about all this, and if Mine That Bird somehow figures in racing for the rest of the year—or even for the next few months–I’ll be the first to admit it, right here. But until then, I’m going to have a hard time seeing this year’s Derby as anything approaching important as we head towards summer racing. –Brooklyn Backstretch, May 3rd, 2009
OK, here it is! My Sunday morning, public consumption of a little humble pie. I was wrong about Mine That Bird and I was wrong about the Derby.
I’m not going to say that I was wrong about racing Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, because I’ve never suggested that she shouldn’t race against colts, just that I wished that great fillies and their connections valued the great filly/mare races, and that winning the Triple Tiara was as meaningful as winning the Preakness. And on that topic, I will continue on my merrily anachronistic way.
But there are significant drawbacks to Rachel Alexandra’s win yesterday, and I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to be quiet about them.
The first is that, through the rest of this year, we’re going to be subject to the Rachael Rayification of orthography. How many times you have seen this filly’s name spelled “Rachael Alexandra”? Who knew that a pop culture cooking icon could change for a nation the way a classic name is spelled? Let’s get it straight: “Rachael” is the cook, and “Rachel” is the filly.
And I guess, given her brilliance, we’re also going to have to hear about whether fillies should race against their own gender, which might well drive me crazy.
Not because I think they should, or because I think they shouldn’t, but because gender plays no role in horse racing. Really. “Gender” is about cultural and sexual identity, while “sex” is about biology, genitalia. So—let’s keep having the conversation about Rachel’s next start, but let’s talk about it in terms of sex, shall we?
So, onward we go. While Charles Hayward at NYRA is on record as having been rooting for Mine That Bird to get another Triple Crown-expectant crowd out at Belmont in three weeks, there was salivating and speculating among observers out at Big Sandy yesterday: How big a crowd would Rachel Alexandra draw? What if they both—the filly and Mine That Bird—come? Who’s going to be the surprise entrant? (My answer: Ask Nick Zito.)
Yesterday’s Preakness outcome may well have been the dream scenario for racing, maybe even better than a Mine That Bird victory. The road to Belmont following Derby and Preakness wins is a well-travelled one, with a single storyline. But if Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird come to New York, this—the Derby winner as runner-up, the dominant filly win in the Preakness—this might just be a marketers’ dream come true.