As promised

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.

15 thoughts on “As promised

  1. Teresa . . A soupcon of humble pie is the perfect seasoning for your generally superb blog . . which has become daily nourishment for me.As to sex/gender, etc. . . I fear you’ll be a voice in the wilderness, but keep at it. By the way . . what about “good of”, as in “It wasn’t that good of a race”?

  2. “winning the Triple Tiara was as meaningful as winning the Preakness”I agree with this for racing fans such as ourselves, however for the general public, who we’d like to get more interested in racing, I would disagree. Apparently RA was the lead story on Sports Center this morning (according to Twitter, I wouldn’t know). I doubt that had she won the Triple Tiara that this would be case. I’m not denigrating the TT, just pointing out that there is a small but important distinction to make about “meaningful-ness”.

  3. Picking horses and publicly stating your opinions about the ability of horses is always the quickest way to the humble pie line at the desert store. Mine That Bird showed alot of guts two races in a row. His calm in the paddock and in the gate is really something special. Isn’t racing grand? Good Stuff Brooklyn!

  4. I remember what a small crowd we had when Rags to Riches beat Curlin. It was only around 43,000 or so, but it was one of the most thilling races I can remember. I guess R2R didn’t attrack the pop culture media that Rachel has, but that group of 3YO’s was a very distinguished group. With every race of Rachel’s I keep thinking about Ruffian. That has such a tragic ending, so let’s hope this story just keeps getting better and better.

  5. Nice post Teresa, and I’m sure there are a lot of other folks who wouldn’t be so gracious about being wrong. You are to be commended.

  6. Thanks, folks! Mitch, Turk, Elizabeth: Thanks for the nice words to accompany this “breakfast” I’ve made for myself.Dana: completely agree–I wish that more people cared about some of the more historical esoterica, but it’s not as if I think that will ever actually happen. BSaint: You are right about Rags–she never did get the public imagination, but it’s interesting: I was far more thrilled by her win than I was by Rachel Alexandra’s. I can’t figure out why. No arguing, though, that Rachel has zoomed to the public consciousness. Will be interesting to see how who–both human and equine–shows up at the Belmont.

  7. I’m willing to bet that when people become more interested in racing, that is interested enough to take it upon themselves to learn more, that they WILL begin to care about the historical significance of the “off the beaten mainstream path” races.

  8. I was wrong about Mine That Bird also. I wrote “Fluke with a capital F” in one of the forum threads. And the only way he would validate his Derby win will be with another strong showing.Mine That Bird did just that in the Preakness and if Big Drama hadn’t stumbled at the gate,perhaps he would have been more of a force on the front, softening up Rachel. But on the backside Johnny Velazquez was looking in the rear view mirror and I knew the gal was going to be tough to wear down. But what a race! I’m just happy that this was a cleanly run race compared to Derby 2009. Pioneer of the Nile, Friesan Fire, and Papa Clem all took a step backwards in their form. I just hope they get their rest phase and they can do well later this year. No matter, the Belmont Stakes should still be a very interesting with Charitable Man, Imperial Council, Dunkirk, Chocolate Candy, etc. Bring it on !!

  9. Teresa, I too was much more excited by Rags to Riches run in the Belmont, but I suspect it was it seemed that Rags was being pointed to the Belmont, whereas Rachel was sent the the Preakness only after a change in ownership.

  10. Humble Pie, eh? I’ve been making a fresh batch every Sunday morning based on my race analysis. :)Sadly I think this win really hurts the Belmont, as it’s highly unlikely she runs back. And to be honest (and I understand it’s to the detriment of the industry) I hope she DOESN’T run in the Belmont. Sure, she could probably gut out another win, but it would be just so over the top and asking so much of the filly that you can’t imagine she would be anywhere close to fresh for the rest of the year. Let’s be honest, the Belmont isn’t that big of a deal (especially if you’ve already won the Preakness) and there will be far bigger showdowns in far bigger races against far better horses later this summer/fall. Personally I’d like to see a fresh and fit R.A. for those races, not one that has been used up by running three times in a five week (and one day) span.And with no Triple Crown on the line Belmont will be pretty empty. Like Brooklyn said perfectly, they got only 43k for Rags To Riches, so it’s not too likely they would get that many more for this one. And I know there were more than one factor at play in the Preakness, but attendance was down about 50k from last year. That’s stagering and quite concerning.

  11. Brian,I was at Pimlico, and can say almost certainly that the reason for the attendance drop was the alcohol ban. Remember that the handle was up 18% from last year, so those college kids in the infield that didn’t show up weren’t exactly horse fans anyway. They were only there to drink.

  12. Rich, that’s basically what I was refering too. And thankfully the handle was up because you are right-on in that they were only there to drink. Which kind of tells us where racing stands in this day and age…Sadly, the game isn’t getting the “average Joe” unless they provide some other form of entertainment (in this case a party type atmosphere).Hopefully NYRA will be able to conjur up some interest and drawupon the beauty of Belmont to get some people who normally wouldn’t go to come this year. It’s such a beautiful place and such a great day of racing that you would love to think it will be well supported this year.

  13. I know I’m probably alone in this opinion: Rachel Alexandra on Sport Center may pique people’s interest temporarily and is certainly a good thing, but it will not create all those new fans racing has been seeking for…oh, it seems like decades. Smarty Jones didn’t, Funny Cide didn’t, and – I’m sorry Rachel, hon – this filly won’t, either. I don’t know what exactly makes people become real avid fans, not the bet-once-a-year fans, but I know the answer isn’t simple and I know it takes more than a feel-good story at Triple Crown time. I suspect it involves some kind of personal epiphany that hits you in the head while you’re watching a race or you’re at the track on a beautiful afternoon or you collect your first 60-cent payoff. It’s the “How long has this been going on?” moment. (And the answer is, about 350 years or so.)

  14. *sniff, sniff* Nothing would have been as good as a Mine that Bird Preakness victory. Remember how nuts everyone went over Smarty Jones seemingly humble connections? Not saying MTB’s connections are “humble” per se, but the marketed image is that he’s the horse of the little guy. Oh Calvin, why do you do these things to me?

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