Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Jess Jackson: WTF?

I really don't need to write all that much on the sudden retirement of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. The headline here pretty much sums up my thoughts.

Owner Jess Jackson mentions no injury in his retirement announcement for the filly. He just says she isn't quite the same horse now that she was a year ago, and it's time for her to lead a "less stressful" life.

OK, so she wasn't dominant at 4 like she was at 3. She still was never worse than second in a race this year and tried her guts out every time, just like always.

Only yesterday, Rachel Alexandra fired a bullet work on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga; 48 and change. What in the world was that work about if Jackson was thinking of shelving the filly forever? Just to prove she could still breeze 48 and change?

If the multimillion-dollar filly was 24 hours away from even possible retirement, why was her health and welfare risked by so much as a breeze?

It doesn't make sense.

It's frustrating, because I wanted to see Rachel Alexandra at the Breeders' Cup this year.

Did she fit in the Classic? Oh, hell no. Not at 10 furlongs. Not vying for the lead with Quality Road and getting overhauled at the end by the more likely winners Zenyatta and Blame -- maybe even getting passed by Fly Down, who is coming into his own and would love the pace those two set.

Did she fit in the Distaff? (Please don't make me call it "Ladies Classic.") ... Far more likely. But I'm willing to speculate right now that Jackson decided he didn't want to risk seeing her beaten by Blind Luck. Or Devil May Care. Or both.

I tweeted recently that I'd actually like to see Rachel Alexandra go against males again at the Breeders' Cup. Rachel Alexandra's early speed and doubtless guts could be a blast to watch in the dirt mile, or the Breeders' Cup Sprint, win or lose. And losing to males would be less embarrassing than if she loses (again) to a foe of her own gender.

Nope. Like the neighborhood kid who owns the football and whose mom always seems to call him home for dinner early, it's "game over" for the rest of us, too.

Even if there should have been at least one more play run before this contest really was over.


  1. Glenn dropped a "WTF" I'm proud and right there with you.

  2. Didn't say it IN the blog, and probably should have. But I would have been far less surprised, perplexed and a little bit pissy about it had Rachel been retired immediately after the Personal Ensign.

    For her to continue in training, fire a bullet just yesterday, and then the announcement is made, raises questions Jackson doesn't really answer.

  3. That's what bothers me about this, too, Glenn. Rachel clocks in at the fastest workout at that distance at Saratoga, and then boom--she's retired two days later? It just doesn't make sense. My first thought was that she was injured and they want to keep it hush-hush since Jackson is all about keeping stamina alive in the breed. If that is the case, I think Jackson owes it to Rachel's fans to let us know why he's ripping her out of training just like that. I sort of feel like I've been betrayed, if I can be honest. That she "isn't the same horse as last year" is total b.s. Really? She's not breaking records, winning by 20 lengths, and setting a new bar for fillies her age? Come on, that's a tough order for any horse to fill, let alone expect her to try to repeat all she accomplished last year. To expect her to duplicate those feats is ridiculous. There would've been no shame in running her in the Beldame, and then taking her to the Ladies' Classic. No, it wouldn't have been a walk in the park, but at least she would've been able to try to add a Breeders' Cup victory to her resume and go out a champion. That's what bothered me about Curlin's retirement--he wasn't given a chance to go out a winner. One run over the fake crap and then boom--retired. It isn't fair to the horse to give them that one shot (Rachel's being the 1 1/4-miles distance), and then say "Game over." I cry foul.

  4. After a night's reflection, I've begun wondering if Jess Jackson isn't just being impatient. He's older (and there's at least rumor of ill-health), and he paid a premium for both Curlin and Rachel Alexandra with the expressed purpose of breeding.

    Impatience to see what this mating will bring is kind of a plausible explanation for this decision, I think.

    David H.

  5. David H,

    While that may be the case (Jackson being impatient to get RA in the breeding shed) her immediate retirement won't make that happen any faster and running in the Beldame and the Distaff wouldn't have slowed that down any.

    The very soonest the back end of Racchel will meet up with the business end of Curlin is Feb. 15 and not a day before.

  6. It's true that they couldn't possibly cover Rachel before Feb. 15 for risk of a December foal. The only way this hastens the mating is if they want her to start letting down now, not mid-November.

    Sometimes three months is enough letdown (from track life, medications, etc.) so that a maiden mare "catches" on the first cover; sometimes it doesn't seem to be. They've bought her another six weeks of letdown before trying to mate her.

    Not that I think it's a worthwhile reason, or that those six weeks are going to make much difference. Or that her first foal by Curlin would be way better off being a Jan. 15 baby vs. March 15.


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