Yesterday, right about the time that she was schooling in the paddock at Monmouth, we received the official word that our video tribute to Rachel Alexandra, “What You Want,” had prevailed in the “Ultimate Rachel Alexandra Fan Contest” on Monmouth Park’s Facebook page.
The result of which is that we receive:
• VIP Haskell Seats (sweet!)
• Designation as the Haskell Facebook Fan of the Day
• TV interview on Haskell Day with host Mike Curci
• Private backstretch tour and breakfast in the track kitchen
Additionally, and most importantly, we are allowed to “accompany the Haskell field up the racetrack, including Rachel Alexandra, to the English Walking Ring and Paddock prior to the Haskell!”
This is the chance we never had with Curlin. A chance to be just an arm’s reach away from something truly special.
Looking over the Haskell field, I’ll admit that Munnings worries me just a bit. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t worry on the eve of a big race for one of my beloved horses, right? I’ve always liked this horse and the ever dangerous sprint-to-route angle suggests to me that he’ll be on the gas early. Although he is a Speightstown colt, so distance will always be a concern.
Right away that makes me think that Rachel might not want to run her eyeballs out in the early going of the Haskell the way she had to from post position 13 in the Preakness. She’s in a better spot here with post position #6 to either grab the lead, if no one else wants it, or sit just off of whoever does.
If it was equinely possible to add yet another weapon to her arsenal, it would seem Rachel Alexandra did so by proving she could rate and pounce during her “public workout” against 2 overmatched contenders in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 27 at Belmont Park. We already knew she could wire the boys, but what was impressive about that run (beyond the 20 length win and near-record time) was the fact that she was able to sit back enough away from suicide early fractions that she was hitting her stride at the perfect moment as the field turned for home.
That’s just our Rachel - just when you think you’ve seen it all from her, she comes up with another way to impress.
Sadly, the rest of the nation will likely miss this next opportunity to see Rachel take on the boys in the Haskell. ESPN, for whatever reason, and the major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) are not providing any coverage of the Haskell. This is a bit of a head-scratcher to me as interest in Rachel was the key to drastically improved ratings for the 2009 Preakness this May. Couple that with the expected crowd at Monmouth today, and the strong showing that turned out to see Rachel romp over just 2 other runners in the Mother Goose, and I think they’re blowing a pretty big opportunity.
Instead, sports fans will be treated to the riveting excitement that is televised golf, as NBC and CBS are showing the Seniors Open (talk about excitement!) and the Buick Open, respectively.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve nothing against golf. In fact, I’m told it’s quite the sport to bet on, but I don’t think I’ve watched more than 20 minutes of the game on television before falling into a snore induced state of unconsciousness in my recliner. Suffice to say, for my money, I’d be showing the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness trying to become just the second filly EVER to win the Haskell (Serena’s Song, 1995).
I don’t know…I could be crazy. This just seems like a bad deal for the sport and for Monmouth Park. Two years ago Monmouth had the misfortune of having inclement weather severely dampen Breeders’ Cup weekend. Now they get the sport’s biggest star returning to attempt something historically significant, and once again it’s as if no one cares.
We saw this last year when our champion and the most beloved horse in racing at the time, Curlin, returned from his overseas victory in the Dubai World Cup to run in the Stephen Foster. How races like these are not shown to the public, yet races such as the Eddie Read (won by Global Hunter last week) are deemed worthy of national attention is beyond me. Do we just throw a dart at the wall wondering which races we’ll show? Seriously? Who’s in charge of this? Why on god’s earth is the Eddie Read a bigger deal than the Haskell? Does anyone really think Global Hunter, Thorn Song, and Monterey Jazz have more appeal than Rachel Alexandra?
Oh well. When all is said and done, I suspect many people will be watching the sports ticker or scanning for information on how Rachel runs. In that sense it may be a throw back to the “glory days” of racing, where fans would find themselves glued to the radio, focusing intently on the action in the stretch call.
This filly has captured the heart of fans in a way I don’t recall seeing in recent memory. Not even Curlin had the “crossover” appeal that Rachel seems to possess. Granted, quite a bit of that is due to the fact that she is a “she”, but still. She’s a rock star, and she deserves our biggest stage.
I get that the problem is that in between our biggest events, the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup, most people just have absolutely no idea what’s happening in horse racing, and understand even less about why it matters. That’s just the way it is. If we ever want to change that perception though, it would seem wise to me to pull out all the stops for events like this and make sure they get marketed to the public.
Our fan club for Rachel over on Facebook is filled with folks longing for the chance to see her again on the national stage. We missed the opportunity on June 27 to showcase the sports two biggest stars, Rachel and Zenyatta, on the national stage just minutes apart from one another. Now here we sit basically shutting the public out from ALL of our top 3-year-olds from this year (Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby, and both Rachel and Summer Bird in the Haskell).
You know how I feel about this.
Take Back Saturday (or in Rachel’s case this week, Sunday)!
Damn the torpedoes!
On the other hand, I definitely want to thank Monmouth for running the “Ultimate Fan” contest. It may not seem like much at first glance, but that was a very personable way to interact with their fans and would-be patrons. Monmouth seems to always be out in front trying creative and interesting new things to connect with their fans. While this “Ultimate Fan” contest is over, by no means is that the only bullet in Monmouth’s chamber. They are also running a very cool “Haskell Game” where you select one horse in each of the 14 races on the card for Sunday. Mythical $2 Win, Place, and Show wagers will determine the champion.
The Grand Prize is tickets to the Breeders’ Cup – along with airfare and hotel accommodations.
Here’s some quick picks for the contest – although you know I like to see the horses before I actually bet them.
- Race 1: #1 Deep Run Doon/ #1A Artistic Lion (3/1) – I actually like both parts of this coupled entry with Artistic Lion and #1 Deep Run Doon.
- Race 2: #5 Libor Rate (9/2) - Tough looking race to zero in on. Thought this gal might be coming well late.
- Race 3: #3 San Valentino (3/1) – Trainer T. Albertrani (35%) and jockey Kent Desormeaux? Key off the effort two back at 7 furlongs and he could sit nice stalking trip.
- Race 4: #1 Mask and Wig (3/1) – Hard to ignore sharp form with 3 consecutive victories coming into this “N1x” Allowance event.
- Race 5: #6 East End Tap (8/1) - Might be better on a wet surface, but seems to be right there consistently. Big price at 8/1.
- Race 6: #4 Chirac (2/1) – Looking chalky here with Chirac the Jacque .
- Race 7: #4 Beacon Hill Road (8/1) – Seems to outrun his odds frequently in these types of events. Needs a nice trip though. I’ll roll the dice for another price.
- Race 8: #5 A Rose for You (7/2) - Got a feeling this Michael Trombetta runner puts it all together today. Must be mindful of the Pletcher runner on the inside though.
- Race 9: #1 Brush on By/ #1A He’s So Chic (8/1) - Great price on this talented pair for trainer John Servis. #5 Fleet Valid is the horse to beat though.
- Race 10: #9 Ariege (7/2) - EDIT – with the scratch of Rutherienne (she’s running on Sunday at Saratoga), I’ll go to the class of Ariege under the guide of jockey Kent Desormeaux.
- Race 11: #10 Luna Vega (4/1) - Stepping up in class, but running well enough to make short work of these with another move forward.
- Race 12: #1 Get Serious (3/1) - local hero Get Serious gets the Graded Stakes test, but should be quick enough to wire this field. Must hold off Proudinksy, Tizdejavu, and Kiss the Kid late.
- Race 13: #6 Rachel Alexandra (4/5) – Don’t expect to get anything like 4/5. The most dominant 3-year-old in the nation. Go Rachel, go!
- Race 14: #4 American Romance (3/1) – We’ll wind up with the runner who looks the classiest of the field in the closer.
Best of luck to all. We’ll be back with pics from our trip to Monmouth to see Rachel later in the week.