September 13, 2009

Race of the Century - First Division

It is a beautiful day here at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Seventy two degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The crowd is in high spirits as these wonderful champions are making their way to the starting gate. A quick check of the tote board reveals that the popularity of the super 3-year-old filly, Rachel Alexandra, is as strong as ever, and at 7-2, she rates a slight favorite over 2006 Horse-of-the-Year, Invasor, who is 4-1. 2001 3-year-old champ, Point Given is a solid third choice at 6-1. No other horse in the field is bet below 9-1 in this wide open affair. All the connections feel good about the way their horses are coming into the race, maybe none more so than Big Brown’s conditioner, Rick Dutrow, who has touted his charge to be almost a sure winner. The bettors seem less than impressed though as Big Brown is 16-1. The only female jockey in the race, Julie Krone, gives her mount Candy Ride a gentle nudge and the field is about half way loaded. They’re all in. And They’re Off!!!

That’s Commentator from the outside sprinting to the lead, Smarty Jones on the rail and Hard Spun also move up. Calvin Borel has Rachel Alexandra rating comfortably on the outside of Big Brown. Next, Candy Ride, Lido Palace and Bernardini are all together and then there is a break to Mineshaft, Lemon Drop Kid, and Point Given on the outside. Invasor has moved to the rail and has only horse beaten so far and that’s the mare Zenyatta. Commentator blazes into the first turn, but both Smarty Jones and Hard Spun are keen on holding their positions, so we have a three-prong battle after the first quarter in 23 seconds flat. Big Brown and Rachel Alexandra are content to stalk in the next flight and the rest of the field tightens the gap just a little bit as it only about eight lengths separating first from twelfth place, with only the undefeated mare, Zenyatta content to trail in the thirteen horse field. And so it is Commentator on the outside, just ahead of Smarty Jones and Hard Spun, who leads the field through a demanding :46 and 2 half mile. Rachel Alexandra is being confidently ridden on the outside and just two lengths off the lead. Candy Ride makes a move in between horses to be next, followed by Lido Palace, Bernardini, Mineshaft and Point Given who travels down the backstretch far off the rail. Fernando Jara and Invasor are content to stay down on the inside, followed by Lemon Drop Kid and Zenyatta.

As we move past the 3/8’s pole, that’s Smarty Jones who has put his nose in front. Hard Spun and Commentator are still right there and Big Brown, Candy Ride, and Rachel Alexandra are tracking intently. Invasor is going to need some racing room, Lido Palace is not responding and Point Given and behind him Zenyatta are both gearing up on the outside. The mile was run in 1:34 and 2 and it is Smarty Jones who will face a cavalry charge as they turn for home. Rachel Alexandra pounces first and overtakes Smarty Jones. Point Given is rallying on the outside and Bernardini moves up between horse. Invasor is full of run, but has no where to go. Rachel Alexandra opens up a length at the eighth pole with a wall of horses behind her. Point Given is coming on the outside and there is Invasor! Bursting through a hole near the rail. Rachel is resolute as Invasor and Point Given are all out. They’re not gonna get her today! 10 in a row! For Rachel Alexandra! Invasor is a tough luck second ¾ of a length behind and a neck ahead of Point Given. A filly for the ages…yes indeed!

The top three finishers: Rachel Alexandra, Invasor, and Point Given advance on to the final race in the Race of the Century. In the all important race for the fifth spot Zenyatta rallied late to secure fifth place, behind Bernardini and just ahead of Candy Ride. So Bernardini and Zenyatta will join the top three in the championship race. The final order of finish included Smarty Jones 7th, Mineshaft 8th, Hard Spun 9th, Lemon Drop Kid 10th, Big Brown 11th, Lido Palace 12th, and a tired Commentator faded to 13th and last. Final time for the race over the fast Churchill Downs Dirt Course was 1:59 and 3.


LDP said...

Go Rachel, thats my girl, lol. Now it's time for her hubby to run a big one to match her.

Ernie said...

WOW!!!! My heart's not strong enough to endure such a result.