June 13, 2010

Raw Rachel Emotion

I regret that I was not at the Fair Grounds for the New Orleans Ladies, and at Churchill Downs for the La Troienne, but I was there yesterday, and it was special.

41 years of life, and I have been following this sport for all of that time, or at least that is what my parents tell me about my earliest years. After this many years of watching the horses, I should be hard-boiled, and impervious to the fanatical trappings of the sport. I am not. Rachel Alexandra has proven that to me in the most obvious and wonderful ways.

I watched her enter the paddock with a combined sense of admiration, awe, and affection. As I spoke with colleagues, only yards away from her, I could not let my eyes stray away from every little move that she made. Her tongue was out, her mane was elegantly braided, and the look in her eye was uniquely Rachel. No figure eight noseband, but Calvin was still there to answer the call for riders up. Rachel had the body language and that look in her eye that I had become so familiar with in her historical 2009. Today was the day, I was there, today would definitely be the day.

Luckily I was grabbed for conversation by a few friends leading up to the race, or surely my pounding heart would have burst through my shirt. The horses were in the gate, and the real nerves began. “Come on Rach.” “Come on Rach.” “Come on Rach.” They were my words coming from trackside, but I might as well have been floating above the Churchill Downs track. I was lost in the race. “Let her go Calvin.” “Let her go Calvin.” “Let her out Calvin.” They turned for home, and my out-of-body experience was becoming more tangible. Rachel was running away from the field. My raw nerves went from extreme nervousness, to complete joy. My entire body smiled. “Go Rachel.” “Yes.” “Go Rachel.” The race went by so quickly, but as Rachel passed in front of me, she seemed to move in slow motion. Victory yesterday was sweet.

It was beautiful and powerful. Vindication. Sublime and superior. She brings out such emotion in me, and for that, I thank her. Finally, let me express the ultimate complement on what I saw yesterday…Rachel Alexandra was Rachel Alexandra.


Cindy said...

I bought box seats weeks ago hoping to be there yesterday to see Rachel run and could not make the trip due to a family illness.

Thank you a million times over for sharing your experience at this most pivitol of races for our champion Rachel Alexanra this year.

The emotion she inspires is truly amazing and I have experienced it first hand also at her Woodward. There is no write up of her win yesterday that I have enjoyed reading more than yours.

Brian Zipse said...

Comments like yours are why I write, thank you Cindy.

Sorry you could not make the race...next time?

railrunner said...

You were able to capture exactly the way all her passionate fans feel about her Brian, awesome job. After a certain point it goes well beyond just enjoying watching a horse run and becomes much more special and personal. I was there for the La Troienne but it's too much of a trip from CT to KY to get back there for the Fleur de Lis.

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks Railrunner, she is headed East I'm sure...don't miss the next one! ;)

Kevin said...

I was there for the Haskell and rooted her home -- very memorable afternoon! Good to see they let her run and do her thing. Hope I get a chance to see her in person this summer.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to write about zenyatta at all? Cause i don't want to be mean but i think we should enjoy them both equally cause these two horses only come once.

Brian Zipse said...

Yes. Yes I will!

Anonymous said...

okay thank you! I just love Zenyatta so much and i also love Rachel, But thank you!

Celeste said...

Thanks, Brian, for sharing your race with Rachel with the rest of us who could only see it on the tv.

LDP said...

It is nearly 80 degrees but your writing gave me chills. I remember doing the same thing with Curlin and Lawyer Ron in 07 JCGC. I loved them both and didn't know who I wanted to root for, but as they swung into the stretch I had eyes for only Curlin. "C'mon Curlin! C'mon Curlin!" was all I could manage to say.

I didn't get that excited again until 2009 in the Haskell. Sat there motionless for so darn long, then when they came around that turn I started willing Calvin to let her out, form there, I was awestruck.

Today I found myself doing nearly the same for Zenyatta. St. Trinians proved she is no slouch at all. People forget that St. T also had every reason to lose, getting forced nearly as wide as the queen herself, carrying the second highest weight in the field.

No matter though, Zen nearly gave me a heart attack. For once she had to give it her all to beat a horse and it was scary.

What a weekend this was. Now all these horses need to do is stay sound and healthy until the BC.

Anonymous said...

I don't how many times it's possible to say "Come on, come on" in, oh, a minute forty -- but I did it on Saturday. After Rachel won the Woodward, I cried. I don't do that.

Thanks for capturing that feeling.

RachelAlex said...

Dear Brian: Loved your article and sooooo jealous that you could watch my darling girl in person. I could only watch her on HRTV. com, and I was literally pulling my hair in anxiety (no one was with me, thank goodness) until I saw her pull away from the pack.

I saw her in the Mother Goose and the Woodward. After the Woodward, I was truly happy and excited in a way I haven't been in a long tome--feeling just pure joy at her success.

My husband humors my obsession with her, and although I think Zenyatta is truly awesome, I could never love her in the way I love Rachel. May she win all her future races as easily; and it is so nice to see you, Brian, sticking with her--as I do--through thick and thin.

mvlach77 said...

Brian, any guesses on where Rachel will run next?

Brian Zipse said...

Thank you all!

mvlach77, My best guess is either the Delaware Handicap, or the Ruffian at Saratoga.

mvlach77 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mvlach77 said...

I actually hope Rachel goes to the Delaware Handicap. I know it's a Grade 2 but the purse is much bigger and it's 1 1/4. Going back to 1 1/16 in the Ruffian does not seem to get her more ready for the Breeders Cup. After the Fleur de lis I realized that Rachel's starpower is such that whatever race she runs in is "the race"--even a Grade 2. Look at how much more press she got than Blame winning the Gr 1 Stephen Foster.

Anonymous said...

It's been two days since we saw her, and i still keep reliving moments in my head. It hadn't really sunk in until the post parade that I had not seen her in person since the Golden Rod. She just captures you to say the least. As she was nearing the quarter pole, you could literally feel the change in the crowd. It almost became euphoric as I swear you could hear exactly what each person in ear shot was screaming....you would have thought some people's lives depended on her winning. It was awesome to say the least. What a day and what a champion.
- Silent Sunday