Updated: Jul 25, 2019
In 2005, breeder Dolphus Morrison was the owner of a mare by the name of Lotta Kim. She had been a pretty successful racehorse, finishing second in the Gr.2 Golden Rod Stakes and winning a stakes race. She was on her way to the Fair Ground Oaks when a loose horse gave her a huge fright. She reared up and her hind legs slipped out from under her, sending her tumbling onto the asphalt and leaving a huge gash on her hindquarters. It took 278 stitches to save her life.
It was a tragic end to the career of a horse who could have done great things, but her life was preserved and she would be able to accomplish the biggest feat of her life - becoming a broodmare. Morrison chose the great Medgalia d’Oro for Lotta Kim's first breeding because of his physical presence and superb performance on the racetrack.
The foal resulting from the breeding was born on Jan. 26, 2006. She was a scrawny and scruffy thing with a huge, interrupted blaze that gave her an unmistakable face. Rachel Alexandra, as she would come to be named, was entered into the Keeneland November Weanling Sale. However, Morrison scratched her from the sale when x-rays showed a “minor-development problem” as he knew that she would not bring the type of money he had hoped for.
He kept the filly - something he must surely be glad he did.
Two-Year Old Season:
Rachel Alexandra was originally sent to trainer Hal Wiggins, Morrison’s regular trainer. Under his care, Rachel Alexandra blossomed into an outstanding specimen. She made her debut on May 22, 2008, at Churchill Downs. She finished 6th, listed as “no menace”.
The young filly broke her maiden on her next try in mid-June and was put into graded stakes company for her next start - the Gr.3 Debutante Stakes. She ran her heart out, but finished a game second. After her loss, Rachel Alexandra was dropped back down to the allowance level, winning in preparation for the Gr.3 Pocahontas Stakes. There she had to split horses at the top of the stretch and just didn’t have enough in her to catch the leader, settling for a second place finish.
That would be the last time Rachel Alexandra would cross the wire behind a horse until her four-year old season. Her winning streak began in the Gr.2 Golden Rod Stakes, the same race that her dam had placed in five years before her. It was the last race of her two-year old season, but her first race with the great Calvin Borel.
[Video: Rachel Alexandra wins the 2008 Golden Rod Stakes]
Three-Year Old Season:
2009 was truly Rachel Alexandra’s year. She received a short layoff from December of 2008 until February of 2009, giving her time to truly relax, grow, and mature. She made her first start as a three-year old in the Martha Washington Stakes, winning with ease. She and Calvin then smashed the field in the Gr.2 Fair Ground Oaks, allowing Rachel to get revenge for her dam Lotta Kim.
Rachel Alexandra went off as the 1-10 favorite in the Gr.2 Fantasy Stakes. Again, she and Calvin absolutely blew the field away. It was their final preparation for one of the most coveted races for three-year old fillies - the Gr.1 Kentucky Oaks.
Rachel was the 3-10 favorite in the “female equivalent” of the Kentucky Derby. She proved this to be for a very good reason. As they came around the far turn, Calvin nudged Rachel Alexandra and she absolutely exploded. She soared past the pacesetter and flew over the track with ease and grace like few had ever done before. Rachel and Calvin crossed the wire 20 ¼ lengths ahead of the rest of the field. After her victory, Stonestreet Stables purchased her for an undisclosed price that is rumored to be about $10 million.
Calivn Borel won the Kentucky Derby on 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird the following day. He was then faced with the difficult decision of riding Mine That Bird or Rachel Alexandra in the Gr.1 Preakness Stakes two weeks later. Fate led him to stay aboard the filly.
Rachel and Calvin broke cleanly from gate 13 and soared up the outside of the pack to take the lead with Big Drama. At the top of the stretch, it was all Rachel Alexandra. She flew away from the field to become first filly to win the race in 85 years. Mine That Bird finished 2nd.
After beating the boys in the Preakness Stakes, Rachel Alexandra moved on to the Gr.1 Mother Goose Stakes. She wasn’t done with putting on jaw-dropping performances - Rachel stormed down the stretch, opening up a margin of 19 ¼ lengths between her and her foes, and crossed the wire in stakes record breaking time. She had defeated the great Ruffian’s record of a 13 ¼ length victory margin.
The next step in Rachel Alexandra’s three-year old season was the Gr.1 Haskell Invitational. Again, Rachel ran away from the field with incredible ease. She became just the second filly to ever win the Haskell.
In her final race as a three-year old, Rachel Alexandra faced older males in the Gr.1 Woodward Stakes. She was able to break cleanly and take the lead, but was pressed into a blistering pace. In one of the hardest races of her life, Rachel Alexandra narrowly held off Macho Again by a head.
She was named Champion Three-Year Old Filly and Horse of the Year.
[Video: Rachel Alexandra wins the 2009 Kentucky Oaks]
Four-Year Old Season:
After the Woodward Stakes, Rachel Alexandra was given six months off. She returned in the New Orleans Stakes in March of 2010, finishing second to Zardana. She stepped back up into graded stakes company for the Gr.2 La Troienne Stakes and again finished second, this time by a head.
The Gr.2 Fleur De Lis in June gave Rachel Alexandra the opportunity to return to the winners’ circle. She bested the field by 10 ½ lengths. She then moved on to Monmouth Park for the Lady’s Secret Stakes, winning by three-lengths.
The Gr.1 Personal Ensign was supposed to serve as a potential prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, it was decided shortly after Rachel Alexandra’s second place finish in that race that she would retire to become a broodmare.
She retired with a record of 19:13-5-0 and earnings of more than $3.5 million.
Life as a Broodmare:
Rachel Alexandra was first bred to 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin. The mating produced a colt that would later be named Jess’s Dream. He broke his maiden on his first asking but would never race again. He currently stands stud at Ocala Stud.
Rachel’s next foal, a filly by Bernardini, would almost take her life. She had injured her small colon during foaling and had to undergo surgery. Rachel was in serious condition for a long time after, spending weeks under the watchful eyes of her caretakers while her foal was being raised by a nurse mare.
Thankfully, Rachel Alexandra made a full recovery. But, the fear of almost losing Rachel made her connections retire her from breeding. Foaling was simply a risk that her caretakers did not want to take. Her filly, Rachel’s Valentina, went on to win the Gr.1 Spinaway Stakes and finished second in two other Gr.1 races. She is now a broodmare at Stonestreet Farm.
Rachel now enjoys a lavish life of retirement at the beautiful Stonestreet Farms. She spends her days out in the paddock with her closest friends, grazing and occasionally reliving her days on the track by tearing across the field.
Her career was one that enchants people. She was a perfect representation of the sheer power and skill that Thoroughbreds possess. Her ability to beat the boys made her a face of “Girl Power” and her sensational ability on the racetrack earned her droves of fans.
It is in the hopes and dreams of all who love her that Rachel’s Valentina can carry on Rachel's legacy as a broodmare. Regardless of whether or not Rachel's Valentina will excel as a broodmare, memories of Rachel Alexandra will dance in the minds of all that witnessed her incredible career.
Author - Kaeli Bartholomew: I run Champions of the Track as a way to spread the love of horse racing through writing, photography, and videography. The best way to increase the popularity and respect for this sport is by sharing stories and memories! Thank you for joining me on my mission to save and grow the sport of horse racing.
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