Horse owner and breeder Jess Jackson said May 13 that entering super filly Rachel Alexandra against males in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) is not a battle of the sexes but rather a sporting gesture designed to have the best horses racing against each other.
“I think the fans deserve to see the best horses compete, regardless of sex,” Jackson said in a teleconference he arranged. “This is not about male and female. This is about the best athletes able to go two turns … We hope this will help the fans enjoy a great sport. She is a perfect athlete. I hope this helps revive horse racing in United States.”
Following Rachel Alexandra’s scintillating win in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), in which she defeated other 3-year-old fillies by more than 20 lengths, Jackson and Harold T. McCormick purchased the filly from Dolphus Morrison and Mike Lauffer. While Morrison and Lauffer elected not to run the filly against males, the new owners immediately began pointing Rachel Alexandra to the Preakness and paid a supplemental fee of $100,000 to make her eligible to compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Just prior to Jackson’s teleconference, Rachel Alexandra was made the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the Preakness, followed by Pioneerof the Nile , runner-up in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the second choice at 5-1. Derby winner Mine That Bird is the co-third choice at 6-1, along with Friesan Fire , who finished a troubled 18th as the favorite in the Derby.
Jackson said he and trainer Steve Asmussen were satisfied that the filly drew the outside 13 post position in the Preakness, noting that she is a quick horse who will be able to stay out of trouble. He added that the number of the post is not an issue with him since he is not superstitious.
In the wide-ranging teleconference, Jackson said he was disappointed that owners of two other Preakness entrants had discussed trying to orchestrate a scheme that possibly would have blocked Rachel Alexandra’s entry into the Preakness. The race is limited to 14 starters and in the event more than that are entered, preference is given to horses that were “normal” nominees to the race, leaving the question of whether the filly would be in compliance with that definition. Owners of Mine That Bird and Pioneerof the Nile considered entering enough other horses to ensure that more than 14 were entered. They withdrew the plan, however, amid a current of negative feedback.
Jackson praised the sportsmanship of owner Marylou Whitney, who offered to withdraw her Preakness entrant Luv Gov if the spot were needed for Rachel Alexandra to be in the race. The offer became moot when the scheme was disbanded. Nonetheless, Jackson said a dozen roses had been sent to Whitney on behalf of his filly as a thanks for her sporting gesture..
The owner, who also campaigned two-time Horse of the Year Curlin , said he was not concerned about Rachel Alexandra running in the Preakness after only a two-week gap since her Oaks triumph. He said she has the ability to recover quickly from her races and did so following the Oaks.
Jackson said one reason he wanted to go ahead and run the filly against males was to get a defining answer to the question of how good she is. “She is well-defined against fillies,” he said. “What we wanted to do was define her against colts. I don’t think she has really been tested in any race she has run. Now she is going to be tested.”
The owner said the plan is for Rachel Alexandra to race five or six times this year and hopefully remain in training in 2010 as a 4-year-old. He said, however, that decision would be up to the filly and it is premature to speculate on another season.
While he has not revealed the purchase price for the filly, Jackson provided somewhat of an idea of how much he and his partner paid, calling it “market price.”
“On the auction block, you know a horse of her caliber would go for $4-to-$5-million,” Jackson said.
Adding that his primary motivation in purchasing horses is to enhance his breeding stock, Jackson added, “If you want to add a horse like her to your breeding camp it is going to cost somewhere between $1-to-$6-million, and that is the only way I could get her as a broodmare.”
Considering that his filly is entered against the Derby winner and could be the horse that would stand in the way of a Triple Crown this year, Jackson said the goal is to run the best horses against each other.
Besides, Jackson said, if Rachel Alexandra finished “a respectable” second to Mine That Bird in the Preakness, “I would enjoy it as a spectator.”