Woodward Analysis: Target Rachel?
Please note the following analysis was written by someone with a glass-is-half-empty mentality and is not meant to frighten, upset, or antagonize Rachel Alexandra fans and zealots.
Rachel Alexandra drew post 3 for Saturday’s $750,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I). No big deal, you say? By breaking close to the rail, and with a big bruiser in the aptly named Bullsbay drawing directly inside her in post 2 and a speedy Nick Zito-trained stalker, Cool Coal Man , directly outside her in post 4, a scenario is developing where Rachel could find herself in some heavy traffic at different stages of the race.
When you see Zito put in two tactical speed horses against a heavy favorite who has the same running style as his horses, you can bet he has an agenda, meaning Da' Tara, breaking from the rail and coming off a bullet :47 flat work on the Oklahoma training track, likely will bust out of the gate to assure Rachel will not get an easy lead in case that strategy was to enter Calvin Borel’s mind. If Rachel takes off the pace, she will have Cool Coal Man, It's a Bird, and Past the Point all in a position to pin her down on the rail behind Da’ Tara, meaning there is a decent chance she could wind up in a neat little box by the time they hit the backstretch.
Sitting back, waiting to see how the race unfolds, will be Asiatic Boy and Macho Again, both tough, battle-tested closers. Now, remember, this is merely a possible scenario based on how the race is shaping up. But it surely is one to be wary of.
The bottom line, this is not a race or a field to be taken lightly. These older horses are more formidable than people think, at least on any given day. Each has shown they have a big race in them, including Past the Point, who gave Curlin quite a scare at 40-1 in last year’s Woodward. Bullsbay and Cool Coal Man each are coming off a 107 Beyer at Saratoga; It’s a Bird ran a 107 Beyer two races back; Macho Again is coming off a 105 Beyer; and Past the Point ran a 110 Beyer in last year’s Woodward.
Before anyone starts getting depressed over this unsettling scenario, the intention here is not to suggest Rachel is going to get beat, but it is Saratoga and it is a 3-year-old filly against older males, and Borel is going to have a bulls-eye on his back and must constantly be aware of everything going on around him and any plots developing during the running of the race, especially the first half-mile. Just remember how they ganged up on poor Stewart Elliott and Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Of course, we’re dealing with a filly who could prove to be as great as any who ever lived and who most likely will not be fazed in the slightest by any tactics the other riders might employ. But it is something to think about. If Rachel is able to escape any ambushes and booby traps early on and gets a clear run, then it will all be up to her to show what she can do against these big, tough ol’ boys.
Asiatic Boy, for example, has won or placed in grade I stakes on three continents. If you’re looking for a horse who can’t bear the thought of getting beat by a 3-year-old filly it’s one named Macho. Bullsbay is a bull and he’s a bay and last weighed in at over 1,230 pounds. It’s a Bird possesses the magic name “Bird” that has been soaring all year in major stakes, and his name just happens to be the opening line to the introduction of Superman. Yep, this is a tough bunch.
The Woodward is featured on this week's episode of That Handicapping Show.
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