By Alan Porter
Originally published on May 10, 2009
While the victory of Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) was a shock — to say the least — the only shocking aspect to Rachel Alexandra’s triumph in the previous day’s Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) was the manner in which it was achieved. Undefeated in four straight races since taking the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) last November, Rachel Alexandra came into the Oaks off an 8 3/4-length score in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II). Whereas she had led throughout the Fantasy, in the Oaks the odds-on favorite sat second for half. When she did take over, she galloped right away from her opposition to score by no less than 20 1/4 lengths.
Rachel Alexandra is from the first crop of the El Prado (IRE) stallion Medaglia d'Oro , who is promising to extend an American branch of the line Sadler's Wells, a Northern Dancer son who dominated the British and Irish stallion rankings for a decade and a half. El Prado was champion 2-year-old in Ireland, but Medaglia d’Oro took longer to come to hand. Running once at 2 for a second, he developed into one of the best 3-year-olds of his crop. After gaining grade I places with seconds in the Wood Memorial Stakes and Belmont Stakes (both gr. I) in the early part of the year, he took his first grade I score in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) and ended the year with a second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). Medaglia d’Oro’s 4-year-old campaign saw him add three more graded wins, including the Whitney Handicap (gr. I). He also was second in both the Pacific and Breeders’ Cup Classics (both gr. I). He ran only twice at 5, but won the Donn Handicap (gr. I) and finished second in the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). All seven of Medaglia d’Oro’s stakes winners to date are fillies — with the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (gr. III) victress C. S. Silk joining Rachel Alexandra as a graded winner — but he’s had several colts score allowance wins recently, and it may just be that his sons are taking longer to come to hand.
Rachel Alexandra and stakes winner She's Our Annie are the only starters by Medaglia d’Oro out of mares by the Forty Niner stallion Roar. Rachel Alexandra’s dam, Lotta Kim, was a stakeswinning daughter of that horse and is half-sister to stakes winners Lotta Rhythm and High Blues. The third dam, Early Decision, was a stakes-winning daughter of Lord Gaylord, and her granddam, Native Go Go, was a stakes-winning daughter of Raise a Native, out of a half-sister to the Belmont, Jersey Derby, and Travers Stakes winner Hail to All. The family goes back to Ellen’s Best, a mare who owns a very unusual pedigree as she is by War Relic, and her third dam is Speed Boat, winner of the 1933 Test Stakes and a sister to War Relic. (The pattern continues deeper: Medaglia d’Oro’s granddam, Dubbed In, is inbred 3 x 4 to the mare Sunday Evening, who is by Eight Thirty, a horse with a very similar genetic background to War Relic.)
Rachel Alexandra also has a significant build-up of the Imperatrice family through Sir Gaylord and Cure the Blues. Sir Gaylord (Turn-to—Somethingroyal, a daughter of Imperatrice) appears 5 x 5, and Rachel Alexandra’s granddam is by Cure the Blues (by a grandson of Turn-to, out of a granddaughter of Imperatrice). Cure the Blues’ sire, Stop the Music, is also bred on similar lines to Lady Capulet, the dam of El Prado, both being Turn-to/Tom Fool crosses.