Surge sealed deal for filly

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BALTIMORE --- With devastating acceleration leaving the last turn, Rachel Alexandra exploded away from her challengers, creating sufficient separation to assure her place in history as the only filly in the modern era to win the Preakness Stakes.

Rachel Alexandra, with jockey Calvin Borel aboard, draws clear going into the fourth turn at Pimlico Race Course. The filly won with a time of 1:55.08 despite struggling with the track.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Rachel Alexandra, with jockey Calvin Borel aboard, draws clear going into the fourth turn at Pimlico Race Course. The filly won with a time of 1:55.08 despite struggling with the track.

In the blink of an eye, the flashy girl with the broken blaze increased her lead fourfold from the one length margin she had held over Big Drama and Friesan Fire emerging from the turn.

Make no mistake about it, when the filly's wide trip and the rapid early fractions are factored into the equation, this performance was in a league with Secretariat's mighty victory in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, Buckpasser's amazing finish in the 1967 Suburban and the dogged determination shown by Wild Again in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Classic.

It is often said of horses that win the classics of North American racing that they needed to have everything go their way in order to find the winner's circle. Casual observation might suggest that the way this Preakness was run did break in Rachel Alexandra's favor.

However, the combination of a closer look at the way the race unfolded and the post-race comments of the filly's connections suggest otherwise.

It was obvious in the run from the starting gate to the first turn that Rachel Alexandra would get no respite at any time during the race. Big Drama broke sharply from the inside post and drifted out while engaging the filly.

As majority owner Jess Jack-son, who in partnership with Harold McCormick, purchased Rachel Alexandra 10 days ago for somewhere in the range of $10 million, explained, "I didn't expect her to hookup on the front end and be pressed every step of the way. I thought she'd be in the second flight, on the outside, relaxed and out of trouble."

The first quarter was run in 23 seconds flat and the half in :46.3. Although jockey Calvin Borel had no opportunity to give Rachel Alexandra a breather, he sat still as a statue on her back, trying to conserve as much energy as he could for the test that would come. But the rangy daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was not comfortable.

"She struggled a lot with the track," Borel commented. "When we picked it up on the backstretch, the more I asked her, the more she struggled. In the last quarter, when she went to reaching out like I know she can, the ground was breaking out from under her."

Around the far turn, Rachel Alexandra remained wide as she began to edge away from the persistent Big Drama, running on her own courage. Then came the surge, astonishing to even seasoned observers of the sport of racing the thoroughbred.

In the run down the lane, Mine That Bird and Musket Man were gaining, showing their mettle. But the wire arrived too soon.

"It's going to take a race horse to beat her, " Borel concluded. "She's the greatest racehorse I've ever been on in my life."

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