09/05/2009 6:58AM

Beating Rachel: Making a Point

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From a speed-figure perspective, the Woodward Stakes looks like Rachel all the way. But pace figures tell a different story: she's a deserving odds-on favorite, but you don't have to be a cynic to at least visualize a blueprint for her defeat.

Rachel Alexandra's toughest competition could come from Past the Point, whose runnerup finish to Jess Jackson's Horse of the Year Curlin in last summer's Woodward is thus far the high point of his career. The Darley/Godolphin barn is in good form, his sprint prep was solid, and his speed is more effective on dirt than Southern California's synthetic tracks.  Against Curlin and a confirmed frontrunner in Wanderin Boy last year, jockey Edgar Prado let Past the Point roll on the front end, seizing a clear lead through MPF splits of 88-93-102-101 to a final number of 96.

Like his former Zito stablemate Wanderin Boy, Da Tara is known as a speed horse, too, and going to the front is his only hope, especially from the No. 1 post.  But you have to go back a full year to find solid pace numbers for Da Tara, and his 80-89-92 through six furlongs of the 2008 Jim Dandy not only fail to match up with Past the Point, but led to a stretch meltdown. Three weeks later, Da Tara finished a better fifth in the Travers, but only after holding a slim lead through a pace of 79-86-93. In other words, if Prado again wants to make an aggressive play for the lead with Past the Point, he could get it.

And what would that mean for Rachel Alexandra?  Another performance by Past the Point similar to last year's Woodward could very well make it interesting.  In the Mother Goose, Rachel willingly rated off a speed duel with pacefigs of 83-90-94. In the Haskell, she tracked the pace in 75-85-93. Way back in March's Fair Grounds Oaks, she set the pace with 85-83-88.  So for all her accomplishments, Rachel Alexandra has yet to face the kind of speed Past the Point showed a year ago, and although it would seem she has the talent and temperament to deal with pretty much anything, what happens if she can't breeze to the lead at will like she has every other time this year? What happens if she's still chasing Past the Point at the quarter pole?  What happens if she actually isn't a running machine and regresses slightly?

Of course, Prado is no cinch to take the race to Da' Tara leaving the gate, and even if he does, there is no guarantee Past the Point is as sharp or fit as a year ago, when he prepped for the Woodward with a 1 1/8-mile allowance score.  But that's also why Past the Point is 15-1 in the program line.

I'll repeat what I've been saying since the Kentucky Oaks: Rachel Alexandra is the fastest American dirt filly since Ruffian - and although it's impossible to accurately compare the two, in the past few months her on-paper career achievements have exceeded those of Ruffian. In my eyes, this would remain true even if she doesn't become the first filly to win the Woodward.
But for those coldhearted and analytical horseplayers inclined to try and beat her, at least you can make a legitimate case for one other horse in the field.

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gocashbaby More than 1 year ago
STOPPING BADLY?????????? Now I think I've heard it all.
Saratoga_Mike More than 1 year ago
Randy, Could you please post and comment on Rachel's Moss Pace figs from the Woodward? The post below by commentator David Catalano is borderline insane. David Catalano wrote: "At least now we know we are not missing anything by Rachel ducking Zenyatta......it clearly would not even be close. After relatively slow fractions(look at the rest of the card)Rachel was life and death to hang on. She was stopping badly....imagine Zenyatta flying by her!!" Yes, Mr. Catalano, Rachel's early internal fractions were slow if you compare her race to the sprint races of the day. I'd advise against that because it's simply nonsensical! You're either a delusional West Coast partisan or simply try to incense sane people. Finally, the track slowed a few ticks during the day, in my opinion. So comparing her race to the earlier sprints of the day makes even less sense. And it makes no sense anyway.
DC Horseplayer More than 1 year ago
Nice work, Randy. Your pace handicapping was right on. I'm very interested in what pace figs you came up with for the Woodward. I thought Rachel Alexandra was cooked when I saw that first 1/4 and 1/2 mile calls and her locking horns early with Da' Tara and Past the Point. When Macho Again came charging at her down the stretch, I thought it was all over, but was floored that she had something left and was able to hold on, running the final furlong under :13. What a great filly. I never saw Ruffian, but I think Rachel Alexandra is the best filly in my lifetime.
Michael Costello More than 1 year ago
Past the Point, eh? Well I guess I can confidently dismiss these pace figures from any future handicapping ventures.
Bryan More than 1 year ago
Hi Randy, On your coverage of the Travers on ESPN you and all the other analysts pretty much decried the decision to run Rachael in the Woodward and not the Travers, using excuses like that was the more prestigious race or "College Footballs opening weekend is Sept 5th" Well...I for one will say I was there and the intense wall of sound that rocked the Spa during that stretch drive certainly was not from people interested in watching the Navy vs. Ohio State game. Rachael winning the travers over a muddy track that she likes but could be used as an excuse for any of the other competitors would have paled in comparison to what transpired in the Woodward. I know you personally have no control over this, but what really should be decried is the abysmal coverage EPSN is doing leading up to the Breeders Cup. One of the upteenth ESPN networks surely could have bumped a taped poker tournament or something to give a national audience a chance to witness a truly historic performance by a truly once in a generation filly. When ESPN won the rights to the Breeders Cup, they pledged increased national coverage of the sport leading up to the Championships. From what I have seen...the coverage has just decreased exponetially to the point of almost being pathetic. Again...I know you are not personally responsible for this, but perhaps you could pass this on to someone who is, or maybe they would read this blog post and do something about it. I'm 31 years old and represent the vast minority of young true passionate fans of this sport. People being able to see what Racael has done without having to be there physicaly or by subscribing to a Betting network would certainly have them more hooked. I would think all of the commentators on that ESPn telecast the said she was ducking the tougher race should offer an apology to Jess Jackson and the fans. Just because it was not able to be covered on ESPN is no reason to knock the filly or her connections.
Mike A More than 1 year ago
Mr. Moss I understand your point about PTP, I too said he has the only speed to do any damage. But this isn't last year and he was in his comfort zone against Curlin. No easy lead today. If an older horse, in the vain of Seattle Slew who could run a half in 45 and change and still be around to run a 24 or sub 24 last quarter was entered I'd be on him like white on rice, but there isn't, and we are expecting PTP to do it aren't we, something he hasn't really shown in his "brief" career. It's like everyone is expecting one of these older horses to do something they've never done before. It's why alot of folks like PTP, because he showed signs and there's always maybe???? To me the quickest way to part company with your hard earned money is betting on a horse to do something it's never done. The filly could be beaten, after all except for the truth in life that we will all die someday, there is alot of truths in horse racing, but some races are better watched than bet on and this is one. Mike A
Kat More than 1 year ago
Pointless!!! :)
Nick Briglia More than 1 year ago
No problem trying to beat Rachel since there is no value in playing her. But I don't see Past the Point. If anything, it seems to me that if Rachel is tackled on the front end and the race is pressure filled on the front end then lets try and get Macho Again or Bullsbay up. I prefer Macho Again.
Freebzter More than 1 year ago
Randy, Great post. I am complete agreement with you that even if she doesn't win today, she still has the most accomplished 3yo filly resume the racing world has seen. Take nothing away from those in the past, but Rachel has danced the dance and won: a 3yo male classic (and the Haskell [G1], which has a big time reputation nowadays); 2 3yo filly classics (Ky Oaks, Mother Goose?) both by over 19 lengths and geared down. I also tend to agree with you about the shape of the race as well, except I'm not gung-ho about Past The Point. He plateaued in last years Woodward, in my opinion. I am going to leave heavily on Cool Coal Man and Bullsbay in here. I will be boxing them in exactas, and putting them underneath Rachel. I think that if she gets beat today, she will not be 2nd or 3rd either. I'm going out on a limb and saying she will either be given a ridiculously-tough-to-overcome trip (a la Smarty Jones and the 3 stooges... sorry I know you work with Bailey, but it's true) or she gets to the outside early and she says goodnight after the first 1/2 mile and just cruises home. No one in this field has a crazy turn of foot, except for possibly Bullsbay. But all one has to do is look at his race on Oaks day and then look at Rachel's. Good Luck to all and it's great to have you on the DRF blogs, TJ
david catalano More than 1 year ago
At least now we know we are not missing anything by Rachel ducking Zenyatta......it clearly would not even be close. After relatively slow fractions(look at the rest of the card)Rachel was life and death to hang on. She was stopping badly....imagine Zenyatta flying by her!!