08/27/2009 7:26PM

Gray Lady


Jess Jackson deserves all the pleasure he derives from the acquisition and ownership of Rachel Alexandra. He's got the only one, and it's great that from time to time he likes to share the view. However, there is a natural skepticism that arises when someone tells us over and over how good something is without ever giving us a chance to discover it conclusively for ourselves. Now that it has been announced Rachel Alexandra will make her next start in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday, Sept. 5, more evidence may be on the way.

It's already been noted, at great length, that no 3-year-old filly has ever won the Woodward. This is of interest, just as no 3-year-old filly has won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (first run in 1919), no 3-year-old filly has won the Whitney (first run in 1928) and, for that matter, no 3-year-old filly has won the Pacific Classic (first run in 1991). The main reason is statistical -- very few have tried -- which relates to the traditional, since there are races of equal prestige for the gender.

Now Rachel Alexandra will try, and more power to her. But to confuse the current look of the Woodward with its impressive past would be a mistake. This is not your daddy's Woodward.

In fact, the race has lived a lot of different and very colorful lives. William Woodward Sr., the man behind Gallant Fox and Omaha and chairman of the Jockey Club, died at the age of xx. His legacy was honored by the first running of the Woodward Handicap in 1954, when Pet Bully beat Joe Jones at Belmont going a mile. In 1955 the Woodward was a mile and one-eighth and won by Traffic Judge. Thirty days later, William "Billy" Woodward Jr., the son of you-know-who and owner of soon-to-be Horse of the year Nashua, was gunned down by his wife in what was ruled an accidental shooting. In 1956, Nashua, now owned by Spendthrift Farm, was upset in the Woodward by Mister Gus.

For the 16 runnings from 1956 through 1971 it was a mile and one-quarter, eight of them run at Aqueduct and eight at Belmont, followed by four runnings at a mile and one-half. Secretariat lost one of those. Forego won four straight, including two runnings at a mile and a half (at weight-for-age) and then two as a handicap at a mile and one-eighth (carrying a total of 268 pounds), after which the Woodward was back to 10 furlongs from 1978 through 1980's walkover with Spectacular Bid. Commencing in 1981 the race profile became a picture of consistency--9 furlongs at Belmont--as long as you don't count the reversion to a mile and a quarter in 1989, when fans of Easy Goer got to watch him romp an extra 12 seconds or so.

The move from Belmont in 2006 was predicated on giving the older division another opportunity to run for Saratoga glory, never mind that there were now two main track mile and one-eighth races for the same horses a month apart, both beginning with "W." Not even California would do that, although it is true all the races of significance tend to start with either San or Santa.

Lady's Secret 1

Rachel Alexandra will be running a two-turn mile and one-eighth Woodward at Saratoga rather than the one-turn mile and one-eighth of Belmont. Every respected handicapper I talked to (okay, both of them) said without a doubt a ratable speed horse like Rachel has a distinct advantage going two turns compared to one. And because the Woodward now looks pretty much like the Whitney, there is justification for arm's length comparison.  Gallorette, Lady's Secret and Personal Ensign all were Whitney winners, Gallorette also finished second, as did Serena's Song, while Shuvee and Straight Deal finished third. None of them was three at the time.

Still, it is Woodward history Rachel Alexandra will try to make, and it was on Aug. 30, 1986, that Lady's Secret finished second in the Woodward to Precisionist, the same season she was voted Horse of the Year. To that point in the campaign, Lady's Secret already had faced the boys three times, winning the Whitney and running third in the Met Mile and the Iselin.

In terms of facing males in major races at age three, Rachel Alexandra has the jump on Lady's Secret. On the other hand, by early September of 1985, the 3-year-old Lady's Secret already had met and beaten older fillies and mares four times. Other than the fact that the elegant Rachel Alexandra is dark brown and about twice as tall, while Lady's Secret moved like a scalded gray cat, there is not much to compare the two, which leaves us more time to enjoy the memory of one and anticipation for the other.

Go here to relive the Lady's Secret years: Download Lady'sSecret

Jay H More than 1 year ago
JC -- That's correct. Phipps was chairman of TJC in '89, and Easy Goer was always going to run in the Gold Cup, even if that put his ability to be at the top of his game in the Classic in jeopardy. There's something to be said for loyalty to the home team.
JCRobinson More than 1 year ago
Wasn't Phipps chairman of the Jockey Club in '89? I thought I once read something along the lines of it wouldn't have looked very good if the JC chairman didn't run his big horse in the JC's namesake race.
Mickey More than 1 year ago
Jay Nice article and loved reviewing Lady Secret's PP's....I love that you mentioned the fact about the "who's who" she faced as a 3 year old....hence when I write about Rachael Alenxandra on these blogs..I basically state that she isn't in that type of league yet based off of some of her monstrous wins against?????????? Still she is real good and getting better...but..I just think too many people have jumped on her HOY bandwagon too quick. What's your opinion for Saturday?...I feel, based off who she is facing, she will win in a workwoman effort. Mickey
Robert226 More than 1 year ago
Easy Goer did his historic run as a 3yo. That run of Easy Goer's as a 3yo of the Belmont at 12F, Whitney at 9F, Travers at 10F, Woodward at 10F and Jockey Club Gold Cup at 12F was most historic for a 3yo. What Slew O' Gold did as a 4yo was great also. Ironically, both Easy Goer and Slew O' Gold narrowly lost the Breeders' Cup Classic after "prepping" at 12F in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. That never works.
Champ132 More than 1 year ago
Ed Forhane, Get your facts straight!! Damascus did NOT win the Met Mile, he did NOT win the Suburban as a 3yo, he did NOT win the Whitney as a 3yo!! Get your facts straight, Damascus went down to Delaware and won the Leonard Richards for 3yos, LOST the W Du Pont at Delaware, then won the Dwyer for 3yos,American Derby for 3yos, Travers, Woodward and Gold Cup and lost the DC Int'l! Damascus did NOT win the Met Mile, Suburban and Whitney as a 3yo, he lost 4 times as a 3yo! Easy Goer is the ONLY horse to have ever reeled off the Belmont, Whitney, Travers, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup in history!!
Gharza More than 1 year ago
Slew O'Gold at 4yo in 1984 won the Whitney 127lbs.(9f), Woodward(9f), Marlboro Cup 129lbs.(10f) and JCGC(12f) with style folks.
Michael Blowen More than 1 year ago
Jay, I wanted to let you know that Black Tie Affair is settling in very nicely along with Proper Reality and Jade Hunter here at Old Friends...Also, check out the eighth race tonight at Mountaineer Park...Two great old geldings...each winners of more than $500,000...we hope that at least one of them will wind up at Old Friends...All the Best, Michael.
sid fernando More than 1 year ago
ACRS and Jay, In fact, another 3-year-old did dominate like EG on his way to HOY -- Rokeby's Burch-trained Arts and Letters. A and L won: Met Mile, Belmont, Travers, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1969 as a 3-year-old. He also spanned greater distances, winning the 8f MM to the 16f JCGC. Also, this was the year of Derby and Preakness winner Majestic Prince, who won 9 of 10 and only lost the Belmont. A and L was Easy Goer to MP's Sunday Silence, except A and L actually won the championship.
Ed Forhane More than 1 year ago
Doesn't anybody but me remember Damascus? Afer finishing 3rd in the 1967 Derby he won the Preakness, Met Mile, Belmont, Suburban, Whitney, Travers, Woodward, and JC Gold Cup. Overall I think he won 19 of 20 starts as a 32yr old. In the Woodward he beat the 1966 HOY Buckpasser AND the 1968 HOY Dr. Fager. Only Native Dancer's 3YO campaign is in the same class as Damascus!
Silver Charm More than 1 year ago
Thanks for putting the Lady's PP's up. Not only was she great but I forgot how good that Three Year Old crop of Filly's hers was. Moms Command-Triple Tiara winner and Eclipse Champ. Frans Valentine-Ky Oaks Champ and DQ loser of first BC Juvy Filly race. Outstandingly-First BC Juvy Filly Champ Folk Art-Ky Oaks Favorite Savvanah Slew, Clocks Secret, etc, etc. Ladys Secret did not get any notoriety until she beat Moms Command at Saratoga in the Test. She probably encompassed all of the highs and yes arguable one of the lows of Waynes training career. But hey if he did not take chances with her she may never have been as great as she turned out to be in the history books........