01/06/2016 11:25AM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Rachel's Valentina

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Debbie Roma

The story surrounding Rachel’s Valentina is so incredible that it borders on sensory overload: Rachel’s Valentina is “merely” a daughter of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness Stakes, and is by a champion in Bernardini, the Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old male of 2006 and also a winner of the Preakness, among other races.

Rachel’s Valentina is likely, if not certainly (and sadly), the last foal out of Rachel Alexandra because of complications Rachel Alexandra faced in foaling Rachel’s Valentina. These complications resulted in related surgeries for Rachel Alexandra and caused Rachel’s Valentina to be raised by a nurse mare.

Rachel Alexandra capped her amazing Horse of the Year campaign with a victory as a 3-year-old filly over older males in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga, becoming the first female ever to win that storied event. Six years later to the very day, Rachel’s Valentina won the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga.

:: 2015 Eclipse Awards: Finalist profiles

I mean, this could make you set the record for the biggest eye roll in history if it wasn’t all true.

But what is somewhat lost in all of this, and should not be, is Rachel’s Valentina is an extremely talented racehorse on her own. She is no Frank Sinatra Jr. In fact, Rachel’s Valentina was able to make enough of an impression away from the back-stories and in actual competition in only three starts in 2015 that she was voted a finalist for the 2-year-old filly Eclipse Award.

Rachel’s Valentina made her much-awaited racing debut in early August at Saratoga, and it quickly became clear she was sent off the even-money favorite for reasons beyond her regal parentage. A bit sluggish to begin, Rachel’s Valentina rolled past her competition to score by two lengths, going away.

That debut was so impressive that Rachel’s Valentina was sent off the favorite in the Spinaway into the teeth of two rivals in Tap to It and Constellation, who also were very impressive debut winners at Saratoga, and two others in Tonasah and Banree, who were coming off second-place finishes in Saratoga graded stakes events. The public got it right. Showing improved positional speed under regular rider John Velazquez, Rachel’s Valentina proved clearly best, leaving the field spread-eagled out behind her.

Rachel’s Valentina eschewed a conventional two-turn final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, but delivered a fine performance on the big day just the same, finishing second to Songbird, proving best of the rest. Rachel’s Valentina was bred in Kentucky by her owner, the Stonestreet Stables of Barbara Banke. She is trained by Todd Pletcher.