Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rachel Alexandra wins Kentucky Oaks by record 20 1/4 lengths

The filly Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks, the 'filly' version of the Derby, by a record 20 1/4 lengths. Her owner, 75-year-old Dolphus Morrison, has drawn attention to himself in recent days by his gender-based reasons for not running his filly in the Derby. He apparently made a few early comments about not wanting to run his filly in the Derby due to her gender and then, when the press pushed a little on that, got defensive and stubborn.

"I don't think a stallion should be messed up by the occasional really, really outstanding filly. They should run on their own."

"Stallions should run against stallions because the Triple Crown races are the showcase for the future stallions of our industry, and they should not be messed up by the occasional really, really outstanding filly."

"I thought it was dumb to come right behind Eight Belles with something that possibly could cause that kind of problem... Eight Belles had the physical (attributes) to compete in the Derby, which she did. One bad step got her.”

“I’m kind of weird. I think the Derby is a colts' race and it’s there to showcase the horses that are the top potential stallions. It’s kind of stupid for some jerk with a filly to screw that up. I also just don’t like the idea of 20 horses clang-banging her and knocking each other’s brains out in that first 200 or 300 yards trying to get to that first turn.”

Should the filly have run today with the boys? I certainly don't know. Maybe the sex issue is just a cover for an owner who thinks his filly would be outclassed purely on speed for the big race. But I vastly prefer trainer Hal Wiggins' comment about Rachel Alexandra to the New York Daily News.

"This is the type of horse you're always looking for. I'm just so glad she finally came along."

Rachel Alexandra Is Special - The Sacramento Bee
Rachel Alexandra Wins 2009 Kentucky Oaks - Louisville Courier-Journal
Alexandra The Great Breezes In Oaks - New York Daily News
For a beautiful photo of Rachel Alexandra, see this pre-Oaks article at

Fillies who won the Kentucky Derby
Regret in 1915
Genuine Risk in 1980
Winning Colors in 1988 lists all the fillies that have raced in the Derby, and their results here

Eight Belles was, of course, the most recent filly to run in the classic. Her death last year after a catastrophic injury just beyond the finish line shook the Derby, which had been unusually lucky in never seeing a fatal accident, and put new life into discussions of racetrack safety and drug use. The 2008 Derby winner, Big Brown, was on a regular steroid schedule that many think allowed the colt, whose notoriously bad hooves led to his early retirement that fall, stay sound enough to race.

The filly has been remembered this year at Churchill Downs with a race named after her on the card, and eight bells will be rung before the Derby.

Owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones are back in the Derby with the colt Friesan Fire.


There is Walter Farley's book about a filly training for Kentucky Derby in The Black Stallion's Filly.

Blanche Chenry Perrin's Born To Run also centers around a filly's pursuit of the classic.

And there is
an entry in the Thoroughbred series by Joanna Campbell, Wonder's First Race. Other Kentucky Derby children's fiction includes Kentucky Derby Winner by Isabel McLennan McMeekin (1949) about the first Derby, and Old Bones, The Wonder Horse by Mildred Mastin Pace (1955) about Exterminator, the unlikely winner of the 1918 Derby.

The latter book, illustrated by Wesley Dennis, is a very nice story of a classic underdog, and much more appealing in a way than the similar Seabiscuit story.

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