When competing on the race track against colts and older horses, Rachel Alexandra was a beloved figure. She was often the underdog. And just as often, she dashed off to well-received wins in the Preakness Stakes and the Woodward Stakes — both against long fields of colts.
A rangy filly that measured 16 hands at her withers, Rachel Alexandra became the first female to win the Preakness in 85 years. It was after she won the 2009 Kentucky Oaks by over 20 lengths that she was sold to Stonestreet Stables and billionaire Jess Jackson that her winning and fame became a race-industry story for the ages. It was an open secret that Jackson found a loose $10 million in his bank account to buy her.
Jackson believed her rider since November of 2008, Calvin Borel, fit her front-running racing style like a Gucci suit settled on the shoulders of an English diplomat. Jackson brought in trainer Steve Asmussen. Together, the threesome of Rachel Alexandra, Borel, and Asmussen became a story that was equal parts Cinderella, Wonder Woman, Superstar Jockey, and Touch-of-Gold Trainer.
Because she wasn’t made eligible for the Preakness by her previous owner, Jackson had to pay a $100,000 supplemental fee to get her into the Triple Crown race. His investment was well rewarded when her winner’s share returned $600,000 to his coffers.
Jockey Borel was from less wealth that Jackson. The Louisiana high school dropout was taught the rudiments of race riding by his brother. When he began winning on longshots with a familiar style that found him hugging the rail as often as practical, Borel moved from Evangeline Downs to the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and from there to Kentucky with its famed Churchill Downs and sedate and understated Keeneland.
Asmussen came from stiff stock and had no silver spoon in his mouth at birth, either.
Jackson had owned Rachel Alexandra for 15 days when she won the Preakness, guided home by Borel.
She raced through the summer and through the fog of fall and won nine straight stakes races in all.
By the time she won the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, she had long since captured the racing public’s imagination and total affection.
Only five other fillies had ever started in the Woodward. None of them had won. Rachel Alexandra would be the first and only female to win that classic race. And she was only three. The Woodward success gave her nine consecutive wins.
Jackson wanted her to race when she was four. And she was still healthy.
After tries in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes, La Troienne, Fleur de Lis Handicap, Lady’s Secret Stakes, and Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga (five races), she was retired by Jackson. She had won twice and finished second three times at age four.
It just so happened that Jackson also owned the massive chestnut, Curlin — the 2007 and 2008 American Horse of the Year.
Through a part-owner of Rachel Alexandra, Jackson told a listener: “The privilege of owning these horses is like lightning striking twice. Rachel Alexandra and Curlin are true champions; both horses embody that intangible equine ideal that separate mere horse from legend.”
Rachel Alexandra was bred to Curlin in February of 2011 and she foaled a bay colt in late January of this year. The youngster had two white stockings on his hind legs and sported a white star on his little face.
Stonestreet farm manager, Garry Megibben, said of Rachel’s moving from competitive race horse to broodmare: “It was an easy transition within one week because her quick intelligence sets her apart. She is still active and likes to run.”
The colt’s progress through early July was followed closely by dabblers on the Internet. Videos were posted of mother and son romping in an outdoor paddock at Stonestreet. Still photographs
of the two were available on-line.
In late July, the little colt (known by the nickname, “Taco”, to his handlers on the farm) was brought to Saratoga during the Spa’s racing season. A contest to name the son of Rachel Alexandra and Curlin had drawn over 6,000 entries.
The name “Jess’s Dream” was chosen in honor of Jackson, who had passed away since Rachel’s retirement.
In March of this year, Rachel was bred to Bernardini, another success on the track in recent times. About five weeks later it was announced that she was in foal. And in late June, it was told on Twitter that Rachel’s second foal was a female.
Little Jess’s Dream won’t be two and eligible to race until 2014. Since he is the son of two of modern racing’s most recognizable names his every move will be watched and evaluated.
He’s only seven months old, yet two college interns working at Stonestreet have already established feelings for the four-legged bundle of energy. “He’s 300 pounds of rambunctious fun. He is a lttle pistol of a colt who is constantly bugging his mom. She is very patient with him.”
Jess’s Dream has the same long path to any race track as any other weanling. But he has famous parents whose racing backgrounds have few equals. He is the son of Rachel Alexandra and Curlin.