Full recovery still on Rachel Alexandra’s docket

NOTE: This story ran on B11 in the 8/7/13 edition.

 

For two years Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta held tight to much of the thoroughbred racing public’s affection and interest.

The lithe and long-striding Rachel Alexandra was not only distinctive on race tracks where she had wins in six different states and on eight different tracks, but she was a unique specimen with her long, white upside-down exclamation-point blaze on her forehead and considerable height at about 16 hands.

After winning the Kentucky Oaks by more than 20 lengths,  Rachel won the Preakness and beat the boys again in the Haskell and Woodward. Zenyatta was unbeaten for the longest time and she also showed her dust to colts in the Breeders’ Classic.

Stonestreet Farm and billionaire owner Jess Jackson purchased Rachel for a reported $10 million after her dominating success in the fillies-only Kentucky Oaks. Jackson brought in trainer Steve Asmussen and announced a run in the Preakness.

She was a widely popular winner throughout her career and when owner Jackson decided she had done enough racing he returned her to his acreage in Kentucky. He set about the could-be-worth millions task of readying for her breeding with his other Horse of the Year, Curlin.

Two Preakness winners, Rachel and Curlin.

Two Horse of the Year Award winners, Rachel and Curlin.

Jess Jackson’s wife Barbara Banke said, “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’s first foal was born on Jan. 22, 2012, and he was a brown colt that was named Jess’s Dream, a name selected from the 6,521 entries sent forth in a contest held to name the youngster.

Jess’s Dream is now a yearling (one-year-old) and could be racing in 2014 as a two-year-old.

Jess’s Dream is nicknamed “Taco” and is said to be “feisty but lovable” according to Banke. “Rachel let him do what he wanted to do. She was a good mom, but she let Taco have his space.”

That leads us to this past February. Rachel delivered a 140-pound filly by stallion, Bernardini. It was the largest foal at Stonestreet Farm this year. The dark brown female had a heart-shaped star on her forehead and was healthy and lively like you want a foal to be.

But Rachel Alexandra was not healthy and lively.

The day after the filly was born Rachel was hurriedly transported to Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington. During the foaling her colon was injured and fluids, bacteria and fecal material were leaking into her abdoman.

A six-hour operation was performed and Rachel’s life was very much in danger.

Stonestreet Farm communications manager Amy Kearns reported, “Everyone understood the importance of reaching out to the fans immediately in that difficult time, and social media was the fastest way to share the information.”

A Rood and Riddle employee said, “Rachel was amazing. She just kind of went with it. We were on pins and needles, expecting problems, and they just didn’t happen.”

Brett Comer, a technician at the Lexington facility, sat outside her stall for 15 hours a day. After a few days of supervised recovery, Comer slowly walked her, hand fed her, administered the necessary medications and even brushed and groomed her mane and tail.

In mid-May, Rachel was carefully vanned back to Stonestreet. She was placed in a 16-foot by 16-foot stall that had oak paneling and monitors looking at her from all angles.

Comer was there at her arrival back home. He had been hired as a full-time caretaker for Rachel.

“I was in tears — I’m not going to lie,” Comer said. “When we arrived, all the people were there to see her; it was just amazing.”

When Rachel’s entourage reached the stall where her recovery was to be continued, the farm’s workers had taken the many cards sent by well-wishers and placed them all along the walls. Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans had sent a “get-well” banner that stretched along one wall.

Jackson’s wife, Barbara Banke, continued, “She was very sweet for me when she was just recovering at first, and now she tries to bite me so that’s a good sign.”

Since her homecoming in May, Rachel has been allowed to go outside in her own private paddock. At first, her recovery was measured in short strides and she was hand-grazed, but now she is running again. “Running is not the word for it,” Comer mentioned. “She is breezing for the Belmont. When we turn around, she’s back to her old self. She is up in the air, she rears, she runs, she bucks and she plays. She is definitely feeling good.”

The Stonestreet “Recovery Team” had proceeded with a small-step patience. They were deliberate and unhurried in their quest to restore Rachel to full health. The pace will continue to be one marked by caution.

A name has yet to be given to the Rachel Alexandra-Bernardini filly who has done well under the watch of a surrogate mother. If all goes according to plan for the little one, she will be one-year-old on Jan. 1, 2014, and could be racing in 2015 as a two-year-old.

Rachel is out of danger. And that couldn’t be said just a few months ago.

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8 Responses to Full recovery still on Rachel Alexandra’s docket

  1. Rachel Alexandra is an incredible race horse. I’ve never had the opportunity to see her in person but I’ve admired and have loved her from afar. God bless her always! {{hugs}} XO

  2. Delrene Sims-Bizzigotti

    I had the privilege of visiting Rachel Alexandra at Stonestreet in October 2012. What an incredible day, one I will never forget. I never saw her race in person, but to see her and Hot Dixie Chick on “Rachel Alexandra Day” was life changing. I am so happy that she is doing well and back to her feisty self. May she have many carefree and healthy years.

  3. This is more good news indeed. She was one of the greats and it is so good to know she is back and happy. She is beloved by many people including me.

  4. I saw her race in person once..I was one of many who came up with the name for Taco Jess’s Dream..I would follow her to the ends of the earth,,Rachel Alexandra The Great!!

  5. Read every report on Rachel after her surgery and during. I prayed for her so hard and God heard my prayers. So glad she’s doing alright now.

  6. Love to hear that our beloved Rachel is doing so well!

  7. Anne from Paramount CA

    Thanks so much for this update on Rachel and special thanks to the Stonestreet “Recovery Team.” Please give this wonderful girl a big cross country hug from California. So good to learn she is progressing so well!

  8. So happy and relieved knowing Rachel is on her way to a full
    recovery. Hugs and kisses from her loving fan in CA.

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