What we saw on Saturday was nothing short of spectacular. This year's Preakness lived up to everything everyone made of it in the days leading up to the race. What had the possibility of becoming a drama-induced spectacle that could have ended in disaster turned out to be a showcase of two spectacular thoroughbreds of the most unconventional sort, a huge, elegant filly vs. a small, average looking gelding. The former dazzled the racing world with a 20 1/4 length victory in the Kentucky Oaks, while the later snuck through the slop on the rail and took the Derby garland of roses at odds of 50-1 to the shock of the crowd at Churchill Downs.
Rachel Alexandra did something that the toughest of colts would have trouble doing, and Mine That Bird told his naysayers to go to hell. I don't think anyone will pay much attention to the rest of the three year old crop from here on out, especially if these two meet up once more for the Belmont. At first glance, a lot of people wonder if the Bird was the better horse, when you look at him flying in the lane, honed in on the laboring filly. But take a moment to look at what Rachel really did before you let that thought get too far. This filly came cockeyed out of the gate, had to straighten up and bust ass from post 13 to get to the rail and find position. Once there, Big Drama floated her four wide into the first turn and never let her get closer than the three path or so through the entire race. She set fractions of :23 and change and :46 and change, fractions that even champion quality colts might have trouble finishing a race on. Not only that, but the hot pace set the race up for a closer like Mine That Bird, making his job easier and hers that much harder. When Bird and Musket Man started to close, they made up ground, but they did it slowly. When you look at the replay, they only really got close to her in the last 2-3 jumps. But if you look at Calvin, he'd already geared down on her, even though he'd had to go to the whip when they made their stretch run. Had she needed to really get into a dogfight, I think she would have, and I don't think she'd have come out on the losing end. At the end of it all, we learn that she did not like the loose surface at Pimlico, and was struggling over the ground from start to finish. Now you tell me that's not something incredible.
As for Bird, that little horse once again picked his way through horses from the back of the pack, inhaling them like they were standing still. He just goes twice as fast as they do when he really gets going. Any horse with that turn of foot has the power to go on and do great things, and anyone who scoffed at his Derby win and muttered that another Broker's Tip had won the Derby should hang their head in shame. This little horse is a force to be reckoned with, and there is a significant part of me who is sad he has been denied his chance at a Triple Crown.
This is the best possible scenario for racing - a filly who beat the boys and a Derby winning gelding who won't be whisked off to the breeding shed at the end of the year to the chagrin of his fans. Horse racing should embrace these two and thank God we have them, and that we got to see a race like that.
Fillies have not won the latter two triple crown races not only in my lifetime, but in my parents and even grandparents. And now I have seen fillies win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. I want to see Rachel's beautiful head and long, fluid stride thrilling racing fans for as long as possible, and I want that unassuming little horse in the plain brown wrapper to continue to defy the odds for as long as his heart is willing.
This is what racing is all about. We're watching something amazing unfold. Let's enjoy the hell out of it.