On Sunday at Saratoga, Rachel looked like she might capture her first Grade 1 and major race of 2010 as the field came down the home stretch for the final time. But in the final sixteenth of a mile of the Personal Ensign, she began to get very leg weary and a very ordinary horse named Persistently went right by Rachel in the final strides.
"After we put away Life at Ten at the quarter pole, I didn't feel any acceleration and I got worried," jockey Calvin Borel said. "She wasn't really there. I knew if anyone was running behind us, we were in trouble."
If she was defeated by Life at Ten in Sunday's race, it would not have been as big of a disappointment as Life at Ten entered the Personal Ensign with a six race winning streak. But Persistently had only won three times in 13 races and had trouble beating horses that weren't in the same league as Rachel or Life at Ten.
Now, what does the future hold for the defending "Horse of the Year?"
"I'm very disappointed that she lost but I am very happy with Rachel," Rachel's trainer Steve Asmussen said. "It hurts to lose and you're disappointed for it but if that's the case, just think how happy she's made you and all the things has done for us...If she isn't exactly where she was last year, hopefully she can get back there."
As for her next race, Asmussen said "We want to evaluate who we are and who she is and where she is at. We're just worried about her well being."
One thing about her future is certain, she will not be a two-time Horse of the Year. What is almost as certain is that she will not run in the Breeders' Cup Classic against the best horses in the country. She would have little chance to beat the likes of Blame, Quality Road and the undefeated Zenyatta. The most likely spot for her will be the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic where she will have a chance to salvage a good year.
But a good year is not what everyone expected. We were counting on another great year with the hope that she and Zenyatta would meet to prove who was the best female horse in the country. Now her last shot to be in the spotlight will come in the Breeders' Cup.
Before all the Rachel bashers come out of the "wood works" we need to remember one thing; her 2009 campaign was still one of the greatest ever for a 3-year-old filly. Rachel was 8-for-8 last year including wins over the boys in the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward and a near 20-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks. Truly amazing.
What she has done this year should not take anything away from her accomplishments last year.
Rachel just appears to be a filly who peaked in 2009. That is very common in racing. We all just had reasonable expectations that her greatness would continue into 2010.