A Haskell-Travers double for Rachel? Don’t rule it out

Reader Jim Tierney advised on 7/15 that there are six horses that have won both the Haskell and Travers.
Reader BC advised on 7/16 that there are seven horses that have won both stakes.

Seven horses have won both the Haskell Invitational and historic Travers Stakes since the former race was established in 1968. But no filly has ever turned the trick, until maybe now. Think that Rachel Alexandra’s co-owner, Jess Jackson, who likes to raise the bar and set the standard, isn’t thinking about what a coup it would be for his immensely popular 3-year-old filly?

We’re still waiting to hear when Rachel Alexandra will make her next start. Of course, everyone is still holding out hope that the 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’ Oro will eventually take on the country’s most popular older distaffer, the unbeaten Zenyatta, but there’s no further word on that front. Zenyatta’s next start will come in the $300,000 Grade 2 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 9.

There are three races where Rachel Alexandra could logically make her next start — the $1 million Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on Sunday, which would be her first race against older fillies and mares; the $300,000 Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 25; or the $1 million Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on Aug 2, which would be her second matchup against the boys after a victory in the Preakness Stakes on May 16.

The American Oaks is probably out, seeing as though it carries a much smaller purse than the two million-dollar races. Entries for the Delaware Handicap will be taken Wednesday, so a decision is needed immediately if Rachel’s connections want to go that route. She certainly signified her readiness for racing Monday morning, when she worked five furlongs in 1:01.38 at Saratoga.

A start in either of the aforementioned three stakes means she would be set up for a start in the $600,000 Grade 1 Alabama Stakes on Aug. 23 or the $1 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes on Aug. 29, both of which will be run at Saratoga. If it comes down to a choice of the two, bet on the latter.

It’s my guess she’ll go next in the Haskell and then try the Travers. Holding Pattern (1974), Wajima (1975), Wise Times (1986), Forty Niner (1988), Holy Bull (1994), Coronado’s Quest (1998) and Point Given (2001) are the only horses to win both. If Rachel Alexandra accomplishes the feat, meaning she would have beaten the boys three times this year, well, you can make her 1-5 to win Horse of the Year.

Rachel Alexandra is unbeaten in six starts this year and has won nine of 11 lifetime. Her past three starts have all been most impressive — a record 20 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks on May 1, the victory in the Preakness and a record 19 1/4-length win in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park on June 27.

15 thoughts on “A Haskell-Travers double for Rachel? Don’t rule it out

  1. Hello Art,
    While we now know Rachel Alexandra will run next in the Haskell I am not sure if she will attempt the Travers. I understand the glamour that will come in beating the boys again, however, why not set up the Travers with a run in the Jim Dandy or even the Whitney? She would not even need to ship as she is already stabled at Saratoga. The late, great Woody Stephens always believed in a race over the track. And both of these are in her wheelhouse at a mile and an eighth. And the Whitney would offer the added benefit of beating her elders. I am not sure how Rachel will fair going an extra eighth in the Travers. We know that Mine That Bird will like the distance of the Travers. The Haskell of course makes a lot of sense as Monmouth Park has always been a speed favoring strip. While I would love to see her try the Travers, I believe that since she is passing on a Travers prep at the Spa she may very well pass on running at the Spa altogether.

  2. Hi Art,

    I just wanted to name two other horses that won the Haskell and Travers: Holding Pattern (1974) and Wajima (1975).

  3. Ray,
    Interesting theory … but we all know Jess Jackson likes to accomplish things that have never been done in the sport, and a filly winning the Haskell-Travers double is something that would stamp Rachel as perhaps the best 3-year-old filly ever, even better than the great Ruffian. Jess has an ego, and there’s nothing he’d like better than to see Rachel remembered in those terms. Also, Jess likes the larger purses. It makes more sense to run in the Haskell with its $1 million jackpot than the $500,000 Jim Dandy. Just a hunch bet on my part after hearing Mr. Jackson on conference calls, etc. As for the Whitney, I don’t think they want to take on older horses yet until the end of the year. What I am hearing now is the possibility of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta meeting AFTER the Breeders’ Cup on a neutral track.

  4. Jim,
    Ahhhh, I misssed a couple huh? Thanks, I’ll make sure to update my previous post. So now it’s six who have accomplished the feat, and no fillies. Well, at least until this year.

  5. Because of that ego, I betting on Rachael and Zenyatta meeting in the BC Ladies Classic. Neither horse has anything to prove in a match race after the Breeders Cup. But, Jess Jackson would be hard pressed by his ego to let Zenyatta have all the attention on BC Friday. The $3 million purse may mean nothing, but beating Zenyatta on her home court would make her, arguably the greatest filly ever.

  6. EdWyn,
    Your last point about beating Zenyatta on her home track would perhaps mark Rachel as the greatest filly ever is right on. Unlike last year, though, I just don’t think Jess is going to relent this year. That’s my gut feeling. But I would not rule out the two meeting at a neutral track after the Breeders’ Cup. Not a match race, which both camps have ruled out, but perhaps a race written specially for those two special distaffers with a large enough purse that would attract other fillies and guarantee a large enough payday even if they only finish third.

  7. Hello Art,
    “Even better than the great Ruffian”. That’s quite a statement. I am an old timer (57) and I have been going to the track since I was 7. Ruffian is the best filly I have ever seen and I think Ruffian would have run the shoes right off of Rachel Alexandra. Please understand, I think Rachel Alexandra is a very special horse. But I just can’t bring myself to even consider that she might be better than Ruffian. I will always believe that Ruffian would have beaten Foolish Peasure on that tragic afternoon.

  8. Ray, Believe me, there are few bigger fans of the great Ruffian than myself. I too remember that ill-fated match race. I was rooting for Ruffian. We’ll never know what would have happened if the two had met, much like we may never know what would happen if Rachel and Zenyatta hooked up. There are many similarities between Ruffian and Rachel. Ruffian was a speed filly who seemed to set records whenever she ran. Rachel is a filly who has the type of speed to go gate to wire, like in the Preakness, or stalk the pace, like in the Mother Goose. But if Rachel beats males three times this year and becomes the first filly to sweep the Haskell and Travers, well, you have to tip your hat to her and believe she’s at least the equal of the incomparable Ruffian. Rachel is the first filly that’s come along that I’ve dared compare to Ruffian. Rachel’s career is not over yet, so let’s hold off until she’s done. Hopefully we’ll see her race as a 4-year-old, something we didn’t get to see with Ruffian because she was taken from us so soon.

  9. You’re right, BC … I missed another one. And what’s interesting about that year is that he swept the two races with different jockeys, winning with McCarron aboard in the Travers and Pincay aboard in the Haskell.

  10. …and Pat Day rode Seeking The Gold in both races after previously being Forty Niner’s regular jockey. This started Day’s run with Shug/Phipps horses that included Easy Goer later that year.

    As for Rachel Alexandra pulling off the double; I think that the connections are going to place their Horse of the Year chips “all in” on the Jockey Club Gold Cup. As such, they might want to take a “step back” for their race between the Haskell and JCGC. Perhaps the Personal Ensign, the day after the Travers, which would give her a less stressful initial test at 10 furlongs.

  11. BC,
    I would be really surprised if Rachel’s connections go against older males this year. IMHO, if she swept the Haskell and Travers, she’d be 1-5 to win Horse of the Year unless Zenyatta’s connections step out of their comfort zone, beat the males and also beat Rachel, maybe in a race written specially for the two of them after the Breeders’ Cup. Right now, the HOY title is Rachel’s to lose. If she wins the Haskell, I believe it’s going to be very difficult for Zenyatta to win Horse of the Year, unless the two square off against each other and Zenyatta wins. I also think Zenyatta has got to beat the boys in order to win HOY.

  12. I agree with you on what “should” happen. The fact is that Zenyatta’s connections will get to play the last card. If she adds the Hirsch & Lady’s Secret to her earlier wins and then wins the BC Classic, it will be hard to deny her the title… unless Rachel Alexandra also has an open G1 win. anyway, this post was about the Haskell/Travers double. I think she could do it, given the opportunity, but the “end game” planning might effect their desire to start in the Travers.

  13. BC,
    What’s good is that we’re debating this. It’s good for the sport. No doubt about it — Rachel and Zenyatta are both great for the sport of horse racing.

  14. WOW – these comparison of Rachel to the great Ruffian is so laughable. sorry folks. Rachel beat a bunch of young ok boys at the Preakness. Her Mother Goose is a workout, not a race + the track as a very strong speed bias. That stakes record cannot be compared to Ruffians. Anyway, I hope Rachel wins the Haskells but IMO the bubble will finally burst and she will be back racing fillies. She is a very good horse but a RUFFIAN? seriously. She is not even a Personal Ensign!

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