Woodward may be star filly’s ’09 finale

If Rachel Alexandra wins the Woodward on Saturday at Belmont Park, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jess Jackson calls it a year for his champion 3-year-old filly.

A win will cement her Horse of the Year resume. If she is going to race in 2010 while skipping the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, she has nothing else to prove.

Horses are flesh and blood, not machines. Rachel Alexandra has run seven consecutive triple-digit Beyer ratings this year and won all seven of those stakes races. The Amazon filly has simply not regressed. If she wins Saturday over older males, that memory will be as good as it gets in 2009.

I disagree with those who claim the Woodward will be a tougher race than last week’s Travers won by Summer Bird. In the Travers, six horses ran a last race triple-digit Beyer. In the Woodward, just three horses are coming in off a triple-digit Beyer.

Rachel Alexandra may or may not be the greatest filly of all time. But a win in the Woodward would cap one of the finest seasons ever by a filly.

She will have been undefeated in eight starts. Rachel Alexandra would have won in her own division four times, including a 20-length score in the Kentucky Oaks.

She’ll have beaten 3-year-old males twice in the Preakness and Haskell. Rachel Alexandra had a near walkover in the Mother Goose over older mares. A win in the Woodward over male handicap horses would be icing on the cake.

There is a difference between ducking horses and racing on your own terms. Last year, Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen laid out a schedule for Curlin, willing to take on all comers. Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown did not.

Rachel Alexandra has faced challenges that would have defeated a lesser filly.

STRAIGHT — Jockeys are being asked to donate one mount fee Saturday to aid injured rider Michael Straight, who was hurt in a spill Aug. 26 at Arlington Park.

Racing fans can donate, too, by contacting either the Jockeys’ Guild or the Don MacBeth Memorial Fund.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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