With her victory in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 5, Rachel’s Valentina established a couple more firsts. Earlier, she had become the first runner and winner for her dam, Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, with a strong performance in a maiden special at the Spa on Aug. 2.
Now, Rachel’s Valentina (by Bernardini) is the first stakes winner and G1 winner for her illustrious dam and therefore the first G1 winner for Medaglia d’Oro as a broodmare sire. In between the 2-year-old’s maiden and the Spinaway, the 3-year-old Jess’s Dream (Curlin) won his debut in a Spa maiden, and just like that, Rachel Alexandra became a 100 percent producer.
Having two winners from two foals isn’t a rarity, but it is good.
And then if anything further were needed to intensify the air of electricity around the two offspring of Rachel Alexandra, they are the only two foals from the champion racer and fan favorite. Rachel Alexandra, a big and quite robust mare, had a bit of trouble after foaling Jess’s Dream, then a bit of trouble after foaling Rachel’s Valentina. Much worse, Rachel Alexandra had surgery after foaling the filly, and veterinary surgeons found that the mare had lost blood flow to a portion of her small intestine, where a bacterial infection had resulted.
The surgery to repair the intestine was a success, but Rachel Alexandra spent five weeks in Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital recovering from it.
Quite normally, Rachel Alexandra was not bred in 2013 due to all the difficulties with her health, but it was a modest surprise when owner Stonestreet Farm announced the mare would not be covered in 2014. Nor was she covered this year, and drawing an inference from those circumstances, it would appear that the future breeding career of Rachel Alexandra is most unclear.
That is all the more unfortunate because she is a very good mare.
A winner of 13 races from 19 starts, Rachel Alexandra earned more than $3.5 million, as well as Eclipse Awards for champion 3-year-old filly and Horse of the Year in 2009. The highlights of her career included a blowout victory in the Kentucky Oaks, victories in the Preakness over Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, the Haskell over Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, and the Woodward Stakes.
What isn’t as well recalled is that Rachel Alexandra was also a good 2-year-old, winning half of her six starts, including the G2 Golden Rod Stakes, and finishing second in the G3 Pocahontas and Debutante.
So, the typical reasoning would go, that if the mare were bred to a more precocious sire, the resulting foal would be an even earlier or more talented 2-year-old. Only problem with that reasoning is that Bernardini, the sire of Rachel’s Valentina, wasn’t a top juvenile.
He didn’t even race at 2.
At 3, however, Bernardini came round by leaps and bounds. He ended the season as the divisional champion with victories in six of his eight starts, including the Preakness, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and he earned just a bit more than $3 million.
At stud, Bernardini has been one of the most successful sons of A.P. Indy at getting the top-level winners, with a dozen G1 winners to date.
It is also significant that both times Rachel’s Valentina raced, trainer Todd Pletcher has noted the filly acts “like more distance would be what she wants.”
In the filly’s debut, Pletcher warned that the distance might be a little short for her. But then she kicked on through the stretch and won the race. Some horses can win, even when the odds or circumstances indicate they shouldn’t, and Pletcher said: “Rachel’s Valentina was very professional, settled off the pace, closed well, galloped out strongly.”
That was the description of her debut at Saratoga a little over a month ago.
After the Spinaway, Jockey John Velazquez said the filly is “one of those horses that the farther she goes, the better she gets. Before she ran, I thought three-quarters might be a little too short, and she still got up there. She’s pretty good.”
Don’t confuse her with Ruffian, who loved burning from the start, but Rachel’s Valentina is a talented filly, and all the indicators are that she will only get better with time and distance and the opportunity to try for top races next season.