"She's not normal."
That's what jockey Calvin Borel said about Rachel Alexandra after he guided the superstar filly to a record-setting victory in the Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park in June.
Both before and after the Mother Goose - in which she set a stakes record for time and margin of victory - Rachel Alexandra displayed abnormal talent that enabled her to record arguably the most historic campaign by a 3-year-old filly and put her in a unique showdown with the racemare Zenyatta for Horse of the Year.
In a year in which she went 8 for 8, Rachel Alexandra had the press scurrying through the history books and their thesauri to try to keep up. She defeated males on three occasions in Grade 1 races: the Preakness in May, the Haskell in August, and the Woodward in September.
In defeating Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird at Pimlico, Rachel Alexandra became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness.
In the slop at Monmouth Park, Rachel Alexandra won the Haskell by six lengths over Summer Bird, who won the Belmont Stakes in his previous start. She joined Serena's Song as the only filly to win the Haskell, and her time of 1:47.21 for 1 1/8 miles was bettered only by Majestic Light and Wise Times in the 42-year history of the race.
For her season finale, Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to beat older males in the historic Woodward Stakes. Perhaps equally impressive, she brought a crowd of 31,171 to Saratoga on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and, in holding off a hard-charging Macho Again by a head, Rachel Alexandra made the historic track's rafters shake like never before.
Against 3-year-old fillies, Rachel Alexandra was in a league of her own. Following easy victories in the Martha Washington, Fair Grounds Oaks, and Fantasy Stakes, Rachel Alexandra unleashed a tour de force in the Kentucky Oaks, winning by a stakes-record margin 20 1/4 lengths while missing the stakes record time by 0.33 seconds. She was owned at the time by her breeder, Dolphus Morrison, and Michael Lauffer, and trained by Hal Wiggins.
A few days after the Oaks, wine magnate Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables and Hal McCormick made Morrison and Lauffer an offer they couldn't refuse, buying the filly and transferring her to trainer Steve Asmussen. Ten days after arriving in Asmussen's barn, Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness.
After guiding Curlin to consecutive Horse of the Year campaigns in 2007-08, Asmussen may have thought it couldn't have gotten any better than that. But guiding Rachel Alexandra through the second half of her 3-year-old campaign might have been better. Asmussen, a winner of more than 5,000 races, called Rachel Alexandra's Woodward victory the most emotional of his career.
"Nothing compares to that, and I don't know whether it's right now or what," Asmussen said after the race. "Maybe it's just everybody rooting on her, maybe it's how brave Jess has been, maybe it's just how good she is."
The day after the Woodward, Jackson said that he wouldn't run Rachel Alexandra again in 2009 but that he would point her to a 4-year-old campaign in 2010. She is currently in light training at Fair Grounds in Louisiana.
It remains to be seen which races Rachel Alexandra runs in, but Jackson isn't shy about trying to raise the bar.
"I've got an instinct to try and put another hurdle up to see if she can achieve it," Jackson said after the Woodward.