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Monday, May 11, 2009
The Rush

By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com

Here's what I would do if I owned Rachel Alexandra, or a filly that could be the best ever.

I'd sell her.

Here's what I'd do if I just bought her, or couldn't find somebody who would pay what I wanted; or if I decided not to sell her after all.

I'd give her a carrot, some apples and a bed of rose petals.

I would not run her against males two weeks after a race against females, easy as that race might have been.

This isn't old people standing in a spot with tennis rackets, King versus Riggs. It isn't a mind game. It isn't running easily against inferior competition. It's high stress at best, something of a wrestling match at worst. Put Rachel Alexandra in an outside post position and let some big lugs bounce her around some and so much for recent patty-cake exercises. Granted, the male group of three-year old is nothing special unless you've won hundreds of thousands owning one of them. But the Derby gauntlet survivors are some tough numbers, and so is Big Drama, a bruiser from Delta Downs. Notice how, after "The Sunland Experience," nobody is laughing at a Delta history.

Male versus Female at sports is better than a Hatfield-McCoy rematch.

But males and females are usually different physically.

It's why women basketball players play with a smaller ball. It's why men and women don't box against one another at the pro level, why they run against same sex competitors (or reasonable facsimiles) in the Olympics. Female quarter horses do have a great deal of success against males in races that are short and sweet in terms of strategy, and oftentimes short and rough in terms of physicality. Outside of — with irony in the irons — race horse riding, where else might a female compete at the same skill level with a male when strength is a key issue?

You can feel the theater building in Maryland, where, on the state website for tourism, shopping is listed as a featured attraction, but not horse racing, and at NBC, which will televise the Preakness Stakes, with last week's tube ratings for the Derby shooting right through the Twin Spires. The way horse race ratings work on TV is you move any description up two levels. People who enjoy horse racing are at the track or are at a simulcast joint, not at home watching, waiting to be rated. So Triple Crown or Breeders Cup ratings considered to be Fair are actually Terrific. Last week's Derby ratings were officially Fantabulous.

Here's a good question: What's the rush?

If she is the best horse going, run her against the best of the females for a while — remember Zenyatta — then put her against the world's best in Breeder's Cup Classic on the fuzz in LA.

From a wagering perspective, for those who don't like to bet the favorites but would like to see the filly just go ahead and win by ten, this could be an afternoon to focus on the beauty and pageantry of it all.

We already know she's very fast. I could wait a while to find out how physical she is.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com.