BALTIMORE | Two years ago this week, Rachel Alexandra made history by becoming the first filly since 1924 to capture the Preakness, beating her male competition with what was roundly agreed to be not her best race.
And while she ended Mine That Bird’s Triple Crown bid by holding him off down the stretch, Rachel Alexandra was the fan favorite.
“I had never been in a race like that that it felt like everyone was on her side,” trainer Steve Asmussen said.
That included Mike Lauffer, even though he wasn’t able to enjoy it fully. Lauffer and partners Bill Cubbedge and Dolphus Morrison sold Rachel Alexandra to Jess Jackson just weeks before the Preakness.
Lauffer, who attended that race in 2009, admitted some seller’s remorse.
“You always would love to be there and be there in the winner’s circle with the horse and everything,” he said Thursday. “But this is a business and when you’re in partners and stuff, you have to make some decisions and I think we made the right decision.”
It’s hard to find positives financially with the decision to give up one of the best fillies in history. But history and millions of horse racing fans can thank Lauffer. Morrison was against the idea of fillies running against the colts in big races like the Preakness, and he had the power to choose where Rachel Alexandra went.
“We would’ve probably run in one of the filly races in New York and then maybe later in the year we might’ve tackled [colts],” Lauffer said. “I woulda ran her in the Derby.”
Rachel Alexandra romped in the Kentucky Oaks against the fillies, and Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables immediately started planning to come to Baltimore after buying her.
Asmussen won the Preakness with Curlin and will try again Saturday with Astrology. But he recalled a major difference about the whole experience in 2009.
“I thought about that today when I walked up to train Astrology,” he said. “It was such a different feeling, walking over with Rachel, just the well-wishers.”
Lauffer wished his former star well as he put the money from her sale toward other horses and improvements. But now he’s back for some truer glory with Shackleford.
“This is a whole lot more exciting for me because when you’ve bred a horse and raised the horse and everything and just followed it along,” he said. “It’s a lot more exciting to own a horse than to be an ex-owner.”