OCEANPORT, N.J. - What a gal!
Rachel Alexandra sped around the far turn and rolled past the boys once again to win the $1.25 million Haskell Invitational, establishing herself as one of the greatest fillies in thoroughbred racing.
When the regal bay filly returned to the winner's circle with Calvin Borel patting her neck, the Monmouth Park crowd of 37,090 cheered mightily for racing's brightest star.
Rachel Alexandra was not bothered a bit by the sloppy track Sunday, and settled in behind the leader Munnings, with Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird third in the seven-horse field.
When Munnings took his lead into the final turn, Rachel Alexandra accelerated and blew past him to lead by four lengths at the top of the stretch. With Borel giving her a tap with his whip, the filly extended her advantage and easily beat Summer Bird by six lengths.
"We haven't reached the depth of her yet," co-owner Jess Jackson said. "She is just running to beat the competition, and I don't know if she will ever get to Secretariat's records."
At this rate, who knows what Rachel Alexandra is capable of.
"She's just a tremendous filly, and I'm glad she put on a good show," winning trainer Steve Asmussen said. "She's very special. She's been able to separate herself from everyone else."
Rachel Alexandra, the 1-2 favorite, returned $3, $2.20 and $2.10. Summer Bird, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, paid $3.40 and $2.60. Munnings was third and paid $3.20.
Papa Clem was fourth, followed by Duke of Mischief, Atomic Rain and Bunker Hill.
The winning time for the 1 1-8 miles was 1:47.21.
Rachel Alexandra joins Serena's Song as the only fillies to win the Haskell. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness when she beat Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird by one length.
Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra after she won the Kentucky Oaks by 20 1-4 lengths on May 1 and said he wanted to run her against the boys. Now that she's beaten them twice, Jackson just may have the best filly - ever.
"There's not been a filly as good since Ruffian," Jackson said, "and she just might be as good."
Hall of Famer Ruffian won 10 of 11 races in 1974-75, but suffered a broken leg in her famous match race with Foolish Pleasure in 1975, and was later euthanized.
As Rachel Alexandra crossed the finish line, Borel, like he has in past wins aboard the filly, saluted the crowd.
"This filly is just unbelievable. I can't say how good she is," Borel said. "I gave her a few taps at the 16th-pole, that's it. I just wanted to keep her focused with a couple of taps. She started looking around at the crowd, so I just wanted to keep her busy."
Now that Rachel has beaten the Derby winner and the Belmont winner, can the prestigious Travers Stakes at Saratoga in three weeks be next - and a possible matchup featuring each of the Triple Crown race winners?
"We'll let her tell us," was Jackson's reply.
Summer Bird's trainer Tim Ice said he was proud of his colt for hanging in for second, but was impressed with the way Rachel took command in the stretch.
"That's Rachel Alexandra. That's what everyone came to see," Ice said. "We'll take a look at the Travers. If she's in there, she's in there. I'm not going to invite her."
Another possibility for Rachel could be the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 5 against older horses. Jackson didn't answer, but simply repeated, "She'll tell us what's next."
And then there's the long shot chance of a race against undefeated Zenyatta, the 2008 older female champion who is 11-for-11 running primarily on synthetic surfaces in California. However, Jackson said Rachel Alexandra will not run in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 7 because he doesn't like synthetic tracks.
Rachel Alexandra has won 10 of 13 races and added $700,000 to her earnings, which now reads $2,498,354. In her most recent races against fellow 3-year-old fillies, she won the Oaks and the Mother Goose Stakes by a combined 39 1/2 lengths.
Asked if Rachel is the best in the land, Asmussen said: "What she can do is take care of it on the racetrack. The rest is public opinion."
The public has spoken.
She's Rachel Alexandra the Great.