Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rachel Alexandra's fantastic work explained

I was on the backside at Churchill Monday morning for the Derby and Oaks works. This is the day of both the horrible training accident and the spectacular work by Rachel Alexandra, and these 2 events are definitely related.

Rachel, with Calvin Borel up, had just finished her warm up and was preparing to roll into her breeze when the horn sounded signifying a loose horse. With the workout aborted, Borel took her back to the barn for about 15-20 minutes, kept her moving, then brought her back out when the coast was clear. 

Then she blew through a half in :46 and change on her way to galloping out 6F in 1:10 - all looking incredibly easy with no urging. No wonder:


Sorry, I never go 'all caps' but this is very important. In the hurry to get all horses trained between 6-10am, none are ever warmed up properly. Rolling into a half mile breeze after a steady 1 mile gallop is not sufficient. 

Yes the muscles and such are warmed up decently, but the nervous system isn't yet firing at it's best. In addition, her spleen has been contracted prior to the breeze, which flushes her system with fresh oxygen carrying red blood cells BEFORE the exercise bout, not during.

But, add in a 15 minute rest period after this 1 mile gallop - while walking and staying active, and you give the all important nervous system, think eye/brain/foot coordination, time to reset and efficiency increases. You can probably get just as much good out of a 5 minute rest/walk bout - you don't even have to leave the track necessarily.

I realize that the economics of the training game prevent doing this on all of your stock, but surely you can practice this with your top contenders, right? It takes extra time, and a smart rider, but the results can be worth millions, hell why not do this in the post parade before a huge race? You are getting 2 sec faster per half mile, with less effort-

I mean, this was universally regarded as a work befitting a Derby champion, never mind the Oaks. The trainer, Wiggins, wanted her to go the half in :48 - she beat that by 2 seconds and rolled off another :24 quarter to boot. 

I can illustrate with my HR/GPS gear this concept. After the post warm up rest period - any half mile will go faster, with less effort, than the traditional manner. People need to understand, if you want to get results better than everyone else, you have to train differently. Not harder, just with an eye towards proven exercise science. 

Otherwise, it's just a matter of who has the best stock.


  1. Hi Bill. interesting. you know where I stand on this one!

  2. It's always about economics and not about the horses in this sport.
    Read my blog here:


    You have a great blog here..I am going to follow it.


  3. Wow, Alida, you must know the inner thoughts of every racehorse trainer, owner, jockey, groom, assistant starter, hotwalker, mutual clerk and so on to make a blanket statement like that.

    I feel confidant saying Larry Jones and Gretchen Jackson would argue with you on that.