Kate Hunter wins the prize for traveling the farthest to see Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Saturday, coming all the way from Tokyo, Japan. Actually, Hunter, a native of Nashville, Tenn., is an English teacher in Tokyo who was back home on a school break but decided to go forego family and hop in a car for the drive to Louisiana.
Paulick Report asked if she would mind sending us a brief account of her experience at the Fair Grounds, whether Rachel Alexandra won or lost.
Hunter writes her own blog on Japanese racing at www.keiblog.net and takes racing photos in Japan for Bloodhorse.com. Following is her recap of the mood at the Fair Grounds after the reigning Horse of the Year suffered her first loss in more than 15 months. —Ray Paulick
By Kate Hunter
You wouldn't have known that Rachel Alexandra had lost her 2010 debut by listening to the reaction of the crowd as she made her way back toward the grandstand to be unsaddled. The cheers and applause were just as loud after the race as they had been during the post parade.
People of all ages and from far away places were there to see the 2009 Horse of the Year in action and to cheer her on, no matter what the results were. Racing fans from all around the United States came to the Fair Grounds on March 13tto see the inaugural New Orleans Ladies Stakes and their favorite racehorse. New York, California, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, and of course Louisiana were there to lend their support.
Between all of the hats, signs, shirts, hoots and hollers, it felt more like a rock concert than a horse race. Track officials hoped for about 10,000 people to visit their dear Fair Grounds, and they might have gotten close. There were so many people in attendance that late comers had to park in the stable area. This ended up delaying Rachel's return to her stall by almost an hour, since hundreds of race fans found themselves trying to navigate their way to an exit, through the racetracks vast stables.
Even after hearing about Zenyatta's victory, Rachel's fans held to their beliefs that their girl would win when she finally does meet trainer John Sherriffs' other mare whose name also starts with Z. They justify their belief by the 11-plus lengths between second place Rachel Alexandra and third place Unforgotten, and the fact she fought back so hard down the stretch. “Rachel Mania” won't let a second place finish rain on their parade.
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