On a crisp, cool morning on the backstretch of Mohawk Racetrack, harness racing caretaker Melissa Allen gives the 3-year-old trotting filly Raising Rachel a bath. Raising Rachel is one of ten filly trotting sophomores who will go postward in the $600,000 Breeders Crown 3-Year-Old Filly Trot Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. She has drawn post five.
Allen, who hails from upstate New York and works for trainer John Kopas, has been caring for the daughter ofsince June, and has a tight bond with the stout, dark bay filly who bears a slight star on her forehead.
"Rachel is very easy-going and quiet, and she really doesn't make any kind of fuss in the barn at all," Allen noted, as the steam lifted from her filly's back. "She might get a little ‘up' and frisky when she's out eating grass and something scares her. Then, she'll spook and snort and dance around a little bit, but otherwise, she's fine."
Raising Rachel has won ten of 19 races lifetime with $627,856 in career earnings for the partnership of Melvin Hartman, Ottawa, ON, Estate of George F Hempt Trust, Camp Hill, PA, the KR Stable & Milton-Douglas W Millard, Woodstock, ON. $452,398 of those dollars were earned this season.
Raising Rachel finished fifth in her $25,000 Breeders Crown elimination, won by Elusive Desire, with rival Broadway Schooner finishing second. Raising Rachel was timed in 1:56.2 and beaten by 6-1/4 lengths.
That loss, however, wasn't as heartbreaking to Allen as the filly's near miss in the Hambletonian Oaks at The Meadowlands on Aug. 8.
"We all thought she won the Oaks," Allen said ruefully. "It had to only be a whisker that she lost by."
After winning her $35,000 Hambletonian Oaks elim in1:54.1 on Aug. 1, Raising Rachel was second to Broadway Schooner by a nose, in the $783,042 Hambletonian Oaks.
"It wasn't just me who thought she won the Oaks," Allen recalled. "Everybody did, even the driver of the rival horse thought we had won. It was very disappointing."
After getting her season off on the right "hoof" by winning a $20,470conditioned trot at Mohawk in 1:58 on May 29 at Mohawk, Raising Rachel then graced the winner's circle once more in a $66,750 Casual Breeze division on June 16 at Mohawk. She also had runner-up finishes in the $31,150 Elegantimage elim and $488,505 Final.
"It's the end of the year and I think she's just not quite as sharp as she was when she was in New Jersey," added Allen, putting a pair of green coolers on her filly. "It's tough on these horses to race these hard miles all year. They have good and bad days, just like the rest of us."
Thefilly wears nothing but a pair of hind trotting boots with scalpers behind and a pair of bell boots up front. She wears a blind bridle with a snaffle driving bit, a burch overcheck, a mini bit, a tie down and ear plugs.
"She wears the same stuff to race," Allen explained. "Today (Wednesday) was her training day, and she goes three pretty stiff trips. She'll jog the rest of the week and have some walks out around the barn area to eat some grass and relax."
According to assistant trainer Brody McFee, the Breeders Crown will be the last major stake of the season for Raising Rachel.
"She's had a few soundness issues here and there and more recently, some breathing ailments," McFee admitted. "She's pretty easy on herself, but I think the shipping back and forth can get to her now and then. That can be a little tough on any horse."
Meanwhile, Raising Rachel appears unaffected by all the talk about her, and instead, is pulling Allen toward her stall, where a fresh flake of hay awaits her.
Allen heeds her filly's wishes, and leading her to the stall explains: "I don't really do anything special with her except I do stretch her legs out daily. The equine acupuncturist taught me how to do that to help adjust horses' backs and Rachel really seems to enjoy that."
Watching Raising Rachel contentedly munching her hay, it would appear that this Breeders Crown contender is indeed, enjoying life, and is on the right track for another solid effort Saturday night.
By Kim Rinker for the Breeders Crown