'Rachel' captures Woodward by head

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Star filly Rachel Alexandra made history at Saratoga Race Course by becoming the first female to win the prestigious Woodward Stakes on Saturday, holding off Macho Again by a head.

The sensational 3-year-old ran an electrifying race against the older boys for her ninth consecutive victory and all but clinched Horse of the Year honors.

Rachel Alexandra dueled early with 2008 Belmont Stakes winner Da'Tara before taking the lead along the backstretch. She set a blistering early pace on the way to running 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.29.

On the turn for home, it looked for a brief moment as though the filly would be caught, but regular rider Calvin Borel wasn't bashful about using the whip, first left-handed, then right-handed to keep her in the lead.

As they crossed the finish line, Borel raised his right hand in a No. 1 salute and pointed to racing's biggest star.

"The last 40 yards I was a little worried, but she just kept digging in," Borel said.

Rachel Alexandra beat 3-year-olds boys in the Preakness and the Haskell Invitational, and overwhelmed 3-year-old fillies in the Kentucky Oaks and the Mother Goose Stakes.

Only one other 3-year-old filly has run in the Woodward -- Summer Guest in 1972. She finished second to Key to the Mint before being disqualified and placed third.

Co-owner Jess Jackson called the ride "perfect."

"She was ready. Those were a lot of big animals she was running against, but she showed her spirit. She showed her class," he said. "She didn't give up. That's my Rachel."

The 3-10 favorite, Rachel Alexandra paid $2.60, $2.40 and $2.10. Macho Again paid $3.80 and $2.80. Bullsbay, winner of the Whitney Handicap last month, paid $4 to show.

"She just ran a tremendous race, very proud of her," Rachel's trainer, Steve Asmussen, said. "Obviously, I was very concerned with how fast she went early, but very glad she dug in and won."

Earlier, Pyro outfinished favorite Kodiak Kowboy to win the $300,000 Forego Stakes by a half length.