One of the sentimental bets in this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships comes in the form of 2-year-old filly Rachel's Valentina. Undefeated in two career starts and already a Grade 1 winner, she is the second foal out of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.
"Her record of breaking her maiden at Saratoga, followed by winning the Grade 1 Spinaway, was awesome," said Stonestreet's Barbara Banke. "Our family will be at Keeneland on Saturday to cheer on our filly, but regardless of the outcome, we are beyond proud of her accomplishments."
Rachel Alexandra never raced in the Breeders' Cup, but she left her mark on history during her undefeated season in 2009. She was purchased privately by Stonestreet after her devastating performance in the Kentucky Oaks that May, and running in her new owner's colors, she beat the males in the Preakness Stakes, Haskell Invitational Stakes, and Woodward Stakes.
The racing world is full of anecdotes, and one of the most common is that great racemares have a hard time being successful in the breeding shed. There is so much pressure on any foal they produce that anything short of reproducing themselves is often considered a failure.
In reality, plenty of top class race fillies have gone on to produce memorable runners. One of the most quoted historical facts about the Breeders' Cup relates to that, as 1988 Distaff winner Personal Ensign produced 1995 Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag, who in turn produced 2002 Juvenile Fillies winner Storm Flag Flying.
Given the popularity of her mother, Rachel's Valentina may very well be sent off as the race favorite in the Juvenile Fillies. However, proving yet again that good race mares do produce good foals, her biggest rival comes in the form of another undefeated filly named Songbird, whose mother also found quite a bit of success on the racetrack.
Songbird is out of a mare named Ivanavinalot. Although her career was not quite what Rachel Alexandra's was, Ivanavinalot was a graded stakes winner and earned $647,300 during her career. Songbird is a perfect three-for-three and has two easy Grade 1 scores to her credit in the form of the Del Mar Debutante Stakes and Chandelier Stakes. As it happens, her sire is Medaglia d'Oro, who also sired Rachel Alexandra.
No matter what happens on Saturday, having a runner in the Juvenile Fillies has special meaning to Stonestreet for reasons beyond Rachel Alexandra.
"The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies is a race that is especially meaningful to our family as our first homebred champion, My Miss Aurelia, won the race in 2011," said Banke. "We would be thrilled if Rachel's Valentina repeats that effort."
Stonetreet was started by wine magnate Jess Jackson, who died the same year of My Miss Aurelia's championship season, but his widow, Banke, has carried on what he began with aplomb. Rachel Alexandra's first foal, a 3-year-old colt called Jess's Dream, is named in his honor.
A winner in his debut at Saratoga this year, Jess's Dream is by Curlin, who was twice Horse of the Year for Stonestreet and won the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic. Between them, Jess's Dream and Rachel's Valentina have made three starts, all of them winning efforts.
Clearly, Rachel Alexandra has passed her talent on to her offspring, but a medical scare after producing Rachel's Valentina has likely cut her broodmare career short. Although she could be bred again, to date, Stonestreet has opted not to send her back to the breeding shed. Rachel's Valentina is her second, and potentially last, foal. The fact the filly, who was born two days before Valentine's Day, has already become a Grade 1 winner carries even more weight as a result.
"Her story is already such an amazing one," said Banke. "Being Rachel's first daughter comes with a bit of pressure, and Valentina has done nothing but impress us since she was a weanling running through the fields at our Old Frankfort Pike farm."
Rachel's Valentina has always been on the radar of racing fans due to her pedigree, but she is well on the way to making a name for herself in her own right.