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Times-Union turf writer Tim Wilkin tries to get trainer Steve Asmussen to comment on Rachel Alexandra’s retirement, without results:

Well, when we got Asmussen on the phone, it was the pefect time to ask what he really felt.

Here is what he said the first time I asked him to comment on Rachel’s retirement:

“At the half-mile pole, I thought Haynesfield had a real good chance to win,” Asmussen said.

I asked him a second time.

Read his entire post for the complete conversation, and the questions it raises.


I’m glad you posted this because I noticed a couple folks mentioned it on Twitter I didn’t get a chance to interject this thought. From the transcript:

“Waht (sic) is going on here? Why couldn’t he say that Rachel deserved to be retired? Why couldn’t he say that he thought Rachel just wasn’t the same anymore?”

Would him saying something canned and boring like “she deserved to retire” or “she just wasn’t the same this year” be any more or less telling or valuable than his actual answer? IMO that answer told as much about the situation as either two of the answers that Wilkin suggested he should have given.

Posted by dana on October 2, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

He can’t say anything. It’s not his horse. Jackson has always controlled the messages about Rachel Alexandra, and I don’t think that anyone here expected any answer other than what Asmussen said.

Posted by Teresa on October 2, 2010 @ 8:18 pm

What, there’s an omertà now? This situation is utterly ridiculous, even for horse racing.

These shenanigans just further disconnect the average fan from the sport.

Posted by Robin Howlett on October 2, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

I don’t disagree with that point re: shenanigans in general, but I can also see how annoying it would be to answer the same pointless question over and over again. The only thing Asmussen would have achieved by supplying the answers Wilkin suggested is to show that he’s willing to play along. We still wouldn’t know anything more about RA’s retirement.

The more I thought about it the more I thought his answers were funny! It was like when Chip Woolley was terse with the NBC reporter on Derby day for asking him same question again, everyone thought he was a jerk but I loved that he pointed out it how ridiculous it was. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, but I think I have a fair point.

Posted by dana on October 3, 2010 @ 9:30 am

Fair point, and an interesting comparison to Woolley post-Derby. I credit Wilkin for trying to get more from Asmussen, though, even knowing that the trainer probably wouldn’t, couldn’t respond to questions on the subject. There’s huge public interest in this story, which I’d say is justified. But aside from Haskin and Wilkin, who’s asking anything?

Posted by Jessica on October 3, 2010 @ 11:44 am

I’m not sure that it’s fair to suggest that questions aren’t being asked, just because other reporters aren’t publishing their denied requests for information.

Dana: that’s exactly what Asmussen did yesterday. He did play along: he was funny, and he had most of the press box laughing with his responses. It was clear that he knew a game was being played.

Posted by Teresa on October 3, 2010 @ 11:54 am

Interesting, that it was perceived as funny is certainly not apparent from that post. I think it’s the whole “what’s wrong with him” and “you’re better than that” that doesn’t convey that it was perceived as funny… unless Wilkin was the only one who didn’t think it was funny?

Posted by dana on October 3, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

To me Asmussen’s responses were saying, “I’m on the phone right now to talk about Haynesfield, who just won one of the most prestigious main track race for older horses outside the Breeders’ Cup.”

This is an unwarranted witch hunt against Rachel Alexandra and her connections given that this kind of speculation about phantom injuries and unsoundness would never, ever occur with a horse owned by Farish or Phipps or about to stand at a major stud farm.

Posted by EJXD2 on October 3, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

@EJXD2 Witch hunt?

The author of the piece said that “after awhile” he started asking questions about Rachel – unless they were shooting the breeze for a long time, I’m sure Haynesfield came up once or twice.

One of the most popular horses of recent years is unexpectedly retired days before her next scheduled race, a day after her workout suggested she was in rude health and the only explanation offered is that she wasn’t a good as last year and “it was time”.

The majority of racing fans are asking a basic question, and when no answer is being given, either directly or through the media, they are naturally speculating. When was the last time an actively campaigned champion racehorse retired mid-season for any reason other than injury? It rarely happens, if ever, and then the owner and/or trainer would at least say why.

And yet here we are being told that pressing this is not fair.

@EJXD2 you don’t think that if a Phipps or Farish stallion prospect retired in exactly this manner, people wouldn’t be asking the same questions? Like hell they wouldn’t – every horseman under the sun would reckon the horse was unsound. A rumor like that affects the prospective stallion’s value, so it would have to be addressed.

Instead Jackson knows he doesn’t have to market his filly to anyone, so he decides to pick up his ball and storm off home. Where I come from, we don’t respect that kind of behavior.

Posted by Robin Howlett on October 3, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

“days before her next scheduled race” is B.S. posturing on your (and other’s) parts considering that her connections not once ever said that they were targeting the Beldame.

To answer your “when was the last time an actively campaigned champion racehorse retired” question, it appears that Forever Together will do just that. So the last time was today. The time before that was Tuesday with Rachel Alexandra.

That’s twice in a week. Hardly an aberration.

Posted by EJXD2 on October 3, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

Alright fair point, I had assumed the Beldame was acknowledged as the next race.

And yep, Forever Together looks like she’s on her way out after that bad run. She’s hasn’t won for a while but like Rachel had a least been competitive. I wouldn’t have described any of RA’s runs this year as truly bad, but perhaps Jackson feels that way.

Seems like Sheppard was the one that called the retirement:

“We’ll decide on the plane home, but I’d say that’s probably it,” Sheppard said. “I’ve never seen her finish out of the first three. The only logical next race would be the Breeders’ Cup, and that’s most likely to come up soft, too. It’s no fun watching her run like that.”

There so much of this Rachel story that leaves a bad taste in the mouth; her never meeting Zenyatta, retiring out of the blue, the lack of at least some kind of interview with connections on their feelings behind making the decision. That’s what’s most frustrating. You just feel left out of the loop, like, as a fan, you never really mattered at all.

Some of these connections, don’t seem to understand how we racing fans feel. That they are not their horses, they’re OUR horses. They’re just a little more involved.

So all and all, I take your point Ed.

Posted by Robin Howlett on October 3, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

And I see your points, too, Robin,

From a PR standpoint, it would have been marvelous for Jackson to work with NTRA on setting up a conference call. If he didn’t want to answer a particular question then that would be his prerogative, of course, but at least he would have been available.

Posted by EJXD2 on October 3, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

I suggest that you all read the comments of Hal Wiggins, the previous trainer of Rachel, who was interviewed and asked about his insights about her. Hal is an honest, open, gracious and well respected trainer to all who know him, which is a lot more that can be said about Jess Jackson.


Posted by August Song on October 4, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

[…] the difference? What makes Blasi’s words at least somewhat soothing? Robin Howlett, in a comment on an earlier post, said it best: There so much of this Rachel story that leaves a bad taste in the mouth; her never […]

Posted by Jessica Chapel / Railbird v2 - “We’re Always Going to Wonder” on October 5, 2010 @ 11:00 am