Lindsey Ames Sanquenetti is a fan of Rachel Alexandra’s as well as a talented photographer who brings an artist’s eye to her subjects. Recently, Lindsey was one of 100 lucky people invited for a second “See Rachel” day at Stonestreet Farm. She has very kindly consented to share her wonderful photos of Rachel with all of us here at THE VAULT. VAULT readers can visit Lindsey on http://www.flickr.com under the name sweet_lindsey 12. If you would like to show your appreciation by leaving a comment below, they will be posted ASAP so that Lindsey can read them.
On July 12, Stonestreet Farms hosted 100 fans of the great Rachel Alexandra for the second time at a “See Rachel” Day. The event, Lindsey explained, is publicized both on the Stonestreet Facebook page and on a “See Rachel” page on the Stonestreet website. The first 100 people to send in their names are selected. Here’s the Stonestreet page: http://www.stonestreetfarms.com/info/?page_id=139
Visits with Rachel are split into 4 different groups of 25 people on a “See Rachel” day. When they first arrive, guests are shown into a special “Rachel Room” where they can see all kinds of memorabilia from her brilliant racing career. Then, when their appointment time arrives, each group is escorted to an area where they can spend time with one of North America’s most beloved thoroughbreds.
This was how Lindsey described her experience:
“…Obviously, it was an amazing experience to visit her. She was actually very sweet in person…very patient and kind. Everyone was petting her all over, giving her kisses, and trying to get her to turn her head this way or that way for pictures. She never once acted irritated and was very tolerant of everyone’s affection. It was a VERY hot day, too. She had every right to get grumpy, standing out in the heat while we all smooched her! I think retirement is agreeing with her. She seemed very content and happy. She is stunningly beautiful in person. You could tell how much it meant to each and every person to be standing there, in the presence of true greatness…”
As her photos show, Rachel looks beautiful, content and happy in her new life. Her “baby bump” is showing, but she is otherwise the same sweet girl who mesmerized so many of us a few short seasons ago. Alert and interested, Rachel proved a charming hostess.
To keep the connection alive between thoroughbred fans, owners-breeders and thoroughbred champions is a rather delicate balancing act. While it seems clear that without passionate fans both the industry and the sport can only suffer, when a champion like Rachel Alexandra retires to begin a new life as a broodmare she begins a complex transition, from a world that is strictly scheduled and controlled to a life of relative freedom, and from the public world of fans and racing to the privacy of paddocks and equine companions. A recently retired thoroughbred needs to “come down” from the hype of the sport and that involves accepting a much calmer, quieter lifestyle. Heartbreakingly (at least from a human perspective) whether filly or colt, a thoroughbred must also transfer its attachment from those it was closest to on the track, to relative strangers. When you think about it, that’s quite a lot of change in a relatively short period of time. And, just as every human individual is different, so are equine individuals. Some adjust with ease, others will take more time and some adjust with difficulty, because there is no other choice.
Man O’ War, for example, was supremely suited to life on the farm. He had resisted the imposition of human will throughout his racing career. With his best friend, Will Harbut, he found a true home at Faraway Farm. His son, War Admiral, was the kind of thoroughbred that wanted to please no matter what was asked of him, so making the transition from racing to the farm was relatively easy for him. Secretariat, one speculates, needed his friend Clay at Claiborne to adjust to a life he was asked to enter at the tender age of 4. He was a very intelligent horse and he loved to race. Keeping him happy as a stallion must have required a lot of Clay’s tender loving care.
Too, although the “great ones” in our own canon of thoroughbreds are individuals that touched our lives deeply and forever, they do not belong to us. And while a thoroughbred owner and a thoroughbred farm are undoubtedly very aware of this fact, it’s easy for a passionate fan to dismiss it when a horse that they love is standing right there, beside them. So you can see how delicate it is to find a way to honour the fan, while respecting the horse.
Stonestreet has come up with a formula that works well for both Rachel and her devoted following. In taking steps to allow that precious connection between fan and horse to flourish, the good folks at Stonestreet have shown leadership tempered with generosity. They are not the first to acknowledge the love that people feel for their champion and they won’t be the last. But one appreciates their commitment to a tradition that, in the end, can only be positive for the sport and the industry, as well as their capacity to embrace the legend that is Rachel Alexandra.
Footage taken by a fan on March 25, the first See Rachel Day at Stonestreet.
There are many other photos of Rachel taken on July 12 on her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachel-Alexandra/112319645455986?sk=wall