Rachel Alexandra, Tenbrooks, and Molly


Rachel Alexandra, the three-year-old filly who beat the boys in the Preakness Stakes, will not run in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. A win would have made her the first filly ever to win two Triple Crown races, but her owners feel that she’s had enough tough races this spring, and anyway, she’s proven that she can beat these guys. Maybe they’re right, but her absence makes what would have been a very interesting race into something of a bore.

A great filly running against colts in a big race has always been a cause of great excitement, and one of the most famous such occasions was a match race between the undefeated mare Mollie McCarty and the great champion Ten Broeck, held at a distance of 4 miles on July 4, 1878. Mollie McCarty had run out of horses to beat in California, and the Louisville Jockey Club lured her east with a purse of $10,000. Thirty thousand watched Mollie take an early lead, but she quickly faded and was soundly beaten. The effort must have taken something out of Ten Broeck, though, because he never raced again.

The race inspired a number of songs, one of which, thanks to Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, survives. Here is a superb version from Delfest 2008, with Del McCoury, David Grisman and Sam Bush in the band and Vince Gill taking the lead vocal. Please enjoy!

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