The fans cheered when Rachel Alexandra walked onto the racetrack before the Haskell Invitational.
After this fabulous filly rolled to another victory over the boys, beating Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird by six lengths over a sloppy track, the fans cheered even louder.
This was a day the queen of racing became king. All hail Rachel Alexandra, the Great.
"I can't tell you how amazing it is that everybody everywhere asks me about Rachel," the filly's trainer Steve Asmussen said. "I think it's fantastic and Rachel is very deserving of the admiration."
Although pouring rain turned Monmouth Park's main track into slop, it did not deter Rachel against six colts in the $1.25 million race. With Calvin Borel aboard, the 3-year-old sensation swept past the leader Munnings around the far turn and finished a length short of the Haskell record margin of seven lengths set by Bluegrass Cat in 2006.
As Rachel crossed the finish line, Borel saluted the crowd.
"This filly is just unbelievable. I can't say how good she is," said the jockey who has been aboard Rachel during her eight-race winning streak. "I gave her a few taps at the 16th-pole, that's it. I just wanted to keep her focused with a couple of taps. She started looking around at the crowd, so I just wanted to keep her busy."
In her wins against the boys, she defeated Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Preakness _ the first filly in 85 years to win the middle jewel of the Triple Crown _ and now she has soundly beaten the Belmont winner to join Serena's Song (1995) as the only fillies to win the Haskell.
In her last two races against 3-year-old fillies, Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths and the Mother Goose Stakes by 19 1/4 lengths.
Winning the Haskell before a crowd of 37,090 adds to her credentials as one of the greatest fillies in thoroughbred racing.
"We haven't reached the depth of her yet," co-owner Jess Jackson said. "She is just running to beat the competition, and I don't know if she will ever get to Secretariat's records."
At this rate, who knows what Rachel can and can't do.
"She's just a tremendous filly, and I'm glad she put on a good show," Asmussen said. "She's very special. She's been able to separate herself from everyone else."
Rachel Alexandra, the 1-2 favorite, returned $3, $2.20 and $2.10. Summer Bird, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, paid $3.40 and $2.60. Munnings was third and paid $3.20.
Papa Clem was fourth, followed by Duke of Mischief, Atomic Rain and Bunker Hill.
The winning time for the 1 1-8 miles was 1:47.21.
Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra after she won the Kentucky Oaks on May 1 and said he wanted to run her against the boys because he believed she could beat them. Now that she has, she has to be ranked among top fillies such as Ruffian.
"There's not been a filly as good since Ruffian," Jackson said, "and she just might be as good."
Hall of Famer Ruffian won 10 of 11 races in 1974-75, but suffered a broken leg in her famous match race with Foolish Pleasure in 1975, and was later euthanized.
So what's next for this great gal? Could it be another test against boys in the Travers for 3-year-olds or the Woodward for 3 and older horses, both at Saratoga, on Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, respectively. Or against older fillies and mares in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 30?
The Travers, racing's Midsummer Derby, is appealing because it could match the Triple Crown race winners.
Jackson isn't committing to anything.
"We'll let her tell us," he said.
A long shot could be a race against undefeated Zenyatta, the 2008 older female champion who has won primarily on synthetic surfaces in California. However, Jackson said Rachel will not run in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 7 because he doesn't like synthetic tracks.
"We'd love to run against Zenyatta but it has to be on a neutral course," Jackson said, adding "When she (Rachel) is ready, I don't think there's a horse in America that can beat her."
Summer Bird, meanwhile, was making his first start since his Belmont win. Trainer Tim Ice said he was proud of his colt for hanging tough for second, but was impressed with the way Rachel took command in the stretch.
"That's Rachel Alexandra. That's what everyone came to see," Ice said. "We'll take a look at the Travers. If she's in there, she's in there. I'm not going to invite her."
Rachel Alexandra has won 10 of 13 races and added $700,000 to raise her earnings to $2,498,354.