Issue June 2, 2009

Finding my inner filly

She’s gorgeous and has a take-no-prisoners attitude. Even though she competes in a man’s world, she doesn’t know the meaning of the words “glass ceiling.” In fact, she doesn’t know the meaning of most words.

Nevertheless, I’d like to think I have some Rachel Alexandra in me.

We’re both Italian. Her father is Medaglia d’Oro (means “Gold Medal”). Mine is John Cucinello.

We’re both brunettes, the hair color I’ve always felt authentically conveys power. So what if blondes claim they have more fun? Rach and I know the truth.

America refers to her simply as “Rachel.” I don’t use my last name professionally either.

She’s fast. We’ll leave that one alone.

Granted she is a far, far better athlete than I am — and hooves down, she’s more famous. “Super Filly.” The “It Girl” of the moment. I’m trying to deal with my jealousy.

What especially bonds Rachel and me, though — and women everywhere really — is that until the Preakness, she wasn’t allowed to compete with colts. Then she got her chance and she showed them up.

There are only about 30 women in the entire country doing my job. Most women doing talk radio have female partners and “chick-chat” shows, or they are a male host’s news anchor or sidekick. Many talk radio executives won’t admit it, but they still won’t hire a solo female host for a prime daypart. And people have asked, hearing what I do for a living: “Who’s the guy with you?”

Excuse me?!

Rachel and I paid our dues. Like Barbara Walters, Helen Gurley Brown and Diane Rehm, there were Ruffian, Genuine Risk and Winning Colors who broke through the “weaker sex” stereotypes.

She beat other girls into the dirt (Polytrack once) — but hey, that’s life. It sounds sweet that women should stick together and help each other, but the harsh reality of life in the human world is that to win, a girl needs to compete like a man.

It took Rachel one outing to learn that you can’t be afraid to lose. I was there by junior high.

She was underestimated, as many women continue to be. Rachel was pulled from the 2006 Keeneland November sale after Dolphus Morrison worried she wouldn’t sell for what he felt she was worth — a cool $100,000. Reports indicate after the Oaks she cleared $7-$10 million.

It’s not easy being beautiful and misunderstood. On Oaks Day, Jason Shandler of Bloodhorse.com described Rachel by saying, “She’s intimidating! She’ll scare the boys. She looks at you like she’s going to eat you!” I hear the I-word a lot, too. Looks can be deceiving.

Word to the wise: Don’t get in our way. I’m just saying.

We also both appreciate fun for fun’s sake. Judge Sonia Sotomayor has nothing on Rachel. Sure, Madame Nominee has an Ivy League education and stellar professional credits. But seriously, whom would you rather invite to Girls’ Night Out?

And note to the Men of America: Take a lesson from Calvin Borel. Want a strong, independent, opinionated woman to do exactly what you want? Prod when you absolutely have to, like when a rival such as Mine That Bird is close to infiltrating your girl’s territory. We take direction. We appreciate the virtues of a take-charge man. Always treat us nicely and be chivalrous. Put us first. Case-in-point moment after the Preakness when, on national television, Borel yelled for water, only to twist off the bottle’s cap and pour the contents over our girl before taking a sip himself. Women everywhere swooned.

Some might question my horse sense for suggesting a woman should tap into her inner filly. The whole woman-horse comparison usually isn’t very flattering. (Camilla, anyone?) But just think about whom young women emulate these days. Paris Hilton? Kim Kardashian? Those awful girls from “The Hills”?

Then there’s Rachel. One race is all it took. One big race and writers started columns with the words, “Girls Rule!” Grandmothers told granddaughters that in Baltimore, a girl beat all the boys, so they could do the same. Women across the nation smiled for a reason men didn’t understand.

Rachel’s owners and trainers have determined that’s all we’re getting — one race. In a way, Rachel skipping the Belmont this weekend makes us even more similar. What woman hasn’t passed up significant opportunities about which she occasionally stops and wonders, “What if?”