“I knew she wasn’t herself just looking at her in the paddock,” he said. “She didn’t have the same look about her. She didn’t have the presence she normally does.”
Edwards’ premonition proved to be correct. Uncharacteristically, Rushing Fall failed to respond to regular rider Javier Castellano’s urging and weakened late while coming in fourth, her first off-the-board result in 11 career starts.
The outcome left Edwards with a difficult decision. Rushing Fall’s relatively lackluster performance in the First Lady might have signaled that, at 4, it was time for her to begin her second career as a broodmare. He knew that breeders would be quick to line up, all willing to pay handsomely with the hope that she might produce a second coming of herself.
Most owners would not have turned their backs on such a potential windfall. Edwards is not most owners.
His mind told him there was more left for the bay daughter of More Than Ready to give. His heart told him he and his family could not bear to see her leave the game on such a poor note.
After consulting with trainer Chad Brown, he decided to be all in for one more year. Rushing Fall was sent to Stonestreet Farm in Lexington, Ky., for freshening, as she had been in previous winters. And she, indeed, returned with a vengeance.
Her undefeated 5-year-old season has made her one of the star attractions at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The six-time Grade 1 winner looks to add one more top-level triumph to what would then surely be a Hall of Fame career when she competes in the $2 million Maker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf on Saturday.
“I guess I look like a genius right now,” Edwards said. “But it could have gone the other way. This is horse racing.”
In racing, horses sour with age all the time. The great ones, the ones that love what they do, the ones that eyeball rivals and refuse to flinch, defy time.
Brown will always be grateful to Edwards for allowing Rushing Fall another year to show why she is special.
“We’re very fortunate that Bob Edwards put her back in training,” he said. “Her last race of last year was not good. She’s worth a lot of money and they could easily have sold her and bred her.”
Instead, Edwards and his family added to their bank of wonderful memories. And they showcased a great mare for the good of the sport.
“She went back to the farm and got fat and happy,” Edwards said. “When she got back to the track, she looked better. She looked more mature. She looked more relaxed.”
Rushing Fall was given so much time she did not return to competition until the June 3 Beaugay Stakes at Belmont Park. She immediately seized the lead, fended off accomplished Got Stormy, and was a geared-down two-length winner of the 1 1/16-mile contest.
She reiterated that she was back and better than ever when she set course and stakes records by completing the 1 1/16-mile Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes in a sizzling 1:39.02.
The successful defense of her Jenny Wiley title allowed Rushing Fall to join Beholder and Lady Eli as the only horses to win Grade 1 contests at 2, 3, 4 and 5. Beyond that, it was her fifth graded-stakes score at Keeneland. She stands only two behind all-time leader Wise Dan, two-time Horse of the Year.
The pride of e Five Racing Thoroughbreds again demonstrated her zest for competition when she ran down Mean Mary in the Aug. 23 Diana Stakes and got the job done by a valiant neck. It was her 11th victory in 14 career starts with a pair of runner-up finishes. Her earnings ballooned to $2,553,000.
Rushing Fall has not raced since then. Edwards emphasized that is part of a plan that has been flawlessly executed so far.
“She’s not a horse we can race 10 times a season. It doesn’t work for her,” he said. “She puts so much into it and she’s such a competitor that you kind of dial it back a little bit. And that’s what we did after the Diana.”
The 1 3/16-mile Filly and Mare Turf represents the penultimate test of Rushing Fall’s career. She has never been asked to run this far, and she must do so against the world’s best before she is sure to light up Fasig-Tipton’s November Sale.
“Whatever happens in the Breeders’ Cup, she owes nothing to me. We’ve still had a phenomenal season with her this year,” said Edwards, content that he made all the right moves.