Rachelize our recession

By Katie Kieffer

Rachel Alexandra wins Preakness. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Rachel Alexandra wins Preakness. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The answer to ending the U.S. recession comes straight from the horse’s mouth: “Rachelize it.”

No, I’m not calling Rachel Green a horse or suggesting Rachel Uchitel could solve our monetary affairs even better than she could pull off an affair with Tiger. I’m talking about sitting down in the stable and listening to the real stories of Rachel Alexandra. This bay filly racehorse – voted Horse of the Year by a wide margin – has some advice on how the U.S. can pull off the biggest win for the economy.

Ride the storm: Rachel Alexandra’s ride to become the first female horse to win the prestigious Preakness since 1924 was not smooth. She had changed her jockey, barn, exercise rider, groom and diet – all only two weeks before the Preakness.

Takeaway: We are in turbulent economic times – unlike anything we’ve seen before. But, we can’t let a few bumps in the road take our eyes off the prize.

Choose a leader who takes smart risks, pushes you and promotes your freedom: Rachel Alexandra’s owner, Jess Jackson, has empowered her to win. Jackson is an entrepreneur who took on substantial – and smart – financial risk to pursue his lifelong passion for horses: In one 2004 sale, he gambled away roughly $22 million to purchase 95 horses and he reportedly spent around $5 million to purchase Rachel Alexandra after she easily won the Kentucky Oaks.

Jackson is an owner who pushes his prize horses – Curlin (’07 and ’08 Horse of the Year) and Rachel Alexandra – past conventional limits. He confidently raises the bar, and they race to meet it. He ran Curlin as a 4-year-old (Jackson produces horses with Brett Favre’s longevity), and plans to do the same with Rachel Alexandra. Immediately after purchasing Rachel Alexandra, he ignored the advice of her prior owner and raced her – not once, but three times – against males.

Key to Rachel Alexandra’s success has been Jackson’s refusal to limit her freedom and brilliance. He says, “We haven’t yet defined her.” And, in a sport where ego is king, he allowed a rustic jockey with boatloads of passion and an uncanny chemistry with the filly, Calvin Borel, to ride her to victory – even though Curlin’s jockey, Robby Albardo, was the favored rider. Jackson does right by his horses and doesn’t let his ego or a desire to micromanage prevent their success.

Takeaway: Just as Rachel Alexandra’s wins are attributable to the freedom and confidence her owner gave her – our economy will bounce back in leaps and bounds if the government rejects liberal political practices like bailouts, increased regulations and flagrant spending in favor of capitalist principles and lower taxes to empower entrepreneurs and small businesses to hire, innovate and invest again.

Rachel Alexandra's Preakness trophy

Owner Jess Jackson kisses Rachel Alexandra's Preakness trophy as jockey Calvin Borel holds it. Image: John McDonnell-The Washington Post

Punish – but don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg – on rumors of steroids. Jackson has been a loud advocate for eliminating drug use in U.S. horse-racing while others in the industry have chosen to take a more quiet stance. Jackson’s jealous detractors claim his employment of tainted – but proven – trainer, Steve Asmussen, is hypocritical.

The reality is that Asmussen’s racing violations are mostly trite human errors – and the few that do involve juicing allegations have been blown up by the media without a fair inspection.

Sports Illustrated‘s Tim Layden reports:

“I have 300 [horses], 300 employees, a wife and three children, and I’ve got a lab in a basement somewhere?” the trainer (Asmussen) says, his voice raised. “I’ve dedicated my life to this sport, and I’m going to risk losing the opportunity to train Curlin and Rachel Alexandra? Are you out of your frickin’ mind?”

Asmussen argues that the breadth of his operation not only results in his horses’ being tested more than any other trainer’s but also leaves him vulnerable to sabotage by jealous opponents, and to veterinary errors. “Some people think they can beat me even though I’ve been doing this my whole life,” he says. “They let you bet on this game, so people feel cheated. I say if you can’t beat me, run against somebody else.”

Here is what hurts most deeply: “All this talk about me and medication,” says Asmussen, “and Rachel gets dragged down because of it. It’s wrong beyond belief.”

Jackson understands about Asmussen what President Obama, his pay czar, and congressional liberals fail to understand about Wall Street and wealthy American entrepreneurs: Good, talented people make mistakes but that doesn’t make them Satan’s spawn. Overtly corrupt outliers should not be able to ruin the system for everyone. Bailing out criminals and bad business models – and then demanding repayment – is a foolhardy way to end corruption and an economic downturn. This practice enables corruption and discourages those who are playing by the rules from continuing to do so.

A better route – that Jackson espouses for raising prize racehorses – is to expose and punish gross misdemeanors – without letting jealousy, gossip and trivial errors squash the best talent. Jackson doesn’t believe in excessive criminalization and regulation as a means to blowing his horn as the savior of mankind and the destroyer of corruption, as the Anointed One‘s Administration is apt to do.

Takeaway: Sometimes people cheat. So, make an example of them. But – we can’t let an obsessive fear of cheating destroy trust, freeze transactions, cripple innovative risk-taking and drag down our economy.

There you have it: How to end the recession – straight from the horse’s mouth.

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