Those who believe Rachel Alexandra could have won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) had she been entered now have evidence to back up their belief after she won the $554,500 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) (VIDEO) May 1 in spectacular fashion before a crowd of 104,867 at Churchill Downs.
The 3-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly was dominant over her six rivals, drawing off down the lane to win by a staggering 20 1/4 lengths in a magnificent performance.
Under Calvin Borel, Rachel Alexandra had won her previous two starts in wire-to-wire fashion, but in the Oaks, Borel allowed Victor Espinoza to put Gabby's Golden Gal on the lead. Borel was content to sit behind her as the field went through a quarter in :23.75 and a half in :47.46. Be Fair was in third and Flying Spur sat in fourth.
|Kentucky Oaks Slide Show|
|2009 Kentucky Oaks|
All eyes were on Rachel Alexandra down the backstretch as Borel sat chilly with a lot of horse under him. As the field moved into the turn after six furlongs in 1:11.91, he moved Rachel Alexandra to the outside of the pacesetter and easily went by Gabby’s Golden Gal.
Borel had already opened up a clear advantage as the field straightened away for home and the race was for second at that point. Borel patted Rachel Alexandra on the side of her neck as she coasted under the wire and the crowd applauded her performance appreciatively.
“She is the best horse I’ve ever been on, and I don’t know how good she is,” said Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby on Street Sense. “Street Sense was a good horse; he had a good turn of foot. But until I really have to ask her, I don’t know how good she is. She’s incredible.”
Borel has won five races in a row aboard Rachel Alexandra. The filly has never lost with Borel in the saddle.
Stone Legacy ran second, 4 1/4 lengths in front of Flying Spur, who finished third. Be Fair was fourth, followed by Nan, Gabby's Golden Girl and Tweeter. The final time was 1:48.97, which just missed the stakes record of 1:48.64 established by Bird Town in 2003.
The margin of victory is believed to be an Oaks record. Available records date to 1916 and the largest previous victory margin was 10 lengths, a feat last achieved by Oaktown Stable’s Lite Light in 1991.
Rachel Alexandra’s win was very warmly received on both the front side and backstretch. Her trainer, Hal Wiggins, regularly stables at Churchill Downs and is popular with horseman and horse players. In 40 years of training, this was Wiggins first grade I win.
“It was just unbelievable,” said Wiggins. “When he (Borel) asked her, she just naturally took off. And just finished tremendous. It looked like she came out of the race really, really good. That’s the main thing.”
Those who may want to run against Rachel Alexandra in the future should take note of Wiggins’ comment that the filly “is getting better and better.”
As for the Oaks: "I kept looking at that other filly, the Baffert filly (Gabby's Golden Girl), and I thought she looked pretty comfortable. But our filly looked pretty comfortable, too," Wiggins said.
Wiggins said he had no second thoughts about not nominating Rachel Alexandra to the Triple Crown.
"We're not going to look back," he said. "We're going to enjoy this. We're not going to have any regrets."
In fact, he said he was looking forward to a possible showdown with champion older female Zenyatta later this year in the Breeders' Cup.
In capturing her first grade I victory, Rachel Alexandra was the heavy favorite, her odds moving from 2-5 to 1-5 with about three minutes to the post. She ended as the 3-10 choice and paid $2.60, $2.20, and $2.10. Stone Legacy returned $11 and $5, while Flying Spur paid $2.80 to show.
The Oaks winner was bred in Kentucky by Dolphus Morrison, who owns her in partnership with Michael Lauffer. They race her in the name of L and M Partners. Rachel Alexandra earned $336,914 for her seventh lifetime win in nine starts. She has banked $958,354.
Morrisson said he never considered running Rachel Alexandra in the Derby and will not run her in the Preakness (gr. I) or Belmont Stakes (gr. I). He did not, however, rule out meeting males following the Triple Crown races.
The Oaks was run over a track that began the day listed as muddy but gradually improved as forecasted rain held off. It was officially listed as fast for the Oaks.
Out of the Roar mare Lotta Kim, Rachel Alexandra has won five straight races, and seven of 10 lifetime starts.
The field was reduced by one a couple of hours prior to the race when Justwhistledixie was scratched because of a foot abscess.
Wiggins said he was disappointed for the West Point Thoroughbred team that had the second choice on the Oaks' morning line.
"They were there right until the last minute," he said. "I really felt for them. I really hated that."