Off Track Doesn't Slow Rachel Alexandra

Off Track Doesn't Slow Rachel Alexandra
Photo: Lynn Roberts
Rachel Alexandra and Calvin Borel after taking the Fair Grounds Oaks.

A sloppy track failed to slow Rachel Alexandra, who outclassed five rivals in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) (VIDEO) March 14.

The sharp filly took over on the first turn and simply ran away from the field, winninng the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-old fillies while geared down by jockey Calvin Borel by 1 3/4 lengths in an outstanding time of 1:43.55 on a sealed track.

Trainer Hal Wiggins has been toying with the possibility of a Triple Crown run with Rachel Alexandra ever since the L & M Partners-owned daughter of Medaglia d'Oro   humbled the field by eight lengths in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park Feb. 15.

Based on the impressive nature of her local score, she also stamped herself as a worthy candidate to follow in the footsteps of last year’s Fair Grounds Oaks winner Proud Spell, who went on to capture the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I) and an eventual Eclipse Award as 2008’s top 3-year-old filly.

If Rachel Alexandra was to parlay her Fair Grounds Oaks win to one in this spring’s Kentucky Oaks, she would be the fourth of the last five Fair Grounds Oaks winners to pull off that prestigious graded stakes double.

Rachel Alexandra, along the inside, broke just behind War Tigress heading into the first turn, but the winning filly went to the lead early on the turn and had command with her ears pricked as the compact group made its way onto the backstretch. Rachel Alexandra clocked fractions of :23.40, :47.54 and 1:12.39 before Flying Spur and War Tigress closed the gap rounding the final bend.

The winner shook off that challenge and opened up a wide margin in the lane while under a hand ride from Borel, who repeatedly looked over his right shoulder for a rival while showing Rachel Alexandra the whip. But there were no dangers as they approached the wire and Borel wrapped up on her in the final sixteenth of a mile.

“She is a jockey’s dream,” said Borel. “She does whatever I want her to do.”

Flying Spur was gaining in the final strides to claim the runner-up spot, finishing 11 lengths clear under Patrick Valenzuela. It was a long way back to third-place finisher Our Dahlia and Kent Desormeaux.

Winner of the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs as a juvenile, Rachel Alexandra improved her career mark to 5-2-0 in eight starts and more than doubled her earnings to $471,440 with the winner's share of $240,000.

“Calvin said she was just pricking her ears and doing it so easy,” said Wiggins, “just like she did it when she took the lead when she won the Golden Rod last fall at Churchill. She kind of surprised us when she took the lead that day but today we kind of wanted her out there so she didn’t get mud in her face on her first time over that kind of surface. But I really think she can be anywhere we want her to be.”

Dolphus C. Morrison bred Rachel Alexandra in Kentucky. The bay filly is out of Lotta Kim, by Roar.

Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Rachel Alexandra was the 3-10 choice and paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Flying Spur, fourth last time in the Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III), ran a much improved race for trainer Bill Mott, returning $4.40 and $3.20. Our Dahlia, making her stakes debut for Kenny McPeek, was $3.60 to show.

Four Gifts, African Skies and War Tigress completed the order.

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