Calvin Borel made the right choice and history was made May 16 at Pimlico, when for the first time the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner not only ran in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) but won the race in convincing fashion. Rachel Alexandra won the middle jewel of the Triple Crown by a length over Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird.
The week following her win in the Oaks, Rachel Alexandra was purchased by Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick and transferred from trainer Hal Wiggins to Steve Asmussen. Borel, who had ridden both Rachel Alexandra in the Oaks and Mine That Bird in the Derby, was asked to continue riding the filly and he agreed.
Mine That Bird’s trainer, Chip Woolley, picked up Mike Smith on the Derby winner.
It made for one of the most intriguing Preakness Stakes ever, and after drawing post 13, Borel knew he would have to send the filly from the outset, which he did.
|2009 Preakness Stakes
|View Photos from Rachel Alexandra's victory in the 2009 Preakness Stakes.|
Big Drama added some drama to the start of the race when he acted up in the gate and jockey John Velazquez had to dismount as the horse was backed out of the gate. But the obvious pacesetter walked back in, and when the gates sprung, he went with the filly as the field went down the stretch the first time and through the first turn. They went the opening quarter in an aggressive :23.13 and the half in :46.71.
Borel was able to open up just a bit on the backstretch but he had used the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro a great deal to get the lead and knew he had to try and slow the pace a bit.
"I was comfortable early, but down the backside they started to pick it up," Borel said.
Big Drama, who had skipped the Derby, was still in second down the backstretch, followed by Friesan Fire , the beaten favorite in the Derby, and Papa Clem, who had run fourth in Louisville. They went six furlongs in 1:11.01.
Meanwhile, Smith had Mine That Bird settled nicely in last of the 13 runners but he was only about a dozen lengths from the lead and waiting to make his run.
As the field made the turn for home, Borel asked Rachel Alexandra to open up and she moved out in front by four lengths.
Smith had Mine That Bird on the move but he had to go wide and then split horses to make his run. Another horse had also made a move to get in contention, and that was Musket Man and Eibar Coa. Mine That Bird was able to move past the gutsy Musket Man but could not catch a laboring Rachel Alexandra.
The final time for 1 3/16 miles on a track labeled fast was 1:55.08. Mine That Bird settled for runner-up, a half-length better than third-place finisher Musket Man.
"She was struggling at the end," Borel said. "She struggled a lot (with the track). She was pricking her ears and I had to get after her. I knew (Mine That Bird) was coming. It's going to take a racehorse to beat her. She's the greatest racehorse I've been on in my life."
Despite tiring at the end of the race, Rachel Alexandra coasted home under the wire to cheers from the 77,850 in attendance under skies that had spit rain starting just 10 minutes to post. She had again confirmed just how special she is, and Mine That Bird had proven he was not a fluke Derby winner, despite his 50-1 odds at Churchill Downs.
Rachel Alexandra was the heavy favorite in the race, going off at 9-5 and paying $5.60, $4.60, and $3.60. Mine That Bird returned $8.60 and $4.80, while Musket Man paid $5. The exacta (13-2) netted $39.20 and the trifecta (13-2-3) was $216.20.
"I'm thrilled to death with the race my little horse ran," said Woolley of Mine That Bird. "I thought we had a chance at the eighth-pole. But you have to give that filly credit. She's a great one. The Belmont is next for us."
Derek Ryan, trainer of third place finisher Musket Man, also gave full credit to Rachel Alexandra.
"I saw (Rachel Alexandra) breezing at Churchill before the Oaks, and I knew she was a super star," he said. "My horse ran well, but we got beat by a great one. She's a filly for the ages."
The complete order of finish was: Rachel Alexandra, Mine That Bird, Musket Man, Flying Private, Big Drama, Papa Clem , Terrain, Luv Gov, General Quarters , Friesan Fire, Pioneerof the Nile , Tone It Down, and Take the Points.
On the presentation stand, Asmussen paid tribute to the filly’s former trainer.
"Hal Wiggins and his staff did a tremendous job," he said. "I can't tell you what a fan of the filly I've been. I am very blessed."
It was the sixth straight win for Rachel Alexandra, all with Borel aboard. She has now won eight of 11 wins lifetime and has earnings of $1,618,354 after banking $660,000 from the $1.1 million race.
Borel became the first jockey to win the Derby and Preakness on different horses, and Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness since Nellie Morse in 1924. A filly had not run in the race since Excellent Meeting was pulled up last of 13 in 1999.
In addition to Rachel Alexandra and Nellie Morse, three other fillies had won the Preakness: Flocarline in 1903, Whimsical in 1906, and Rhine Maiden in 1915.
Jackson said he would like to run Rachel Alexandra in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in three weeks if she comes out of the Preakness in good order.
It was the second Preakness win for Jackson and Asmussen, who won two years ago with Curlin. That day they beat Derby winner Street Sense, who was ridden by Borel. Curlin was ridden by Robby Albarado. Jackson owned Curlin in partnership with Midnight Cry Stable and George Bolton.
Rachel Alexandra was bred in Kentucky by Dolphus Morrison, who raced her in partnership with Michael Lauffer before selling her to Jackson and McCormick. She is out of the Roar mare Lotta Kim. Morrison said after the Oaks that he did not intend to run the filly in the Preakness or Belmont. But, when she was sold the week after the Oaks, the plan changed.
On May 16, the new plan led to a historic victory in the Preakness Stakes.
|Filly Winners in Triple Crown Races|
|2009||Rachel Alexandra||Preakness Stakes|
|2007||Rags to Riches||Belmont Stakes|
|1988||Winning Colors||Kentucky Derby|
|1980||Genuine Risk||Kentucky Derby|
|1924||Nellie Morse||Preakness Stakes|
|1915||Rhine Maiden||Preakness Stakes|
|Courtesy The Associated Press|