Rachel nation is breathing a little easier on the afternoon of June 12 after last year's Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra scored her first win of 2010, drawing away from four overmatched rivals in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO).
Making her second start at Churchill Downs since her record-breaking 20 1/4-length romp in the 2009 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), 4-year-old Rachel Alexandra looked a little more like her old self in the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis.
Sent off at prohibitive odds of 1-10 while carrying 124 pounds, she shook off pace rivals Jessica Is Back and Distinctive Dixie near the three-sixteenths pole and romped home while geared down late by jockey Calvin Borel, who gave a look over his shoulder at the retreating field as he approached the wire. The official margin of victory was 10 1/2 lengths while the final time was a sharp 1:48.78 over a fast track on a muggy, hot day at Churchill.
“She’s just getting back," Borel said afterward. "You have to give her a chance. She’s a filly and she did the impossible when she was a 3-year-old. I think you’ll see a great future now. She did everything right today. I don't think she was ready before."
|Stephen Foster Weekend Slideshow|
|Night racing, Rachel, Blame, and more.|
Her fans were getting antsy for this type of performance after Rachel Alexandra, who won all eight of her starts in 2009, began her current campaign with second-place finishes in the March 13 New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds and Churchill's La Troienne (gr. II) April 30.
Steve Asmussen trains the winning daughter of Medaglia d'Oro --Lotta Kim, by Roar, for Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick.
“I’m very proud for everybody involved that she won," said Asmussen, who added that Rachel Alexandra "is a tremendously sound filly."
He added: "She’s a machine and she ran a great race today, and hopefully this is a step in the right direction for the rest of the year. It’s an honor to train a horse like her. We will take her back to the barn and there will be a lot of petting her, and peppermints, and loving on her.”
Distinctive Dixie, 18-1 in the five-horse Fleur de Lis field, edged Jessica Is Back by two lengths for second.
Breaking from the inside of Jessica Is Back, Borel maneuvered Rachel Alexandra to the outside of the second choice approaching the clubhouse turn, ensuring a clear path as she vied for the lead. Fractions were routine, Rachel Alexandra leading after a quarter-mile in :23.93, and Jessica Is Back, ridden by Garrett Gomez, slightly in front after a half-mile in :47.25 and six furlongs in 1:11.16.
Racing three wide, Rachel Alexandra put her head in front soon after, and with Distinctive Dixe closing in on the far outside for Robby Albarado, the champ found another gear entering the homestretch. With Borel shaking the reins a couple of times, she extended her lead to five lengths with a furlong to run and continued to widen while gathered up approaching the wire.
Rachel Alexandra secured her first win since defeating males in Saratoga's Woodward Stakes (gr. I) last September. She earned $132,680 for her 12th lifetime win in 17 starts and boosted her career bankroll to $3,206,730.
Distinctive Dixie, who was carried wide on the first turn when Rachel Alexandra shifted out, proved second best after failing to sustain her bid at the top of the lane. Jessica Is Back was 7 1/4 lengths clear in third, with Multipass and recent grade II winner Made for Magic trailing.
Rachel Alexandra, bred in Kentucky by Dolphus C. Morrison, paid $2.20 and $2.10. Bob and Beverly Lewis Trust's Distinctive Dixie, who ran a distant fourth in the La Troienne and has never won a stakes race, returned $5.60 while completing a $14 exacta. There was no show wagering.