Rachel Alexandra “should win” the April 30 La Troienne Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, according to her principal owner, Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables. But if the 2009 Horse of the Year doesn’t make it to the wire first, it won’t be a catastrophe, Jackson said on the eve of the race, “because it’s just one step toward the ultimate goal,” an appearance in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill later this year.
A 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro , Rachel Alexandra lost her 2010 debut, finishing three-quarters of a length behind the winner, Zardana, in the March 13 New Orleans Ladies Stakes at the Fair Grounds. But Jackson doesn’t regret running Rachel Alexandra in that race, which was supposed to be a prep for the Apple Blossom Invitational Stakes (gr. I) and her inaugural faceoff against undefeated champion and 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Zenyatta. Rachel didn’t show up for the Apple Blossom, but Zenyatta did and scored her 16th consecutive victory.
“She needed the race,” said Jackson of the New Orleans Ladies. “I told the press – and no one believed me – that she (Rachel Alexandra) was only about 80% for that race. And I didn’t mind losing. My goal isn’t to win an allowance or listed race. My goal is to have her win grade I races, including the Breeders’ Cup. Now I’m predicting she’s about 90% (for the La Troienne), but we’ll see. You never know until they get out there.”
Rachel Alexandra worked a half-mile in :50 over a muddy Churchill track April 26 in preparation for the La Troienne and a rematch with Zardana, who is conditioned by Zenyatta's trainer, John Shirreffs.
"She is more fit," said Jackson's wife and Stonestreet partner, Barbara Banke, of Rachel Alexandra.
The La Troienne is part of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) undercard. Last year, Rachel Alexandra romped to a record 20 ¼-length victory in the Oaks, and following that dazzling effort, Jackson and Harold McCormick bought her for a reported $10 million. Previously trained by Hal Wiggins, they sent her to Steve Asmussen, who has trained the 2009 Horse of the Year since.
“You know I take chances,” said Jackson, who was interviewed at his Stonestreet Farms near Lexington. “You probably saw that with (two-time Horse of the Year) Curlin. We put him on turf and we even took him to the Breeders’ Cup (in 2008) when I didn’t think we should. At the same time, we’ve taken chances with her (Rachel Alexandra) and she’s exceeded my expectations. So, we’ll continue to evolve, and we’re not afraid of losing. What we want to do is develop the horse to the zenith of her athletic ability, slowly and correctly.”
He would like for Rachel Alexandra to race against Zenyatta this year "two or three times," but there are no firm plans for a meeting.
Asked if this was the final year of Rachel Alexandra’s racing career, Jackson said: “I don’t know. I’m not going to predict either way.”