Reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and two-time Eclipse Award winner Zenyatta both got in some morning exercise Feb. 18 at their respective home bases. Each is being pointed toward 2010 debuts March 13 and hopefully will meet for the first time April 9 at Oaklawn Park in the $5-million Apple Blossom Invitational (gr. I).
At Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots in New Orleans, Rachel Alexandra posted her fourth workout of 2010 when she covered five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 over a fast track. The work was the second fastest of 19 horses at that distance.
Trained by Steve Asmussen for Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick, the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro previously worked five furlongs in 1:03 4/5 over the Fair Grounds slop Feb. 13. Rain and significant wind were present during that drill.
Rachel Alexandra, a five-time grade I winner, is currently preparing for the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles March 13.
Meanwhile, in Southern California at Hollywood Park, Zenyatta worked six furlongs in 1:14 over the Cushion Track surface. It was her third work this month having previously posted a 1:13 4/5 drill for six furlongs Feb. 11 and five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 Feb. 3.
Trained by John Shirreffs for Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta is unbeaten in 14 career starts including her brilliant victory over males Nov. 7 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The daughter of Street Cry—Vertigineux, by Kris S., is being pointed toward the nine-furlong Santa Margarita Invitational (gr. I) March 13.
With regular exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard during her work in New Orleans, Rachel Alexandra broke off rather keen from the five-eighths pole but settled into herself around the far turn, working through fractions of :12, :23 4/5, :35 3/5, and :47 3/5.
“I think we’ve got a little Goldilocks going on,” said Asmussen in a statement, referring to the young girl in the fairy tale who needs a few tries to find the middle ground that is just right. “The racetrack was wet last week, and a little slow, and we were being careful. I thought she was overly aggressive today, a little quick, so hopefully we’ll level off.
“I think with not letting her do too much last week it made her very keen,” Asmussen added. “I think she wants to be in a rhythm. Hopefully the weather will be as good as it was this morning and fairly consistent, and then I think we’ll be exactly where we want to be. She was just very aggressive all week and worked good today. She was off strong. From a timing standpoint there’s still time to get exactly where we want to be.”
As per her usual routine, Rachel Alexandra came to the track with Asmussen’s second set of horses, entering from the half-mile gap at 6:40 a.m., accompanied by assistant trainer Scott Blasi astride his pony. Asmussen also was on horseback to observe the work.
Rachel Alexandra and Terry, along with Blasi and his pony, backtracked more than a half-mile “the wrong way,” clockwise, past the eighth-pole in the Fair Grounds stretch. Turning back with the traffic, Blasi stayed with Rachel Alexandra and Terry before sending them on their way near the finish line. The filly and exercise rider galloped into the backstretch before Terry picked up the pace coming to the five-eighths marker.
Rachel Alexandra worked to the finish line before galloping out an extra one-eighth of a mile in :14 1/5 for a six-furlong gallop-out time of 1:14 2/5.