Trainer Steve Asmussen said Aug. 24 that top 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra will run in the Sept. 5 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) and that stablemate Kensei would contest the Aug. 29 Shadwell Travers Stakes (gr. I).
Asmussen, accompanied by Barbara Banke, announced the plans following workouts by both horses at Saratoga Racecourse. Banke is the wife of Jess Jackson, whose Stonestreet Stable races Rachel Alexandra in partnership with Harold McCormick.
Working over the main track, Rachel Alexandra went six furlongs in 1:12, according to Asmussen, and Kensei was timed in :50 for a half-mile clip. With regular exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard, and jockey Calvin Borel watching from the grandstand, NYRA clockers caught the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro in splits of 24.27, 36.23, 47.86 and 59.60, galloping out six furlongs in 1:25.58.
"It was awesome," said Terry. "She’s amazing."
"Rachel Alexandra’s workouts have been excellent," Jackson said in a statement released later. "Hal McCormick, my family and I, like other fans of horseracing, want to see her tested. If she goes up against older male horses, we’ll be better able to get a measure of her greatness."
"I think she deserves a chance to run in the Woodward," Asmussen said of the decision to run the filly against older males. He noted that although Rachel Alexandra has defeated 3-year-old males twice, she would obviously not be voted 3-year-old champion in that division because of her gender.
Along with the announcement that Rachel Alexandra will seek to become the first filly to win the Woodward, the New York Racing Association has raised the purse for the 1 1/8 mile race from $500,000 to $750,000.
"Raising the Woodward purse will help attract a top field to what will be an historic race," said NYRA vice president and director of racing P.J. Campo. "In addition, we felt that to have a filly like Rachel Alexandra seeking to become the first ever female to win the Woodward warranted an increase in purse."
"Legacy," said Asmussen when asked about chosing the Woodward as Rachel Alexandra’s next start. "Jess’s sportsmanship about what they can do is quite obvious, instead of just talk … there’s just so much – no filly has won the Woodward. For everything else that she’s done I think that it’s the showcase or the platform that she’s worthy of."
Purchased by her present owners following a 20 1 4/-length romp in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Rachel Alexandra has won 10 of 13 career starts and is on an eight-race win streak. The daughter of Medalgia d’Oro, who has earned more than $2.2 million, won the Mother Goose (gr. I) by 19 1/4 lengths in record time against other 3-year-old fillies. She has defeated males twice – in the BlackBerry Preakness (gr. I) and Haskell Invitational (gr. I).
Asmussen said Stonestreet’s Kensei is "doing extremely well" and that if he won the Travers, it "would mark his career."
Kensei notched his second consecutive grade II victory when he won the Aug. 1 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. He previously won the Dwyer Stakes (gr. II).
A field of eight appears likely for the 140th running of the Shadwell Travers, including Kensei, Mine That Bird, Summer Bird, record-setting Amsterdam winner Quality Road , Warrior's Reward , Hold Me Back, Our Edge, and Charitable Man.
(Some information provided by the NYRA communications department)