Rachel Alexandra, who when last seen was making history by winning the May 16 BlackBerry Preakness (gr. I), will make her return to the racetrack in the $300,000 Mother Goose (gr. I) June 27 at Belmont Park. The Horse of the Year candidate will face only four rivals in the nine-furlong test for 3-year-old fillies.
Rachel Alexandra enters the Mother Goose on a six-race win streak and will use this race as a stepping-stone for an aggressive summer campaign that might include another crack at male rivals in either the Aug. 2 Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth Park or Aug. 29 Shadwell Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Prior to the Preakness, the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro—Lotta Kim, by Roar, won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) by a record 20 1/4 lengths. Since then she was purchased privately by Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick.
Rachel Alexandra, who is based at Churchill Downs with trainer Steve Asmussen, arrived at Belmont June 23 to the snapping of camera shutters, and was placed in Asmussen’s No. 5 barn, the same one occupied by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. This will be her first race in New York and first over Belmont Park's "Big Sandy" 1 1/2-mile layout.
So popular is Rachel Alexandra, that the New York Racing Association has launched her own Web site. Her fans can keep up on the latest at: “Rachel’s Sandbox:” www.nyra.com/rachel.
Regular rider Calvin Borel will have the mount on the bay filly, who has won eight of 11 lifetime starts with earnings of more than $1.6 million. They drew post 3 for the one-turn Mother Goose.
“She’s the best horse I’ve ever been on in my life,” Borel said. “She’s doing good in her training at Churchill. I think she’s doing even better (than before the Preakness) right now.
“I’ll place her where I think she’s comfortable and go from there. She’s very versatile and I’ll ride her with confidence. If something happens, I think she’ll overcome it.”
Borel, who took some criticism for not taking any mounts prior to guiding Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird to a third-place finish in the May 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), has three scheduled mounts on the Mother Goose undercard.
Rachel Alexandra last worked June 22 at Churchill, covering four furlongs in :49.80.
Although Rachel Alexandra will face a pair of graded stakes winners in the Mother Goose, Edward Evans’ Virginia homebred Malibu Prayer may present the biggest challenge. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Malibu Prayer has recorded consecutive eye-catching wins and will be making her stakes debut. The daughter of Malibu Moon broke her maiden at third asking April 17 at Aqueduct when drawing off to win by 13 lengths in a one-mile contest.
She then returned the racetrack June 2 in optional claiming company at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack and romped by 7 1/4 lengths in wire-to-wire fashion. The 1 1/16-mile test was her first around two turns.
“The race seems to be more about Rachel Alexandra, but Malibu Prayer is a filly that on her own merit probably deserves a chance,” said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to Pletcher.
John Velazquez will have the mount on Malibu Prayer.
Darley Stable’s Flashing also comes into the event riding a three-race win streak, and has won four of five overall. The A.P. Indy filly won a pair of optional claimers at Aqueduct this spring and most recently scored by 1 1/4 lengths in the May 2 Nassau County Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park–her stakes debut. Javier Castellano will ride for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
“We’re all kind of in the same boat, with Rachel Alexandra being in the race, of looking at a grade I stakes-placing,” said Rick Mettee, the North American racing manager for Godolphin, which won last year’s Mother Goose with Music Note. “Besides Rachel, the other three are pretty good fillies, and they’re all in form. Flashing is doing exceptionally well. After her victory in the Nassau County it was felt this would be a logical spot for her.”
The other graded stakes winner is Alan Brodsky’s Don't Forget Gil, who won the Florida Oaks (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs in March and was runner-up to Dream Play in the Comely Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct in April. Most recently, however, the Kafwain filly finished more than 31 lengths behind Payton d'Oro in the May 15 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) at Pimlico.
“She got sick a few days after the race, so maybe she was coming down with something,” said trainer Mark Hennig of Don’t Forget Gil’s poor effort. “She’s had a busy year and a few miles on the van, and it kind of made us choose to stay home. This will be her first time running at her home track since she broke her maiden, so we’re coming back to a place where she’s had success.”
Rounding out the field is Hopeful Image, who is winless in seven stakes appearances. Trained and co-owned by Gerald Procino, the daughter of Gulch enters off a victory in optional claiming company June 12 at Belmont.
Post time for the Mother Goose, the ninth of 10 races on the Belmont program, is set for 5:17 p.m. EDT.