(edited Kentucky Oaks report)
Belmont Park on June 6 is the next objective for Rachel Alexandra, the spectacular 20 1/4-length winner of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), but not for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Instead, trainer Hal Wiggins has the $300,000 Acorn (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on his radar.
“This gives her five weeks, which is what I like,” trainer Hal Wiggins said. “She had only three weeks before the (April 5) Fantasy (gr. II), but it looks like she is fine."
The Acorn is the same day as the Belmont Stakes (gr. I)
The morning after the May 1 Oaks, the garland of lilies that goes to the winning connections was draped over the wall in front of Stall 17 at Barn 30 where Rachel Alexandra was taking it easy after her jaw-dropping victory.
“She is good this morning,” Wiggins said. “She maybe left one or two bits of feed and this morning she was dragging the groom around the barn.”
Rachel Alexandra began her five-race win streak with a score in the Golden Rod (gr. II) at Churchill last fall. After that, Wiggins mapped out a plan to get to Friday’s Oaks.
“You make plans and it is very nice to see things work out perfect,” the 66-year-old Wiggins said. “She makes my job very easy. We still don’t know how good she is.”
For Wiggins, who saddled his first winner in 1977 and who has been a regular at Churchill Downs since 1993, the Oaks win marked the highest of the highs. He goes way back with Dolphus Morrison, breeder and co-owner of Rachel Alexandra.
“I have been in the game a long time. I had Chorwon (a three-time winner of the Louisville Handicap) and Morris Code (who earned more than $700,000) for Mr. Morrison, but nothing like this at the top of the game,” Wiggins said. “Mr. Morrison bred and owned the dam (Lotta Kim). I have been with him for 30 years and that makes it special.”
Wiggins stayed at the barn until 8 p.m. last night and was back in his office early in the morning.
“We watched the race on the outside rail where I always watch and you miss a lot down there,” Wiggins said.“I had no idea how much she won by. We did start celebrating a little early.
“We went to the directors room after the press conference and they were showing the race over and over. Then they showed the aerial shot and that was tremendous.”
In all the euphoria of the victory, Wiggins was thinking about one filly that didn’t make the Oaks: West Point Thoroughbreds’ Justwhistledixie.
“My heart goes out to the Justwhistledixie people,” Wiggins said of the filly who was scratched less than two hours before the race because of an abscess in her left front foot. “I really feel for them. They are a good group of guys. I hate it for anybody. Not to take anything away from the others, but she looked like the main competition. This was their big day.”