At the moment, trainer Hal Wiggins is resisting the temptation to seriously consider racing Rachel Alexandra against the boys. But, if the ultra-talented filly should put on another scintillating performance in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) March 14, Wiggins admits the plot would thicken.
“Right now, we’re focusing on the Kentucky Oaks,” said Wiggins. “We’re trying not to talk too much about the (Kentucky) Derby, although it does enter your mind sometimes. The Arkansas Derby (gr. II) is an option and if she runs like she did last time, we’d have to talk more about it. But I hate to make statements like that because it really isn’t our goal.”
The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) is in the back of Wiggins’ mind only because of what L and M Partners’ homebred Rachel Alexandra did in her last two starts. The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro—Lotta Kim, by Roar, ended her juvenile season by crushing opponents in the Nov. 29 Golden Rod (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, and then returned from a two and a half month layoff to destroy the field in the Feb. 15 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The bay filly won by eight lengths.
“That last one really surprised us, coming off the layoff like that,” Wiggins said. “She is training very well again up to this race, so we’ll see what happens. In her last work I told Calvin (Borel) to just go an easy half (mile) with her; that’s all she needed. She’s all ready to go.
“If she runs well, we can just train her right up to the (Kentucky) Oaks or put her in the Fantasy (gr. II, April 5). We haven’t made up our minds yet.”
Rachel Alexandra is 4-2-0 from seven starts with earnings of $231,440. Borel will get the mount once again on the 4-5 morning-line favorite.
Heiligbrodt Racing’s Four Gifts looms as the biggest threat to Rachel Alexandra. The daughter of Even the Score ran well last out, finishing runner-up by 1 1/2 in the Feb. 7 Silverbulletday (gr. III) at Fair Grounds. Prior to that, the gray/roan filly was third in the Tiffany Lass Stakes in her 3-year-old debut.
Four Gifts, who won the grade III Delta Princess to close out her juvenile campaign, is trained by Steve Asmussen. Robby Albarado will get the return mount.
African Skies might be the most intriguing filly in the field of six. The daughter of Johannesburg was bred in England and began her racing career in Europe. She was a group III winner on the turf at Ascot as a 2-year-old before being shipped to the states.
Trained by Patrick Biancone, African Skies pressed the pace and was in contention in the Las Vigenes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Feb. 7 – her U.S. debut and first start off turf – before tiring in the stretch to finish fifth. Edgar Prado picks up the mount for the first time in the Fair Grounds Oaks, which is run at 1 1/16 miles.
Completing the field is Our Dahlia, who scored a narrow victory in allowance company Feb. 4 on the Gulfstream Park turf.
HorseRacing TV will be onsite to provide live coverage of the FG Oaks as part of the Louisiana Derby card. HRTV's tandem of Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens and analyst Jon White will be trackside to offer insights, analysis, interviews, and up-to-date information throughout the day.
Radio coverage will be provided by the Horse Racing Radio Network from 4-6 p.m. (Eastern) with live streaming at www.horseracingradio.net.