By Gregory A. Hall
She's second on the morning line but first in the hearts of many racing fans.
Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner Rachel's Valentina, the daughter of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, will try to add to her mom's already historic legacy in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 31.
A tie to a Breeders' Cup win is about the only thing missing on the résumé of Rachel Alexandra. The now-9-year-old winner of the 2009 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) followed that dominating 20 1/4-length with a win in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Her championship campaign also included beating the boys again in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) and against older males in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
Now, the enthusiasm for Rachel Alexandra is transferring to her offspring, based on crowd reactions for the 2-year-old and her 3-year-old half brother, Jess's Dream (by Curlin ). The mare's first foal also won at Saratoga this summer for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, but is out until winter with an injury.
Rachel Alexandra "was an extremely popular horse, so I think we saw after Jess's Dream (that) any of her foals are going to get extra attention, as they should," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Rachel's Valentina.
The first win for Rachel's Valentina was a come-from-behind, four-wide score going six furlongs at Saratoga in August. She followed that with the Spinaway win at seven furlongs in September, where she rallied after a slow start and earned an automatic entry in the Juvenile Fillies.
NOVAK: Rachel's Valentina Solid in Spinaway
"For her to be able to come out and win her first two races and a grade I in her second start, I think she's heightened the awareness," Pletcher said. "And it's certainly understandable (that) people would be excited about it, and Rachel Alexandra's fans would be excited about her."
Rather than making another start following the Spinaway, Pletcher elected to train Rachel's Valentina up to the Oct. 31 Juvenile Fillies where she is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line behind 7-5 favorite Songbird.
Rachel's Valentina will start from post nine while Songbird will start outside her in the 10-horse 1 1/16-mile race.
"Ideally we'd be a few posts in, but it's fair enough," Pletcher said. "It's only a 10-horse field. Hopefully we can work out a good trip from there."
BALAN: Songbird vs. 'Valentina' in Juvenile Fillies
It's been a good trip with the filly so far for Pletcher.
Getting a filly like Rachel's Valentina in the barn, "you hope" she can live up to her pedigree, Pletcher said. "It doesn't always guarantee you just because they have a great pedigree. She had pleased everyone at the farm, and it sounded like her training was good coming in."
Like her mother, Rachel's Valentina is owned by Stonestreet Stables. The homebred daughter of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini is the last foal for Rachel Alexandra, who hasn't been mated again since complications from the foaling of Rachel's Valentina sent her to a clinic.
Stonestreet officials have not commented on whether any decision has been made on whether Rachel Alexandra will be mated next year.
Pletcher said he and his staff didn't know immediately how good Rachel's Valentina was after she arrived in the barn, "but she kind of passed every test that we gave her along the way. And we were pretty confident once we got up to the five-eighths level that she was pretty special, and so far she's proven that to be true."
For Pletcher, that's meant no added pressure in training a celebrity's baby.
"It's been easy for us because the filly's been so impressive and such an easy filly to prepare for her first start," Pletcher said. "And she's given us a lot of confidence based on what we've seen in her training, so from that perspective I haven't felt any more pressure."