Derby Never Really an Option for 'Rachel'
by Deirdre B. Biles
Date Posted: 4/30/2009 2:23:37 PM
Last Updated: 5/11/2009 2:09:06 PM

Rachel Alexandra at Churchill Downs on April 30, 2009.
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Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

The strapping 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra is the 3-5 morning line favorite for the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, and some people thought she should have been entered, instead, in the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I). In the opinion of her breeder and co-owner, Dolphus Morrison, Rachel Alexandra “could have been competitive” in the Run for the Roses, but he said he "didn't have a fleeting thought” of running her against the boys.

The tragic breakdown of the filly Eight Belles in last year's Derby after finishing second to Big Brown   was one reason for Morrison’s reluctance.

“I thought it was dumb to come right behind Eight Belles with something that possibly could cause that kind of problem,” Morrison said. “Poor old Larry Jones, bless his heart. Everybody was critical of what he did, but Larry did exactly what a smart horsemen would have done. He had an Oaks and a Derby horse in the hand, and he would have been stupid not to have done what he did. He still won the Oaks with Proud Spell, and Eight Belles had the physical (attributes) to compete in the Derby, which she did. One bad step got her.”

There also were a couple of other reasons why Morrison didn’t want to enter Rachel Alexandra in the Derby even though she has put together an impressive four-race victory streak that includes wins in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II), Fantasy Stakes (gr. II), and Churchill’s Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II).

“I’m kind of weird,” Morrison said. “I think the Derby is a colts' race and it’s there to showcase the horses that are the top potential stallions. It’s kind of stupid for some jerk with a filly to screw that up. I also just don’t like the idea of 20 horses clang-banging her and knocking each other’s brains out in that first 200 or 300 yards trying to get to that first turn.”

A filly hasn’t captured the Kentucky Derby since Winning Colors in 1988.

“I bet on Winning Colors, and she won the race,” he said.  A friend of mine was going to cash our tickets, and I gave him my ticket to cash. I thought I gave him the winning ticket, and I threw my others in a trash can. He came back and said, ‘This is not the right ticket.’ I bet $100 across on her. I went back to the trash can and it had been dumped, so I lost a lot of money just because I handed a guy the wrong ticket.”
 



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