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BARN NOTES (May 7, 2009) - Rachel Alexandra Gallops for New Connections/Mine That Bird Gallops/Leparoux Grabs Riding Lead
RACHEL ALEXANDRA MOVES TO NEW BARN – Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick’s new purchase Rachel Alexandra began her new life in the care of trainer Steve Asmussen on Thursday morning by galloping once around a sloppy Churchill Downs main track under exercise rider Dominic Terry.
The dominating, 20 ¼-length winner of last Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), Rachel Alexandra was sold by the L and M Partners of Dolphus Morrison and Michael Lauffer on Wednesday. Rachel Alexandra was transferred from trainer Hal Wiggins’ barn to Asmussen’s at 5:15 (EDT) Thursday morning.
Jess Jackson, who campaigned two-time Horse of the Year,2007 Preakness (GI) winner and 2008 Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) winner Curlin under his stable colors, was asked what he thought of the latest addition to his stable after her morning exercise.
“She is a graceful athlete; she moves like a ballerina and has the size of some of the colts,” Jackson said. “I am looking forward to seeing her compete.”
Jackson was asked when the “ballerina” might run next.
“The ink is not even dry yet,” Jackson said. “The only decision was to bring her to Steve’s barn. No decision has been made on any race or a rider. Basically the same team is in place as we had with Curlin, and like Curlin, we will let her decide when she runs and where she runs.”
Asmussen, who saddled Curlin to his Preakness victory, indicated that like most of his runners nine to 10 days after a race, Rachel Alexandra would have her first recorded workout on Sunday or Monday. Terry would be her regular exercise rider and she would go out in the second set, around 6:15, each morning.
“She’s a tremendously fast filly,” Asmussen said. “Hal (Wiggins) and his team did a tremendous job with her. We just got her today and we have no timetable or any plans to announce at this time.”
For Wiggins, Thursday was anything but business as usual.
“They came and got her at 5:15,” Wiggins said. “I didn’t know anything about it (the sale) until Tuesday night. I hope I see her in the winner’s circle many more times.”
Racing for Wiggins, Rachel Alexandra compiled a record of 10-7-2-0 with earnings of $958,354. In addition to the Kentucky Oaks triumph, Rachel Alexandra scored Grade II victories in the Fantasy, Fair Grounds Oaks and Golden Rod plus added runner-up finishes in the Grade III Pocahontas and Debutante at Churchill Downs.
“It was pretty tough (this morning),” Wiggins said. “When a horse is injured, that’s tough, too. As a trainer, you never know what you will find (in the morning). We will get over it. We were blessed to have her and experience the joy of winning the Oaks here.
“It will be a little hard walking by that stall,” Wiggins continued, knowing he will still see her on the track. “It will be a joy to see her. I’ll have a smile on my face and a good feeling. I wish the new owners nothing but the best. I know she is in good hands and they will do right by her. I will be pulling for her every time she runs.”
MINE THAT BIRD CONTINUES PREAKNESS PREPARATIONS – Kentucky Derby 135 winner Mine That Bird galloped two times around the main track at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning before the renovation break with exercise rider Charlie Figueroa up.
Trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. expressed satisfaction with the morning activity and remains on track to bring Mine That Bird, owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine, to Pimlico on Tuesday.
“He is doing good and I am surprised how he has bounced back because he had to run hard,” Woolley said. “But he is pretty easy on himself and doesn’t pound the ground.”
But the overriding issue Thursday morning was the possibility that Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra could be supplemented to the Preakness and Woolley could possibly lose the services of jockey Calvin Borel, who swept the Oaks and Derby last weekend.
“I hope they go to the Acorn (on June 6) with that mare,” Woolley said. “I told people that day (Derby Day) that I was glad she was not in the Derby.”
Woolley was bracing for the prospect of maybe losing his rider.
“It’s a possibility; it could happen,” Woolley said. “But I don’t think I will have a hard time finding a rider if it happens.”
PREAKNESS PROBABLES GALLOP ON “SLOPPY” TRACK -- Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile galloped a mile and a half on a “sloppy” track after the renovation break with exercise rider George Alvarez up.
Trainer Bob Baffert is scheduled to return to Louisville Saturday night and Pioneerof the Nile is tentatively slated to work Monday before shipping to Maryland on Wednesday if Baffert decides on a Preakness bid.
Bo Hirsch’s Papa Clem galloped a mile and a half before the renovation break under exercise rider Mundo Gonzalez. The fourth-place Kentucky Derby finisher is scheduled to gallop again Friday and may leave for Pimlico later in the day or Saturday.
Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy was happy with the mile and a half morning gallop from General Quarters before the renovation break, but he had a question for a bystander as exercise rider Julie Sheets brought the colt off the track.
“What are they doing with that filly?” McCarthy asked referring to Rachel Alexandra. “She’s an awfully good filly.”
Rachel Alexandra could be supplemented to the Preakness, but McCarthy is planning to head east on Tuesday.
“I would hate not to go and have her not get in,” McCarthy said. “I went back and looked over the Oaks field and it didn’t look like she was facing the quality of competition that she will face in the Preakness.”
McCarthy plans to gallop General Quarters the next five days, including next Tuesday before vanning to Baltimore.
“I’d like to train here that morning if at all possible and then be able to jog Wednesday morning at Pimlico to allow him to get a feel for the track,” McCarthy said.
Julien Leparoux, who was aboard in Kentucky Derby 135 in which General Quarters finished 10th, retains the mount for the Preakness.
Robert Baker and William Mack’s Flying Private galloped shortly after the track opened Thursday morning at Churchill Downs with Taylor Carty up.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he likely would name a rider for Flying Private on Friday.
Asked about the prospect of facing Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, Lukas said: “I don’t like the idea at all. I’d like to run against the third-place finisher in the fifth at Beulah!”
Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain galloped a mile and a half before the renovation break with exercise rider Jimmy Valdez up.
Trainer Al Stall Jr. plans to work Terrain on Saturday or Sunday.
“Looks like Sunday may be the work day,” Stall said as he monitored a Weather Channel forecast that called for rain the next three days in Louisville. “But we are in no rush. We have the luxury of time with five weeks (between the Toyota Blue Grass and the Preakness).”
Trainer Dale Romans sent Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s undefeated Hull out for a gallop after the renovation break.
Asked if the presence of the speedy Rachel Alexandra might alter his Preakness plans for Hull, Romans said, “She might.”
Hull is scheduled to work five furlongs on Saturday.
BARN TALK – Julien Leparoux rode two winners on Wednesday’s card to take a one-win lead (12-11) over Jamie Theriot in the race for leading rider. Leparoux’s career win total stands at 993 entering Thursday’s card.
Trainer Al Stall Jr. said that B. Wayne Hughes’ My Pal Charlie has been nominated to the $600,000 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap (Grade I) to be run May 25 at Belmont Park.
“He came out of the race Derby Day (a runner-up finish in the Grade II Churchill Downs) in great shape,” Stall said. “A mile on the dirt may not be a bad way to go with him.”