Stostreet Stables and Harold McCormick’s Preakness Stakes (Grade I) and Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra returned to trainer Steve Asmussen’s Barn 38 at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning following a flight from Baltimore.
Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s chief assistant, accompanied the 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro on the flight. Blasi led her off the van at 10:20 a.m. (all times EDT) and back to barn, where she was walked and bedded down in Stall 24.
“She traveled great,” Blasi said. “She’ll be left alone the rest of the day; that’s what she wants. She’ll definitely walk for three days so the earliest she’d go back to the track would be Wednesday. We’ll just continue to evaluate her and keep our options open.
Rachel Alexandra, ridden again by Calvin Borel, defeated Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird by a length in the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
“We’re very pleased with how she ate last night and her attitude is good and she’s physically in good shape. We’re just very fortunate to be in this position. She’s all class and all heart. All of the credit goes to her.”
The Preakness marked Rachel Alexandra’s first start for Asmussen, and the victory over males lifted her career record to 8-2-0 in 11 races with earnings of $1,618,354. The Preakness victory came just shy of a year after her career debut on May 22, 2008 at Churchill Downs, when he finished sixth in a field of nine 2-year-old fillies in the only poor effort of her career. She has now won six consecutive races, a string that started in late November with a 4 ¾-length romp in the Golden Rod (GII).
Rachel Alexandra became the second Kentucky Oaks winner in three years to defeat males in a Triple Crown race in her next start. Rags to Riches won the 2007 Oaks and returned to defeat the Asmussen-trained Preakness winner and eventual two-time “Horse of the Year” Curlin in the Belmont Stakes (GI).
Asmussen was due back in Louisville Sunday afternoon and was scheduled to saddle horses in Churchill Downs’ Races 8 and 10. Meanwhile, winning jockey Calvin Borel had six mounts, starting with Race 4.
WIGGINS WATCHES PREAKNESS AT CHURCHILL, BEAMS OVER RACHEL AND STAFF – She had been out of his barn for just over a week, so it was clearly a bittersweet experience for veteran trainer Hal Wiggins as he watched Rachel Alexandra, his horse of a lifetime, become the first filly in 84 years to win Saturday’s Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Wiggins had just saddled Lucky Trio Stable’s Betty Bye to finish fourth in the 11th race at Churchill Downs – a race won by the Steve Asmussen-trained Girls Do Rule, which should have been the “Omen of the Day.” Then Wiggins settled into the Horseman’s Service Center adjacent to the paddock to watch Rachel Alexandra’s bid for history.
“When the gates opened, I was pulling for her,” Wiggins said. “Down the backstretch I was expecting her to be behind a horse or two, but she just bounded out of there. Where she was, I just thought she was in perfect position.
“I’m just really, really proud of her and Calvin. Racing is real fortunate to have him out there like that. There’s nothing phony about him – it’s all genuine. People see that and they realize that, and I’m just tickled for him. I’ll tell you, if anyone deserves it he does.”
Wiggins was also impressed by Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who closed strongly to lose by only a length to Rachel Alexandra.
“I’ll tell you what, I was really proud of that Derby horse,” Wiggins said. “Some of those guys were saying he might be a one-race wonder and that the wet track (on Derby Day) might have had something to do with it, but he showed he was legitimate. He really did.”
Rachel Alexandra’s new trainer, Steve Asmussen, has praised Wiggins’ work in the development of Rachel Alexandra, whose final race for Wiggins was her record-smashing 20 ¼-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks on May 1. Asmussen did so again on NBC Sports’ national telecast of the Preakness on Saturday.
“I appreciate that,” Wiggins said. “It’s a tribute to the crew here at the barn. I appreciate that, I really do.”
MATT WINN DUO WELL AFTER STIRRING FINISH – The respective camps of Capt. Candyman Can and Cash Refund reported that both horses were doing well on the morning after their stirring stretch duel in Saturday’s $106,900 Matt Winn Stakes.
Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can rallied in the stretch to wear down Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein’s previously unbeaten Cash Refund to win the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds by three-quarters of a length. The winning time over a “fast” track was 1:09.75.
Capt. Candyman Can, who was ridden by Javier Castellano, won his fourth stakes race – and third this year – for trainer Ian Wilkes. Earlier wins came in the Hutcheson (GII) at Gulfstream Park and the Bay Shore (GIII) at Aqueduct, and Wilkes said his hard-fought win in the Matt Winn had earned the gelded son of Candy Ride a rest.
Saratoga’s $300,000 NetJets King’s Bishop (GI) at seven furlongs on Aug. 29 remains the top near-term objective for Capt. Candyman Can.
“I may just go to Saratoga with him, I may not run him beforehand,” Wilkes said. “He runs so hard for me. I think I’ve got to fill his tank a little.”
Capt. Candyman Can remained unbeaten in races shorter than a mile and perfect in three starts at seven furlongs. His career record improved to 5-0-1 in eight races with earnings of $410,423.
Cash Refund lost for the first time in three career races, but impressed in his stakes debut as he battled for the lead throughout and was determined in the run through the stretch before he gave way late to the winner. Trainer Steve Margolis said the Petionville gelding walked on Sunday and was “bright and alert” on the morning after the first real test of his young career.
Cash Refund had won his first two races by a combined 13 ¾-lengths. The Klein homebred went off as the narrow favorite in the Matt Winn, mostly due to a dazzling allowance victory on the first day of the Spring Meet when he won by seven lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110. The winner earned a Beyer Figure of 99 on Saturday.
“It was a good effort,” said Margolis. “He fought all the way to the end. He was on the inside and it took him a little longer to put away the Holthus horse (Dance Caller, who faded to finish last of five), and when Ian’s horse came as a challenger, he didn’t just lay down. That horse was already a proven three-time stakes winner, so I don’t think it was any disgrace at all to lose to him.”
Margolis said Cash Refund would probably appear next in the $200,000 Jersey Shore (GIII), a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park on July 5.
A victory in the Matt Winn by the promising gelding would have been a boost to the Kleins, but it would also have provided Margolis with an elusive milestone: his first stakes victory at Churchill Downs.
“I had that horse Request for Parole and was second in a couple of stakes races with him, and Change Up was second and third,” Margolis said. “So I’ve got to get that elusive first stakes win at Churchill. Hopefully we can do that soon.”
Margolis’ next bid for a local stakes win will come next week when he saddles Gold Square’s Lady Chace in the Winning Colors (GIII). That six-furlong race for older fillies and mares will be the highlight of the Memorial Day racing program on May 25.
BARN TALK – James C. Spence’s homebred Flying Pegasus, idled by an infection since a sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (GII), returned to serious training with an easy three-furlong breeze in :38 over a “fast” track on Sunday. The Ralph Nicks-trained son of 2000 Kentucky Derby Fusaichi Pegasus finished second to Friesan Fire in the Risen Star (GIII) in his only other start this year and was a runner-up to Charitable Man in last year’s Belmont Futurity (GII). … Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune, 10th to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, breezed five furlongs on Sunday in 1:01.80 … Leading jockey Julien Leparoux returns Sunday after two days of Preakness Weekend riding at Pimlico with a diminished lead in the battle for leading rider of the Spring Meet. Leparoux led the surging Miguel Mena 22-18 heading into Sunday’s racing. … Two-time Preakness-winning trainer Steve Asmussen won two races on Saturday at Churchill Downs to open an 8-6 lead over Bill Mott, Greg Foley and Wesley Ward in the race for “Leading Trainer”. … With no live racing on Wednesdays for the remainder of the Spring Meet, Churchill Downs will offer free general admission for ITW simulcast wagering on Wednesdays through the remainder of the Spring Meet.