– With majority owner Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables looking on, Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and Preakness Stakes (Grade I) winner Rachel Alexandra worked a half-mile in :50.20 under exercise rider Dominic Terry over a sloppy track Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
Accompanied by a pony with assistant trainer Scott Blasi aboard, Rachel Alexandra came on the track shortly before 6:30 and walked around to the paddock runway. At 6:35, with rain starting to pelt down, Rachel Alexandra eased her way down the half-mile pole and reeled off fractions of :12.60, :25, :37.20 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:04.20. The :50.20 clocking was the 10th best of 38 at the distance.
After the work, Jackson declined to name Rachel Alexandra a starter for the June 6 Belmont Stakes (Grade I).
“As I have said before, it is up to her,” Jackson said. “We are still considering the Belmont or the ($300,000, Grade I) Mother Goose (at 1 1/8th miles on June 27), which would give her a little more time.
“She is recovering nicely from the Preakness. She is going to progress. She is not in top shape right now, but she will blowout next Monday and that will tell us more. The key thing is her attitude. She thinks she can run through a brick wall. We need to pull her back a little bit, because she wants to run.
“My primary concern is the horse herself. I’d like to keep her around and let the public enjoy her. She is special. I don’t want to push her past her limits.”
Calvin Borel rode Rachel Alexandra to victory in the Kentucky Oaks and Preakness and won the Kentucky Derby on Mine That Bird, who is considered a definite starter for the Belmont.
“Calvin is a great jockey and I hope he’d be willing to go with her,” Jackson said. “He has to make his decision for himself and if we’re in there together and he’s not on our horse it’ll probably be Robby Albarado, who was with us with Curlin.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen described Rachel Alexandra’s work, her first serious training move since her historic victory over males in the Preakness as “beautiful.” The Eclipse Award-winning trainer was pleased by the way the filly handled changing weather conditions as the clouds opened with a brief, but heavy, rain shower during the half-mile move. The move was uncharacteristically slow for Rachel Alexandra prior to her move to her new home in the Asmussen stable, but fairly routine for the Asmussen stable, which rarely sends its horses out for fast works.
“It was very odd,” Asmussen said. “When she broke off, it wasn’t raining and she kind of broke-off into the rain and that aided Dominic a bit there. She looked beautiful moving, went under the wire well and came back very happy.”
Jackson was asked about a possible match-up later in the year with the undefeated Zenyatta, the reigning champion older or filly or mare who ran her record to 10-for-10 with a victory Saturday in the Milady (Grade II) at Hollywood Park.
“I look forward to facing Zenyatta,” Jackson said. “But I want to keep her (Rachel Alexandra) on the East Coast. If Zenyatta wants to come east, come on. I don’t want to run a horse on synthetic (surfaces).”
So, does this mean Rachel Alexandra would not go to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships that will be held Nov. 6 and 7 on the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita?
“Unless there is no other frontier to conquer. If she runs on the plastic, she can beat the boys in the Classic … not the Ladies’ Classic,” said Jackson, whose two-time Horse of the Year Curlin ran fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year at Santa Anita.
MINE THAT BIRD WORKS “PERFECT” HALF-MILE IN :51 UNDER BOREL – Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerte Equine’s Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird worked a half-mile in :51 over a sloppy track after the renovation break under jockey Calvin Borel.
Walking to the track without a pony and equipped with four new shoes that were put on Sunday afternoon, Mine That Bird backtracked to the paddock runway and then went about his business, posting fractions of :13.60, :26.40, :38.40 and galloping out five-eighths in 1:04.20 and six furlongs in 1:18.40. The 51-second clocking for a half-mile was the 16th fastest of 38 at the distance.
“It was perfect,” trainer Chip Woolley said. “I didn’t want anything like the :49 of before the Preakness. The work was super and Calvin really happy with it. He had a little more wrap on him this time.
“I just wanted him to stretch is legs a bit. He will step it up next Monday and then fly to New York on Wednesday. He will walk tomorrow and then go back to the track the next day.”
Woolley is facing the same rider dilemma he faced before the Preakness in not knowing if he would have the services of Borel, who rode Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Rachel Alexandra has not been confirmed for the Belmont, leaving Borel’s status up in the air.
“I am going to hold off a few more days out of respect for Calvin,” Woolley said. “I am going to talk with (owners) Mark Allen and Doc (Leonard Blach) and give it a little more time and see how things develop. It is possible I could wait until next Monday.”
Both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra are scheduled to work here next Monday.
“I’d like to have closure on this, but it is the nature of the business,” Woolley said. “You’ve got two good horses vying for the same rider. Nobody likes to be in this situation. Both horses are at the top of their game and it is a tough choice for the rider and it is tough for the trainers.”
BARN TALK – Trainer Wesley Ward is planning a trip this summer to England’s famed Royal Ascot meet and the 2-year-olds he plans to take on that international journey worked over the turf course at River Downs between races during the Cincinnati track’s Sunday program. Heading that group were Aegean and Jealous Again, the fillies who finished 1-2 in the Kentucky Juvenile (GIII) at Churchill Downs on April 30. Those fillies worked three furlongs in company over “firm” turf in :34.80. … Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Farm’s Derby Trial (GIII) runner-up Kensei breezed six furlongs in 1:13 over a sloppy track on Monday. The 3-year-old son of Mr. Greeley is being pointed toward a rematch with unbeaten Trial winner Hull in the Woody Stephens (GII) on the Belmont Stakes undercard on June 6 at Belmont Park. Kensei worked in company with stablemate Omniscient, who finished with an identical clocking. … Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Selva, runner-up to War Kill in Keeneland’s Beaumont (GII) last time out, breezed a sharp half-mile in :47 over Monday’s sloppy going. The move was the fastest of 38 works at the distance for trainer David Carroll’s daughter of Forest Wildcat. … Monday’s Memorial Day feature at Churchill Downs is the $100,000-added Winning Colors (GIII), a race for older fillies and mares at six furlongs named in honor of the 1988 Kentucky Derby winner, the most recent of only three fillies to win the “Run for the Roses.” So it was a lovely bit of serendipity when Ocean Colors, a 3-year-old daughter of the Derby winner, showed up on the Monday work tab at Churchill Downs with a half-mile breeze in :51.20. The Steve Asmussen-trained Orientate filly looked like something special when she scored a dazzling victory in her career debut on June 13 of last year at Churchill Downs. Her 2-year-old campaign ended when she finished last of nine as the favorite in her next start in Saratoga’s Schuylerville (GIII), and her lone start at three was a fourth-place finish in an allowance race on the Polytrack surface at Keeneland. By the way, Ocean Colors was not the only impressive 2-year-old filly to break her maiden on last June’s Friday the 13th card. There was another race in that division on the card that day and it was won by Rachel Alexandra.
NO LIVE RACING THIS TUESDAY-THURSDAY, FREE ADMISSION TO THURSDAY SIMULCASTS – Following today’s special Memorial Day racing program, Churchill Downs will be dark on Tuesday, May 26; Wednesday, May 27; and Thursday, May 28.
There will be no on-site simulcast wagering on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Churchill Downs will be open for simulcasting on Thursday, May 28.and will offer free general admission for patrons to place wagers on outlets around the country in the ITW area on the second floor of the clubhouse.