Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick's Rachel Alexandra, America's reigning ‘Horse of the Year' and champion 3-year-old filly, turned in one of her strongest works since her return to serious training and racing when she breezed six furlongs in a blistering 1:11.20 on Monday at Churchill Downs.
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan was in the saddle as the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro covered the distance over a fast track in fractional times of :12.20, :23.80, :35.40, :47.40 and :59.20. The Steve Asmussen-trained filly galloped out seven furlongs in 1:23.80 and a mile in :1:38.
The move was easily the fastest of the three six-furlong works at Churchill Downs on the day, and her internal fractions would have also produced "bullet" works at three furlongs, which tied with the 2-year-old Bonaroo as the day's best three-furlong work, and five furlongs, where the work by the 3-year-old colt Trippo was officially the day's best at :59.80. The fastest four-furlong work of the day was turned in by Wild Wit at :47.20, one tick faster than Rachel Alexandra's internal half-mile fraction.
Rachel Alexandra had picked up the pace of her training last Monday with a five-furlong work in 1:00.40, her best move since the champion suffered an upset loss at the hands of Unrivaled Belle in the $400,000 La Troienne (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day. That was her third breeze since the La Troienne, with the previous being a four-furlong work in :52 over a fast track on May 10, followed by a five-furlong move over a sloppy track on May 17 in 1:04.20.
Rachel Alexandra's career record stands at 11-4-0 in 16 races in which she has earned $3,074,050. She was perfect in an eight-race campaign at 3 that included a record-smashing 20 ¼-length romp in the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks (GI) and Grade I victories over males in the Preakness (GI), Haskell Invitational and the Woodward.
ROSSI DELIVERS THE GOODS TO LONGSHOT PLAYERS - Quick: Name the jockey at the current meet with three or more wins with the highest average win payoff!
If you said apprentice Oriana Rossi, go to the window and cash. However, more than likely, you already have cashed in on some of the $24.20 average mutuel on Rossi's five winners.
Rossi, who spent seven years working in England at Newmarket and riding in a few races, came to the United States three years ago. However, before she went in front of the cameras riding in the afternoon, she worked behind the camera.
"I worked the camera at the quarter pole toward the end of the Fair Grounds meet two winters ago," Rossi said. "I exercised horses in the morning and worked the camera in the afternoon. I still know some of the guys on the cameras here."
Rossi got her first victory last August at Ellis Park for trainer Tim Glyshaw and notched her first Churchill Downs victory last fall for trainer Chuck Simon. From there Rossi spent the winter at Fair Grounds riding mainly for John Glenney.
"I love New Orleans and it is a lot of fun and a lot of great food," Rossi said. "But riding is tough there for a ‘bug' rider. The good thing is most of the riders there are on this circuit and many of them will take time to help me out."
Rossi, 27, does not watch any particular rider.
"I watch the horses, what they are running for, more than the riders," Rossi said. "I feel like I am getting on better horses now and I feel stronger than last year, but I know I still have a long way to go."
Rossi secured her fifth victory of the meet Sunday afternoon when she delivered a last-to-first ride on Bach Hamilton for trainer John Hancock who uses Rossi on many of his horses. Rossi is the meet's second-leading apprentice behind Freddie Lenclud, who has ridden 17 winners.
"I saw her ride her first race at Ellis Park last summer and my wife Donna and I liked her and she is like family to us," Hancock said. "She has improved a lot in a year. She will listen to you and adjust and she does not get rattled."
On dark days at Churchill Downs, Rossi is riding at Indiana Downs. During the summer, Rossi plans to divide her time between Ellis Park and Hoosier Park.
SPRING MEET SURGES PAST HALF-MILE POLE - Twenty racing days remain in the 42-day Spring Meet and several Churchill Downs milestones are within reach for jockeys and trainers.
However, one milestone that passed quietly was the 50th Churchill Downs stakes victory for jockey Calvin Borel. That came on May 1 ... in the Kentucky Derby (GI) ... aboard Super Saver. Borel got his 51st stakes win Saturday on Ailalea in the Dogwood (GIII).
Of course, Borel is sitting on the cusp of a major Churchill Downs milestone: 1,000 victories beneath the Twin Spires. Borel's victory aboard Ready's Rocket ($3) in Sunday's second race boosted his career total at the track to 998. Borel, who is riding at Belmont Park on Monday, is named on nine mounts Friday, the next day of live racing at Churchill Downs.
Dale Romans, second only to Bill Mott (630) in Churchill Downs victories,
enters today's card with 498 wins beneath the Twin Spires. Other trainers nearing victory milestones here are Todd Pletcher (98) and Merrill Scherer (97).
Riders approaching Churchill Downs milestones are Shaun Bridgmohan (286 victories) and Miguel Mena (197).
Two of the fastest main track times of the meet were established in the past few days. Riley Tucker's 1:08.34 in winning the Aristides on Saturday was the quickest six furlongs of the meet and the day before, Hamazing Destiny posted the fastest 6 ½ furlongs (1:15.86).
The lone course record set this meet was by Silver Timber in the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint (GIII) on April 30. Silver Timber lowered the Matt Winn Turf Course's five-furlong mark to :55.45.
The highest win mutuel payoff of the first half of the meet was $81.40 to Hail to Shiloh in the fourth race on May 15.
POST-MEMORIAL DAY RACING TO RESUME FRIDAY, JUNE 4 - Churchill Downs' Spring Meet will take its regular three-day break following the conclusion of Monday's Memorial Day racing program. The meet will resume on Friday, June 4 with the regular "Dress to Impress Happy Hours" twilight racing program.
Post time for the Friday's racing program is 2:45 p.m. (all times EDT) with special Happy Hour food and drink prices available from 4-7 p.m.
Simulcasting at Trackside at Churchill Downs will resume after a two-day break on Thursday, June 3.
The racing program on Saturday, June 5 will offer wagering on the Belmont Stakes (GI), the final jewel of the Triple Crown, and will offer a racing program headed by the Early Times Mint Julep (GIII) for fillies and mares ages 3 and up at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
"Downs After Dark" night racing return to Churchill Downs Friday, June 11, which will be the first evening of racing under the track's permanent lighting system.
BARN TALK - Jockey Randall Toups has returned to Churchill Downs after a three-year absence. "I got here four days ago," said Toups, who has been riding in Louisiana. "I just missed Churchill Downs and Kentucky racing. I'd like to ride here the rest of the year and go back to the Fair Grounds in the winter." Toups has won 57 races at Churchill Downs, 39 coming in the 2006 Spring Meet. "I don't have the baby face any more," Toups, now 21, said with a laugh. "I'm just trying to get going again." Julio Espinoza is Toups' agent. ...
The annual horsemen's picnic will take place in the infield on Tuesday between 4-7 p.m. with food, music and prizes.
WORK TAB - Acoma, preparing for her 2010 debut in Saturday's Early Times Mint Julep (GIII), worked a half-mile in :48.80, the 14th fastest of 52 moves at the distance over a fast track. Friesan Fire, favorite in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, worked a half-mile in :52.80. Matt Winn winner Thiskyhasnolimit worked five furlongs in 1:01.40, the fifth fastest of 15 at the distance.