The stars of the 2009 Triple Crown season ignored rainy weather at Churchill Downs on Monday as Kentucky Derby (Grade I) winner and Preakness (GI) runner-up Mine That Bird and the Preakness-winning filly Rachel Alexandra turned in workouts over a “sloppy” track.
Mine That Bird had jockey Calvin Borel, his pilot in the “Run for the Roses”, in the saddle as he breezed four furlongs in :51 in his first serious training move since the Preakness. Rachel Alexandra cruised a half mile in :50.20 under exercise rider Dominic Terry, with a steady rain pelting the filly during much of her first work since her historic triumph in the second jewel of the Triple Crown on May 16 at Pimlico.
Two major questions remained without answers following the Memorial Day works. Will Rachel Alexandra run in the June 6 Belmont Stakes (GI) and attempt to become the first filly to win two legs of the Triple Crown? And, if she does not run in the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion,” would Borel have an opportunity to ride Mine That Bird in the Triple Crown’s final jewel?
Majority owner Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables said a decision of the Belmont Stakes status of Rachel Alexandra would not be made until next week at the earliest. Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to work then and her camp would know more after that effort...
“She is recovering nicely from the Preakness,” Jackson said. “The key thing is her attitude. She thinks can run through a brick wall. We have to pull her back because she wants to run.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen said he was pleased with the work, which came under unusual conditions. A brief, but heavy, rain shower started to pelt the track as Rachel Alexandra entered the far turn, about an eighth of a mile into her work.
“She looked beautiful, like Rachel does,” said Asmussen. “The weather was not exactly cooperating this morning. We a pretty good shower right in the middle of her breeze, but she handled it well, like she does everything else. She came back very relaxed and looked good.”
Jackson huddled after the work with Borel, who has ridden Rachel Alexandra throughout her winning streak of six consecutive stakes races, and Jerry Hissam, Borel’s agent. Jackson said that Robby Albarado, the rider of his two-time “Horse of the Year” Curlin, could be called on to ride Rachel Alexandra if the decision was made to run the filly in the Belmont and Borel had another Belmont riding commitment.
Trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. said he was happy with the easy move by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Serte Equine’s Mine That Bird, which came shortly after the mid-session break for track maintenance.
Woolley said he and co-owners Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach would wait a few more days before making a decision on a rider for the Belmont Stakes. The left the door open for Borel to return to the saddle aboard the Kentucky Derby winner if Rachel Alexandra’s camp decides against a Belmont bid.
Borel was in the irons for the 6 ¾-length romp by the Birdstone gelding in the Kentucky Derby, but chose to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Mike Smith was aboard the Derby winner at Pimlico, but a previous commitment will keep him from riding Mine That Bird in the Belmont.