It was easy to figure out where the winner of Friday’s 135th running of the Kentucky Oaks was … just follow the lilies.
The garland of lilies was draped over the wall in front of Stall 17 at Barn 30 where Rachel Alexandra was taking it easy after her jaw-dropping, 20 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks.
“She is good this morning,” trainer Hal Wiggins said. “She maybe left one or two bits of feed and this morning she was dragging the groom around the barn.”
Rachel Alexandra began her five-race win streak with a score in the Golden Rod (Grade II) here last fall. After that, Wiggins mapped out a plan to get to Friday’s Oaks.
“You make plans and it is very nice to see things work out perfect,” the 66-year-old Wiggins said. “She makes my job very easy. We still don’t know how good she is.”
For Wiggins, who saddled his first winner in 1977 and who has been a regular at Churchill Downs since 1993, Friday marked the highest of the highs.
“I have been in the game a long time. I had Chorwon (a three-time winner of the Louisville Handicap) and Morris Code (who earned more than $700,000) for Mr. (Dolphus) Morrison, but nothing like this at the top of the game,” Wiggins said. “Mr. Morrison bred and owned the dam (Lotta Kim). I have been with him for 30 years and that makes it special.”
Wiggins stayed at the barn until 8 last night and was back in his office early Saturday morning.
“We watched the race on the outside rail where I always watch and you miss a lot down there,” Wiggins said. “I had no idea how much she won by. We did start celebrating a little early.
“We went to the directors room after the press conference and they were showing the race over and over. Then they showed the aerial shot and that was tremendous.”
In all the euphoria of the victory, Wiggins was thinking about one filly that didn’t make the race: West Point Thoroughbreds’ Justwhistledixie.
“My heart goes out to the Justwhistledixie people,” Wiggins said of the filly who was scratched less than two hours before the race because of an abscess in her left front foot. “I really feel for them. They are a good group of guys. I hate it for anybody. Not to take anything away from the others, but she looked like the main competition. This was their big day.”
The $300,000 Acorn (Grade I) at Belmont on June 6 at a mile is the next objective on Wiggins’ radar for Rachel Alexandra.
“This gives her five weeks, which is what I like,” Wiggins said. “She had only three weeks before the Fantasy, but it looks like she is fine. She was dragging the groom around the barn after she worked in (a minute and):10 five or six days ago. Maybe she is the monster people have been talking about.
“We walked her two days after she worked and Rudy (exercise rider Rudy Gallegos) said ‘don’t walk her two days again.’ She was pulling him out of the saddle.”
STONE LEGACY / BE FAIR / TWEETER – Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Oaks winner D. Wayne Lukas said all three of his Kentucky Oaks participants were well on the morning after Friday’s race. Stone Legacy finished second, Be Fair fourth and Tweeter was last in the field of seven.
“They were all fine,” Lukas said. “I don’t know where we’ll go with any of them, but they were fine.”
Earlier in the week Lukas had said the eventual Oaks winner could be the best 3-year-old filly in the United States since Eugene Klein’s Winning Colors, the Hall of Fame filly who provided Lukas with his first Kentucky Derby victory when she turned back colts in the 1988 “Run for the Roses.”
“That was something else,” Lukas said of Rachel Alexandra’s record 20 ¼-length win. “The best line was that she ran in the 11th race, we ran in the 12th.”
FLYING SPUR – Trainer Bill Mott said Saturday morning that Flying Spur, who finished third in the Kentucky Oaks, was fine.
“She’s good,” Mott said. “She exited the race in very good order.”
Mott said that he does not know when the filly will race next.
According to Mott, Rachel Alexandra’s impressive 20 1/4-length victory will have an impact on the 3-year-old female division this season.
“I guess that at this point no fillies are going to run against her in the good races,” Mott said. “They’re all just going to go somewhere else.”
NAN – Wally Dollase, father of trainer Craig Dollase, said that J. Paul Reddam’s Nan came out of her fifth-place finish in the Friday’s Oaks in good order.
“She’s fine, she just got beat,” Dollase said. “I’ll call Craig tomorrow and see what he wants to do.”
GABBY’S GOLDEN GAL – The Sunland Oaks winner Gabby’s Golden Gal is fine after her sixth-place finish, trainer Bob Baffert said Saturday morning. Baffert said he did not have a plan for the next start for Gabby’s Golden Gal, who led the race for about the first mile.
Baffert was impressed with the way Rachel Alexandra dominated the Oaks.
“We saw greatness,” Baffert said. “You hate to get beat, but at least we can say we were the last filly who was in front of Rachel Alexandra turning for home. I wish he (Calvin Borel) could have waited a little bit longer and maybe I could have run second or third."