CHAMPION RACHEL ALEXANDRA WELL AFTER FLEUR DE LIS VICTORY – Reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra was reported by trainer Steve Asmussen to be doing well on Sunday following her 10 ½-length victory in the $200,000-added Fleur De Lis Handicap (Grade II) on the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) undercard.
The win by the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro owned by Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick was her first in three races in 2010. Her previous victory had been a narrow win over older males in the Woodward (GI) at Saratoga to complete her championship campaign at three. It was the first victory by a female of any age in that prestigious race, but she opened this year with narrow losses to Zardana (BRZ) in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds and Unrivaled Belle in the La Troienne (GII) on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs.
While Rachel Alexandra appeared to come out of the race well, Asmussen was concerned about whether there was any lingering impact from Saturday’s sultry weather conditions. Temperatures on the humid day climbed to above 90, and the heat index hovered around 100 degrees.
“It was a very humid, oppressive type of afternoon,” Asmussen said. “We’ll see if she shows any residual effect from the weather when she goes back to the track.”
If all continues to go well, Rachel Alexandra should resume her training on Wednesday.
Rachel Alexandra covered the 1 1/8-mile distance in a faster time than the winning time for Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame in the 4-year-old colt’s three-quarter length victory in the $600,000 Stephen Foster Handicap. The winning time for Rachel Alexandra was 1:48.78, while Blame covered the nine furlongs in 1:49.37.
The win improved the career record for Rachel Alexandra 12-4-0 in 17 races and she has earned $3,206,730. The champion has a record of 4-3-0 in eight races at Churchill Downs.
SARATOGA AWAITS STEPHEN FOSTER WINNER BLAME – Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame got to spend an extra day at Churchill Downs on Sunday as his Keeneland workmate Apart was entered in Sunday’s eighth race.
“They will both go back to Keeneland on Monday,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said Sunday morning as he watched Blame walk the shedrow at Barn 47.
Blame rallied to overcome a four-length deficit on Battle Plan to win the Stephen Foster and give Stall his second Grade I victory at Churchill Downs. Joyeux Danseur won the Turf Classic for Stall here in 1998.
“He overcame a slow pace and a bad post (11) yesterday,” Stall said of Blame, now a winner of seven of 10 starts. “There was only mild pressure on the leader (Battle Plan), but he started to bear down and when Battle Plan switched leads at the eighth pole, I figured that was it.”
Stall said he was not sure how long he would keep Blame at Keeneland before shipping to Saratoga, where the next objective for Blame is the $750,000 Whitney (GI) at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 7.
“Right now, we are just thinking about the Whitney,” Stall said. “It is tough to run two races like that at Saratoga (with the Woodward on Sept. 4 being the other). You can throw the Hawthorne Gold Cup (GII) into the mix. That’s a mile and a quarter on the same day (Oct. 2) as the Jockey Club Gold Cup (at Belmont Park) and we could ship up from Keeneland and back and that sets you up for November (and the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs).”
Despite the Stephen Foster victory, Stall found out that Blame was not the big story of Saturday.
“A friend of mine on the East Coast sent me a text saying that I win a Grade I, but Rachel Alexandra is on the cover of Monday’s Daily Racing Form,” Stall said.
PLETCHER ENJOYS ALMOST PERFECT 24 HOURS IN LOUISVILLE – Trainer Todd Pletcher flew into Louisville from New York shortly before noon on Saturday and was headed back to the Big Apple before noon Sunday. In that time span, his horses won three races at Churchill Downs, including two stakes, and trainer also picked up his trophy for winning the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver.
So, on a scale of one to 10, how did the brief stay in Louisville rate?
"It was a nine,” Pletcher said with a laugh. “If Battle Plan wins the Stephen Foster it is a 10. It was just about perfect.”
In his first Grade I test, Battle Plan surrendered late to Blame in losing by three-quarters of a length to have his four-race win streak snapped.
“I thought he gave a big effort yesterday for his first race over the surface,” Pletcher said. “The track had dried out a bit from earlier in the day and it was a bit cuppier. At the five-sixteenths pole, (jockey) Javier (Castellano) asked him for a bit more and the ground broke out from under him.”
Pletcher said that Battle Plan would return to New York on Wednesday and a schedule would be mapped out to keep Battle Plan and stable star Quality Road on separate paths.
Pletcher, whose day started with a victory by the 2-year-old maiden Blue Orleans in the fifth race, said that Northern Dancer (GIII) winner Colizeo and Regret (GIII) winner Caminadora would remain at Churchill Downs for the time being.
Regarding the 2-year-old Razmataz, a winner Friday night who gave Pletcher his 100th victory at Churchill Downs, the trainer said the July 3 Bashford Manor (GIII) “is a possibility. I want to see how he bounces back from Friday.”
BARN TALK – Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy said that third-place Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) finisher General Quarters remained on track for a return to the turf this summer at Arlington Park. “That’s the plan right now,” McCarthy said of the Arlington Handicap (GIII) on July 17 and the Arlington Million (GI) on Aug. 21. McCarthy said General Quarters was affected by the heat Saturday. “(Jockey) Alex (Solis) said the heat got him at the sixteenth pole,” McCarthy said. “He always finishes up well, but he got back here and ate all his supper last night and his breakfast this morning.” …
Trainer Tony Reinstedler reported all was well with Jefferson Cup (GIII) winner Gleam of Hope on Sunday morning. “Arlington Park is next,” Reinstedler said referring to the American Derby (GII) on July 17 and then the Secretariat (GI) on Aug. 21. Gleam of Hope signaled his readiness for the Jefferson Cup with a work last Sunday in company with Giant Oak, who ran fourth in Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap. “We changed things up a little bit because he can be lackadaisical and he worked in blinkers,” Reinstedler said. “The idea was to get him to settle and finish up well. He worked well in them and that gave us confidence going in.” …
Drew Coontz, assistant to trainer Chris Block, said that Giant Oak would head back to Arlington Park on Wednesday. “He’s fine this morning,” Coontz said of Giant Oak, who finished 4 ½ lengths behind Blame. “He ran great for the company he was with.” …
Trainer Paul McGee said that Demarcation, fifth in the Stephen Foster, and Worldly, runner-up in the Northern Dancer, were doing well Sunday morning. “I was pretty happy with him and so were the owners (Mr. and Mrs. John Amerman),” McGee said of Demarcation, who was a head behind Giant Oak. “He ran well in the Clark here last fall beaten only 6 ½ lengths, but he is just a cut below those horses.” McGee is not sure when Worldly, beaten a neck by Colizeo, would run next. “I will be running quite a bit at Arlington Park, but I would prefer to keep him on dirt rather than the Polytrack.” …
Trainer Wally Dollase said he would have an idea “in a day or two” as to what would be next for Distinctive Dixie, runner-up to Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the Fleur de Lis (GII). Distinctive Dixie got to within a half-length of Rachel Alexandra nearing the top of the stretch, but could get no closer as Rachel Alexandra drew off to a 10 ½-length victory. “For a fleeting moment there …” Dollase said of the upset possibility. “Did you hear my wife (Cincy) scream? I know I sure did! I’m proud of my filly. She hadn’t run in some time (six weeks) and she held on to get second over Jessica Is Back, who is a nice filly.”
WORK TAB – Tap Tap Tapping, runner-up in the Dogwood (GIII), worked five furlongs in 1:03.40 over a fast track. … Backtalk, winner of last spring’s Bashford Manor (GIII) and unraced since finishing last in the Kentucky Derby, worked six furlongs in 1:12.60.