L & M Partners LLC’s Rachel Alexandra delivered a tour de force under Calvin Borel in crushing six rivals to win the 135th running of the $554,500 Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) by a record 20 ¼ lengths on Friday before a crowd of 104,867 at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Hal Wiggins for the partnership of breeder Dolphus Morrison and Michael Lauffer, Rachel Alexandra stalked early pacesetter Gabby’s Golden Gal until Borel began to inch up midway on the final turn of the mile and one-eighth race.
Turning for home, Rachel Alexandra had put Gabby’s Golden Gal away and Borel began looking over his right shoulder for competition. There was none as the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro continued to widen under a hand ride from Borel to complete the distance over a “fast” track in 1:48.87, which just missed the stakes record of 1:48.64 established by Bird Town in 2003.
The margin of victory is believed to be an Oaks record. Available records date to 1916 and the largest previous victory margin was 10 lengths, a feat last achieved by Oaktown Stable’s Lite Light in 1991.
“It was just unbelievable,” said Wiggins, a training veteran of 40 years who scored his first victory in the Kentucky Oaks and notched his first win in a Grade I stakes race. “When he (Borel) asked her, she just naturally took off. And just finished tremendous. It looked like she came out of the race really, really good. That’s the main thing.”
As the 3-10 favorite, Rachel Alexandra returned mutuels of $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10. Stone Legacy, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, rallied for second to return $11 and $5. Flying Spur finished another 4 ¼ lengths back in third under Garrett Gomez and paid $2.80 to show.
The victory extended Rachel Alexandra’s win streak to five, a streak that began with Borel aboard for the Golden Rod (Grade II) at Churchill Downs last November. The filly has never lost with Borel in the saddle.
Bred by Morrison, Rachel Alexandra is a daughter of the Roar mare Lotta Kim, who was owned by Morrison and trained by Wiggins. Rachel Alexandra has won seven of 10 career starts for earnings of $958,354, including $336,914 for the Oaks triumph.
The field was reduced to seven when West Point Thoroughbreds, Lakland Farm and R. Dee Hubbard’s Justwhistledixie was withdrawn from the Oaks less than two hours before the race because of an abscess in her left front foot.
The victory was worth $336,914 and increased Rachel Alexandra’s earnings to $958,354.
The victory in the Oaks was the first for Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) in 2007 aboard Street Sense. He will ride Mine That Bird in Saturday’s renewal of the “Run for the Roses.”
Despite the threat of rain early in the day, the 135th Kentucky Oaks attracted the fourth largest crowd in the history of the race that was first run in 1875. The event has attracted more than 100,000 fans in 10 of the past 11 years, topped by the crowd of 111,243 that attended the race in 2005.
KENTUCKY OAKS 135 QUOTES
CALVIN BOREL (rider of winner Rachel Alexandra) -- Do you think you should have run in the Derby? “To tell you the truth I’m happy they didn’t run her, I think they did the right thing by running her today, but I do think she would have won it.
“She’s probably the greatest horse I’ve ever been on in my life. There are other things down the road for her and she’ll prove it, I promise it.”
This filly she breaks out of the gate and she’s like ‘bring it on, let’s go!’
HAL WIGGINS (trainer of winner Rachel Alexandra) -- “If you watched the race you saw it. It was just unbelievable. I was a little worried about (Bob) Baffert’s filly (Gabby’s Golden Gal) on the lead like that, but (jockey) Calvin (Borel) said, ‘I had everything under control.’ When he asked her, she just naturally took off. And just finished tremendous. It looked like she came out of the race really, really good. That’s the main thing.”
On the show-stopping performance:
“Her last four races have been like that. Of course, this is the most important, a Grade I win for a filly. The owner still owns the dam, so that’s very important. And I’ve trained for the man for 30 years. It’s good feeling to me for him to be able to experience this.”
DOLPHUS MORRISON (co-owner of winner Rachel Alexandra) -- Any regrets that you’re not running in the Derby tomorrow? “No sir, the Triple Crown races are to showcase the future stallions of our industry and fillies should run with fillies and stallions with stallions.”
D. WAYNE LUKAS (trainer of Stone Legacy, second; Be Fair, fourth; and Tweeter, seventh) -- “I thought Be Fair would be the stronger of the entry but I was really pleased. The way the pace developed it really setup for Stone Legacy. We are tickled. Mary Lou Whitney has won this race in the past and now to get another second is great. Second is what everyone was lining up for today. There is no disgrace to get beat by the winner. The pace scenario didn’t really matter because once Rachel Alexandra she took off, the front-runner was of no consequence.”
KENT DESORMEAUX (jockey, Stone Legacy, 2nd) – “No excuses. That’s one we don’t have to beat tomorrow. I’m glad she isn’t in the Derby.”
GARRETT GOMEZ (rider of third-place finisher Flying Spur) – “She struggled the whole time trying to keep up. In the middle of turn, I got into her pretty good. I wasn’t going anywhere, so I kind of let her regroup and she found some more and was able to get third. The filly who won it is something else.”
BILL MOTT (trainer of third-place finisher Flying Spur) – “It meant a lot to be third in this race. Third was great for our filly who looked like she would drop out of it, but then made a run. That’s some super filly who won.”
RAFAEL BEJARANO (rider of fourth-place finisher Be Fair) -- “I thought we could be second or third, but she just was not good enough today. The winner, she was just too good.”
COREY NAKATANI (rider of fifth-place finisher Nan) – “We’d have been all right if I’d have had a rocket. What can you say? She ran away and hid. Congratulations.”
WALLY DOLLASE (father of trainer Craig Dollase of fifth-place finisher Nan) – “Awesome. Simply an awesome victory for that filly. My filly is still running. The other one is gone.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA (rider of sixth-place finisher Gabby’s Golden Gal) – “What can I say? She just ran away. Calvin (Borel on Rachel Alexandra) didn’t say anything when he went by me. He couldn’t.”
MIGUEL MENA (jockey, Tweeter, 7th) – “She didn’t break too good. She was a little rank the first part. She got tired. No excuses.”