L and M Partners' brilliant Rachel Alexandra, who closed 2008 with a dominating victory in the Golden Rod (Grade II) beneath the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, will put a four-race win streak on the line Friday when she faces seven rivals in the 135th running of the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) at the legendary Louisville track.
The Oaks, America’s top race for 3-year-old fillies, will go as the 11th race on Friday with a 5:45 p.m. (all times EDT) post time. The 12-race Oaks Day card has a first post time of 10:30 a.m.
Rachel Alexandra drew post position six for the Oaks and Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed Rachel Alexandra as the 3-5 odds-on favorite for the 1 1/8 mile Oaks. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is trained by Hal Wiggins and scheduled to be ridden by Calvin Borel. Each of her connections is seeking their first victory in the Kentucky Oaks.
Following last fall’s Golden Rod victory, Rachel Alexandra reeled off impressive victories in her 3-year-old campaign in the Martha Washington on Feb. 15 at Oaklawn Park, the Fair Grounds Oaks (Grade II) on March 14 at Fair Grounds and the Grade II Fantasy on April 5 at Oaklawn Park. She has a career record of 6-2-0 in nine races and has earned $621,440.
The second choice on the morning line at 5-2 is West Point Thoroughbreds, Lakland Farm and R. Dee Hubbard’s Justwhistledixie. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the daughter of Dixie Union brings a five-race winning streak into her first meeting with Rachel Alexandra. Her two most recent scores came in the Davona Dale (Grade II) and Bonnie Miss (Grade II) at Gulfstream Park.
Julien Leparoux, who rode Justwhistledixie to the Bonnie Miss victory, has the mount Friday and will break from post position five.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who had sent out four Kentucky Oaks winners, will be represented by a trio of runners in the 135th renewal of the race: Lukas will saddle Westrock Stables’ Be Fair and the Marylou Whitney Stables’ duo of Stone Legacy and Tweeter in Friday’s race.
Lukas’ Oaks winners are Blush With Pride (1982), Lucky Lucky Lucky (1984), Open Mind (1989) and Seaside Attraction (1990). Lukas will be one of three Oaks trainers trying to accomplish a sweep of the Oaks and Saturday’s $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). That Oaks-Derby sweep was last achieved in 1952 when Calumet Farm’s legendary trainer Ben Jones sent out Real Delight to win the Oaks and followed with a Derby win by Hill Gail.
Lukas will send out Flying Private in the Derby on Saturday.
Bob Baffert, who will enter racing’s Hall of Fame this year with his 1999 Kentucky Oaks winner Silverbulletday, will saddle Arnold Zetcher’s Gabby’s Golden Gal in Friday’s Oaks with Victor Espinoza to ride. Baffert’s Kentucky Derby hopeful is Pioneerof the Nile.
Bill Mott, another member of racing’s Hall of Fame and the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs, will saddle Mike Rutherford’s Flying Spur in the Oaks. Flying Spur’s best career effort was a runner-up finish to Rachel Alexandra in the Fair Grounds Oaks. Garrett Gomez, who won the 2007 Oaks on Rags To Riches, has the mount.
The field for the 135th running of the Kentucky Oaks, from the rail out, is as follows: Tweeter (Miguel Mena), Be Fair (Rafael Bejarano), Stone Legacy (Kent Desormeaux), Gabby’s Golden Gal (Victor Espinoza), Justwhistledixie (Julien Leparoux), Rachel Alexandra (Calvin Borel), Nan (Corey Nakatani) and Flying Spur (Garrett Gomez). All starters will carry 121 pounds.