Thursday, May 14, 2009

'Rachel' Draws Post 13 as 8-5 Favorite

By Jason Shandler

Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Rachel Alexandra drew post 13 and was installed as the solid 8-5 morning-line favorite for the $1-million Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 16 at Pimlico.

Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) runner-up Pioneerof the Nile drew post 9 and is the 5-1 second choice on the morning line, while upset Derby winner Mine That Bird (6-1) will break from post 2.
A field of 13 was drawn for the Preakness, which is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing classics in recent memory thanks to Rachel Alexandra, who is the first Kentucky Oaks winner to contest the Preakness. The talented daughter of Medaglia d'Oro is trying to become the first filly to win the Preakness since Nellie Morse in 1924.
Calvin Borel, who rode Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird to Oaks and Derby wins, respectively, has chosen to ride the filly in the Preakness. It is believed to be the first time a jockey has opted off the Derby winner to ride a different horse in the Preakness.
Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick privately purchased Rachel Alexandra last week, just days after she won the Oaks by a record 20 1/4 lengths. Steve Asmussen is her new trainer.
“I was just speaking with Jess and Steve and we’re very happy with it, being on the outside," assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. "You’ve got a long run to the first turn here. With having a filly in the race, what you’re worried about is traffic and everything that can happen. In the Derby, when you break they all come together. I think it’s a very good spot for us.
"I think the race will sort itself out before the first turn. We know that she does have good tactical speed and she should be able to get a good position going into the first turn. I’d rather have than 13 than 1.”
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Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile finished 6 3/4 lengths back of Mine That Bird in the May 2 Derby, but was still made the second choice. Garrett Gomez will ride the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner once again for trainer Bob Baffert, who has saddled four Preakness winners in his Hall of Fame career.
Owned by Double Eagle Ranch and Buena Suerta Equine, Mine That Bird will attempt to take the second step in becoming Thoroughbred racing’s first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Mike Smith, who rode Prairie Bayou to victory in the 1993 Preakness, will have the mount.
"We’ve got speed on both sides of us, speed on the inside and outside of us," said Mine That Bird trainer Chip Woolley. "That should clear away from us and leave us in a nice spot to coast down the front side and into the backstretch. It’s a good spot.”
Also at 6-1 is Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm' Friesan Fire, who drew post 5. The son of A.P. Indy , trained by Larry Jones, will try to become the first beaten Derby favorite to come back to win the Preakness since Point Given did it in 2001. Gabriel Saez will ride.
Made the 8-1 fourth choice was Eric Fein and Vic Carlson’s Musket Man, who finished third in the Derby. The son of Yonaguska will break from post 3 with Eibar Coa in the irons.
At 10-1 is Harold Queen’s Big Drama, winner of five of seven starts in his career. The David Fawkes trainee drew post 1 and is expected to set the early pace. He most recently crossed the wire first in the March 28 Swale (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park when setting the seven-furlong course record, but was disqualified for interference in the stretch and placed second.
“I’m going to talk to the rider and talk to the owner in the morning and make a decision (about strategy)," Fawkes said. "I guess you’d have to say we’re committed (to leave the starting gate quickly). We’re going to show speed anyway. That’s the nice thing – he doesn’t have to use himself to get position.
“I wanted to be outside of (Rachel Alexandra), but I don’t think that’s an option.”
Papa Clem drew post 7, just as he did when finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and was given 12-1 morning-line odds.
Completing the field are General Quarters (post 8, 20-1), Take the Points (11, 30-1), Terrain (6, 30-1), Luv Gov (4, 50-1), Flying Private (10, 50-1) and Tone It Down (12, 50-1).

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