Sunday, June 28, 2009

'Rachel' Sets Stakes Record in Mother Goose

By Jason Shandler

Rachel Alexandra faced only two opponents in the $300,000 Mother Goose (gr. I) (VIDEO) June 27 at Belmont Park but the sensational filly put on a dazzling display anyway, setting a stakes record while romping by nearly 20 lengths under Calvin Borel.

Owned by Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick, Rachel Alexandra scored her seventh consecutive victory in the 1 1/8-mile Mother Goose, which went to post with only three starters after the scratches of Hopeful Image and Don’t Forget Gil earlier in the day. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro —Lotta Kim, by Roar, captured her third straight grade I win while making her Belmont debut. She has now earned $1,798,354.
Breaking from post 3, Rachel Alexandra was content to sit three to four lengths off a suicidal pace set by Edward Evans’ Malibu Prayer, who posted fractions of :22.57, :44.66, and 1:08.86 under John Velazquez. Godophin Stable’s Flashing and Javier Castellano pressed the leader throughout, which was all the better for a stalking Rachel Alexandra.

Rachel Alexandra's Mother Goose
It was nearing the three-eighths pole that Rachel Alexandra began to inch closer to her two rivals, and when they neared the quarter-pole Borel decided to split horses with his charged-up filly. She took over with ease coming off the turn and sprinted away from her overmatched opponents.
Borel peeked over his right shoulder a couple of times before gearing down on Rachel Alexandra midway through the stretch, but she still hit the wire 19 1/4-lengths ahead of Malibu Prayer. The final time on a track labeled "fast" was 1:46.33, breaking the mark of 1:46.58 set by Lakeway in 1994. She also shattered the record for margin of victory, which was previously held by the great Ruffian, who won by 13 1/2 lengths in 1975.
The race, which began in 1957, was run at 1 1/16 miles for the first two years. Since it changed to 1 1/8 miles in 1959, only Lakeway and Rachel Alexandra have run the Mother Goose in a time under 1:47.19. Only seven fillies have finished in a time better than 1:48.
The nine-furlong Belmont track record of 1:45.40 was set by Secretariat in the inaugural Marlboro Cup Sept. 15, 1973.
Malibu Prayer, making her stakes debut, finished 12 1/4 lengths ahead of Flashing. Sent off at 1-20, Rachel Alexandra paid $2.10 to win. There was no place or show betting.
“I knew they were going fast early but around the three-eighths pole they were getting tired and I kind of squeezed her a little bit and she just went in there,” Borel said. "I nudged (her) on the turn for home around the quarter-pole, but that was it--to make sure she'd get something out of it and do something for me.
"She set a new track record, believe me, she's not normal. I'm telling you, she's unbelievable.”
Rachel Alexandra was making her first start since defeating males in the May 16 BlackBerry Preakness (gr. I) at Pimlico. Prior to that, she romped by 20 1/4 lengths in the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). She is perfect in six starts this season and 9-2-0 from 12 starts overall. The bay was bred in Kentucky by her previous owner, Dolphus Morrison.
A larger-than-usual crowd of 13,352 fans turned out to see Rachel Alexandra at Belmont. Pink bracelets with the filly's name were given away to the first 10,000 through the turnstiles in support of Jackson's decision to donate a percentage of Rachel Alexandra's future earnings to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation.
“I am a modest guy. I was hoping for maybe 10 lengths," Jackson said. "She is a special filly, she is a champion, she is a lady. We don’t know where her bottom is. She has beauty combined with speed, so fast.”
“I think she’s the best 3-year-old right now. She just broke a (stakes) record and she wasn’t even asked.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen did not commit to Rachel Alexandra's next race but did say, “She is going to Saratoga from here. We will train her there and that’s where Scott (Blasi) and our stable move this time of year. Curlin did the exact same thing. It’s gotten plenty warm back home (in Louisville) and we are very much looking forward to the cool mornings this time of year.
“The plans are for me to take to care of her. Just to have her in the best health possible and then sit down and try and decide what’s best for her.”
Earlier in the week Jackson indicated that Rachel Alexandra's next race could come in the July 19 Delaware Handicap (gr. II) against older fillies and mares at Delaware Park, July 25 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont, or the Aug. 22 Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga. He also indicated that she might race against males in either the Aug. 2 Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth Park and the Aug. 29 Shadwell Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga.

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