Monday, August 3, 2009

Rachel Alexandra Routs Boys in Haskell Slop

By Jack Shinar

Rachel Alexandra turned in yet another dominating performance in a campaign for the ages when she captured the $1.25 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) (VIDEO) on a sloppy track at Monmouth Park before a crowd of 37,009 Aug. 2.

With regular rider Calvin Borel at the controls, Rachel Alexandra raced three-wide just off the pacesetter Munnings, took charge leaving the final turn and drew off under some left-handed urging to win by six lengths. It was her second win over males -- she won the Preakness (gr. I) May 16 -- and improved her record to seven-for-seven in 2009. She has won eight races in a row.

The impressive winning time for the 1 1/8-mile test was 1:47 21, just two ticks off the track mark set by Spend a Buck in 1985 (1:46.80). Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Summer Bird finished second, with two-time grade II winner Munnings third.

Winning trainer Steve Asmussen, who also captured the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II) with Soul Warrior, and the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) with Kensei a day earlier, completed a sweep of major 3-year-old events during a dream weekend.

Owner Jess Jackson has indicated that he would like to run the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro once more against males this season in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.

"We don't know," Jackson told TVG when asked about Rachel Alexandra's next start. "She'll tell us."

Because he doesn't care for Santa Anita's synthetic track, Jackson reiterated, "We're not going to the Breeders' Cup. I've said it and I meant it."

"I thought with her success in the slop, I felt very confident that she would be able to handle the surface today," Asmussen said. "The Haskell was our major goal, and we’re happy with the way she ran today. We’ll go back to Saratoga and breeze her back before we decide anything about the Travers."

Sent off as the 1-2 favorite against five rivals in the Haskell, Rachel Alexandra stalked in third on the outside of Munnings, who was intent on getting the lead while slightly of the rail, with Summer Bird to their inside. Fractions were extremely swift on the sealed track -- :22 4/5, :46 2/5 and 1:09 4/5. As they rounded the final turn, Rachel Alexandra blew past the leader, cleared and moved to the inside. Borel delivered a couple of left-handed taps through the stretch to keep the super filly's mind on business.

“This filly is just unbelievable," Borel enthused. "I can’t say how good she is. I don’t know. I gave her a few taps at the sixteenth pole, that’s it. I just wanted to keep her focused with a couple of taps. She started looking around at the crowd, so I just kept her busy to the wire; kept her focused.

“I really didn’t ask her for much run," he added. "We have not gotten to the bottom of her, that’s for sure. She’s an amazing athlete and I’m glad that I get to ride her.”

Summer Bird, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, outfought Munnings and John Velazquez for second by one length. Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Papa Clem finished fourth, followed by Duke of Mischief, Atomic Rain and Bunker Hill.

Rachel Alexandra became the first filly 85 years to win the Preakness when she defeated Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird by one length. Her victories this year also include a 19 1/4-length romp over two rivals in Belmont's Mother Goose (gr. I) in her last start June 27, and a 20 1/4-length tally in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Rachel Alexandra earned $700,000, pushing her lifetime bankroll to $2,498,354 while compiling a record of 10-2-0 in 13 starts.

“To compare her races from the Preakness, to the Mother Goose, to today, it’s hard to determine her best effort," Asmussen said. "From changing barns and running over different surfaces and still showing her consistency. All of her races are very special for different reasons. She can handle the crowd, the weather, nothing surprises her."

Jackson's Stonestreet Stables owns Rachel Alexandra in partnership with Harold McCormick. Dolphus C. Morrison bred the bay filly in Kentucky. She is out of Lotta Kim, by Roar.

"We’d love to run against Zenyatta but it has to be on a neutral course," Jackson said. “When she’s ready, I don’t think there’s a horse in America that can beat her.”

Rachel Alexandra carried 117 pounds, five fewer than top-weighted Summer Bird, and paid $3, $2.20 and $2.10 while topping a $2 exacta of $10.40. Summer Bird, who won the Belmont by 2 3/4 lengths in his last start for trainer Tim Ice, returned $3.40 and $2.60. Munnings, whose prior stakes wins were at seven furlongs, was $3.20 to show.

Copyright © 2009 Blood-Horse Publications. All rights reserved internationally.


D.S. Williamson said...

I knew she would do it. She is a beauty and it is a joy watching her race. What a champion!

Horseman said...

I agree one of the best I have ever seen. Going back to Ruffian and Secretariat.What a beauty.

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