RACHEL ANNIHILATES 'EM - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report


Rachel Alexandra absolutely destroyed her  male opposition in Sunday's $1,250,000 Haskell Invitational Handicap at Monmouth Park, coming from just off the pace of Munnings, taking command on the turn for home, and romping home to a six-length victory for Calvin Borel, who is now a perfect-eight for eight on the Medaglia d'Oro filly now carrying the colors of Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steve Asmussen.

Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird finished a distant second, followed by Tom Foool Handicap winner Munnings in third and Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem in fourth. Rachel Alexandra covered the 1 1/8 miles on a track labeled sloppy from showers earlier in the afternoon in 1:47 1/5. The time was just one-fifth of a second slower than the stakes record established in 1976 by Majestic Light and equaled 11 years later in a memorable Haskell won by Bet Twice over Alysheba in 1987.

Rachel Alexandra paid $3 to win as the 1-2 favorite.

As expected, Munnings, coming off that impressive win sprinting in the Tom Fool, went right to the front under John Velazquez and set fractions of :22 4/5 for the opening quarter mile, :46 2/5 for the half-mile and 1:09 4/5 for six furlongs. Borel had Rachel Alexandra just off his right hip, and Summer Bird was close behind in third, along the rail. Papa Clem raced close up in fourth.

On the turn, however, Borel let Rachel Alexandra extend her stride and she was quickly in front. When the field hit the top of the stretch, it was really only a matter of how big her margin of victory would be. She galloped to the wire in yet another incredible performance that may be the equal of her 20 1/4 Kentucky Oaks victory (her last start for trainer Hal Wiggins and breeder Dolphus Morrison, after which she was purchased by Jackson and Harold McCormick) or her 19 1/4-length victory last time out in the Mother Goose. This was her second victory over colts and geldings, following her one-length Preakness win over Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.

Steve Asmussen wouldn't speculate on Rachel Alexandra's next start when interviewed on TVG following the race. “I’m just extremely proud of her–she’s just a tremendous filly,” said Asmussen, who said he was imprssed by the size of the crowd and the job Monmouth Park did in promoting the race. “All the support Rachel gets is a tremendous feeling,” he added. “I’m very proud of what she’s done today. She’s putting together an extremely good resume and hopefully she’s in the middle of what she eventually accomplishes.”

Jess Jackson said he didn't know where Rachel Alexandra would go next either, saying, “We’ll see how she comes out. Her next race will be decided by us when she tells us.” Jackson did say the Breeders' Cup at Oak Tree on a synthetic track is not an option, though he does want to face the unbeaten, reigning filly and mare champ Zenyatta. “We’re not going to the Breeders’ Cup,” Jackson insisted. “I’ve said that from the beginning and I mean it. I’d like it on a neutral course and I don’t like synthetic tracks.”

While there is plenty of racing remaining in 2009, Rachel Alexandra has clearly becoming the pro-tem leader in the race for Horse of the  Year. She has won all seven of her starts this year–four of them Grade 1 and two Grade 2–and is now 10 for 13 lifetime.

The Haskell topped a big weekend for Asmussen and Jackson. On Saturday, Asmussen saddled Soul Warrior to an upset victory over Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park and took the Jim Dandy at Saratoga with Jackson and Gulf Coast Farm's Kensai. Kensai looks to be the favorite for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga later this month–unless Jackson and Asmussen opt to run Rachel Alexandra. That seems unlikely, however, since the filly may be better at 1 1/8 miles and the Travers is run over 1 1/4 miles, longer than she's ever been.

Rachel Alexandra, produced from the Roar filly Lotta Kim, became the second filly to win the Haskell, joining 1995 winner Serena's Song.

Copyright © 2009, The Paulick Report

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