Rachel Alexandra headed to Preakness

May 9, 2009 2:19 AM
Staff & Wire Reports |

Rachel Alexandra looks ready to take on the boys, with a familiar face in the saddle.

Stonestreet Stables owner Jess Jackson said Friday he’s pointing the superstar 3-year-old filly to next weekend’s Preakness—and Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel will be along for the ride.

Borel guided Rachel Alexandra to a 20-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks last Friday, then pulled a stunning upset aboard 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird in the Derby. Yet he didn’t hesitate when asked by Jackson to switch mounts for next Saturday’s race at Pimlico.

“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” Borel said.

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Rachel Alexandra is undefeated in five starts since Borel took over as her jockey last fall. She dazzled during the Oaks, roaring down the stretch with little urging to post one of the more remarkable racing performances in recent memory.

“It came down to the facts that he knows and loves this horse, that he knows how to get the most from her and he knows how to win,” Jackson said. “They were an amazing team at the Kentucky Oaks.”

Borel was pretty good in the Derby too, leading Mine That Bird on a last-to-first dash in the final half-mile to pull off the second-biggest upset in the race’s 135-year history.

Yet he couldn’t pass up the chance to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, a decision Mine That Bird trainer Bennie Woolley Jr. understood.

“We hate losing Calvin, he’s the reason we’re here,” Woolley said. “But these things happen and we’ll move on.”

Woolley has already spoken to several jockeys about replacing Borel, but still plans to name the 42-year-old Cajun his rider at next Wednesday’s Preakness draw. Woolley will go to Plan B only if Jackson pays the $100,000 supplemental fee to enter his filly in the race.

The field is capped at 14, with preference given to horses already nominated to the Triple Crown.

Three times the Derby winner has switched jockeys before the Preakness. Only Bold Venture in 1936 was able to capture the second jewel in the Triple Crown.

Borel would be the first jockey to ride the Derby winner, then hop on another horse for the Preakness. It’s an opportunity he knows he couldn’t pass up.

“I had no choice,” Borel said Thursday. “She’s something else.”

Jackson and partner Harold McCormick purchased Rachel Alexandra on Wednesday and promptly moved her into the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen, who guided Curlin to victory in the 2007 Preakness as part of a career that made the horse racing’s all-time money winner.

Rachel Alexandra will likely put together her first workout since her Oaks win over the weekend and Jackson said he’ll enter her in the 1 3/16-mile race “if she continues to be in perfect condition.”

Nellie Morse is the last filly to win the Preakness, capturing the race in 1924. Only three fillies have made the field in the last 70 years, the last being Excellent Meeting in 1999.

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