RACHEL'S STAR POWER SHOWS
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - "It's her show!"
That's how trainer Nick Zito described Rachel Alexandra's attempt to defeat older males in Saturday's Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga, where the first 25,000 fans through the door will receive a free Rachel Alexandra button to commemorate the occasion.
It was also Rachel's show shortly after dawn on Monday at the Oklahoma training track here, where a large throng of admirers, as well as the connections of some of her Woodward rivals, gathered to watch the 3-year-old filly work an easy half-mile in 49.09 seconds under regular exercise rider Dominic Terry.
"They don't get this big a crowd in the afternoon at Belmont," joked trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, whose Asiatic Boy is among the six horses expected to face Rachel Alexandra in the 1 1/8-mile Woodward.
After working a bullet five-eighths and six furlongs each of the previous two Mondays, and only five days out from her next start, Rachel Alexandra was not asked to do anything too serious in her final breeze before her big showdown in the Woodward. Even an easy work, though, is enough to showcase the obvious class and talent Rachel Alexandra has displayed winning all seven of her starts at 3, including four consecutive Grade 1 races.
Rachel Alexandra went off easily from the half-mile pole, covering her opening furlong in 13.50 seconds, picked up the pace approaching the stretch, then leveled off beautifully while never asked at any time by Terry. Her long, fluid stride was clearly on display as she flew by the clockers' stand to complete her final quarter in 23 seconds and change before galloping out five-eighths in 1:02.29.
"They should make a training video of her as beautifully as she goes," said trainer Steve Asmussen. "Dom does a great job getting her to the pole and getting her away nice and smooth. She looked very relaxed out there. She's a special filly. A beautiful horse. She really is."
Asmussen said Rachel Alexandra has gotten used to all the attention she has received over the past several months, not only during her races but in the morning as well.
"All the attention and the crowds is just part of her life," said Asmussen. "She doesn't know everybody else doesn't get treated that way. She probably thinks 25 to 30 people follow everybody when they go over to run. Those kind of things might be unsettling for other horses, but it's kind of the norm for her. And it's nice to see the people's reactions when they get to see her and watch her go."
Asmussen downplayed the formidable task at hand on Saturday.
"In racing, nothing is a given," said Asmussen. "They all line up even and you have to do it over again every time. We're just hopeful Saturday's race will become another significant accomplishment on a very impressive resume."
A field of seven is expected for the Woodward. Along with Rachel Alexandra and Asiatic Boy, it figures to include Zito's Grade 2 winner Cool Coal Man; Bullsbay and Macho Again, the one-two finishers in the Grade 1 Whitney earlier in the meet; Past the Point, runner-up behind Curlin in the 2008 Woodward; and multiple graded stakes winner It's a Bird.
Past the Point also worked here Monday, zipping five furlongs in 58.72 seconds over the main track, the fastest of 32 drills recorded at the distance.
Both Bullsbay and It's a Bird had their final Woodward works on Sunday. Bullsbay breezed six furlongs in 1:14.40 at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, while It's a Bird drilled a half-mile in 49.40 over his home base at Calder. Both horses were scheduled to ship to Saratoga on Tuesday.
While the connections of all six of her rivals have the utmost respect for Rachel Alexandra, none is conceding the race or backing down from the filly.
"She's very good, but I've been pointing for this race since the Suburban, and I'm not going to change plans because of her," said It's a Bird's trainer, Marty Wolfson.
"Like I said, it's her show, but we'll try hard to beat her," said Zito. "There are a lot of tough horses in there and she won't have an easy time."
"After the Whitney, I originally said I wasn't going to run back in the Woodward if the filly ran," said Bullsbay's trainer, Graham Motion. "But my horse was doing so well I changed my mind and began pointing for the race. That was before Rachel Alexandra's connections said they were going in there too. But once I made up my mind to run, I wasn't going to change my plans because of her."
by Mike Welsch
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