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Noel Michaels

9/4/2009

Rachel Alexandra installed as 1-2 favorite in Woodward

RACHEL ALEXANDRA (Medaglia d'Oro) will take the next step in her amazing season when she squares off against seven rivals in Saturday's $750,000 Woodward S. (G1), and the superb three-year-old filly has been installed as the overwhelming 1-2 favorite on the morning line. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the imposing dark bay will bring an eight-race winning streak into the 1 1/8-mile event, and she'll break from post 3 with regular rider Calvin Borel.

Her connections opted to tackle older horses in the Woodward over the previous weekend's Travers S. (G1) against three-year-olds.

"(Rachel Alexandra) was entered off of her talent, not her age. She's beaten those horses (in the Travers) before," assistant trainer Scott Blasi explained. "She's run against them twice. For all of us involved, this was kind of a new frontier and the timing was good into this race and she's come into it very well. It's important for her longevity to space her races out as best we can. This fell into place. She just thrives in Saratoga."

Winner of the Preakness S. (G1) in mid-May, Rachel Alexandra exits an impressive six-length victory over Summer Bird (Birdstone) in the August 2 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park, and that rival returned to easily capture the Travers by 3 1/2 lengths. Only one other three-year-old filly has even contested the Woodward, and Rachel Alexandra will be the first to win if successful.

"We want to prove she's a great horse, one for the history books," co-owner Barbara Banke stated. "We pointed her to this race to tackle history."

The 56-year-old Woodward has figured prominently on the resumes of some of the best horses in history, including Horse of the Years Curlin, Skip Away, Cigar, Alysheba, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Forego, Damascus, Buckpasser and Kelso.

Gates open at 7 a.m. (EDT), and the first 25,000 fans will receive a Rachel Alexandra button to commemorate the occasion, which is being celebrated throughout the area with Rachel Alexandra banners lining downtown Saratoga Springs, New York, and mayor Scott Johnson officially declaring Saturday to be "Rachel Alexandra Day."

Standing in the way of the mighty filly are seven older, proven stakes winners. Whitney H. (G1) hero BULLSBAY (Tiznow) is the 6-1 second choice on the morning line, and MACHO AGAIN (Macho Uno), who finished second in the Whitney following a victory in the Stephen Foster H. (G1), comes next at 8-1.

"I have tremendous respect for Rachel Alexandra," said Graham Motion, who trains the five-year-old Bullsbay. "After the Whitney, I said I wasn't going to go (in the Woodward), but Bullsbay was doing so well I began pointing to the race."

Stephen Foster and Suburban H. (G2) runner-up ASIATIC BOY (Arg) (Not For Sale), who will return to the races for Kiaran McLaughlin after missing the Whitney due to a virus, is listed as the 10-1 fourth choice.

Trainer Nick Zito will saddle the entry of COOL COAL MAN (Mineshaft) and DA' TARA (Tiznow). The former exits a sharp 12 3/4-length score over the track in the Albert the Great S., and the latter has experience pulling off a massive upset, denying Big Brown's Triple Crown bid in the 2008 Belmont S. (G1).

"It's her show, but we're going to try hard to beat her," Zito said.

Multiple Grade 3 winner IT'S A BIRD (Birdonthewire) and 2008 Woodward runner-up PAST THE POINT (Indian Charlie) round out the field.

Rachel Alexandra will carry 118 pounds to her rivals' 126 pounds; as a three-year-old, she gets a five-pound weight allowance; as a filly, she gets another three pounds.

from brisnet.com



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