Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jackson says Rachel headed to Haskell

Owner Jess Jackson said Tuesday afternoon that his fabulous 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra -- unbeaten in 2009 and winner of both the Kentucky Oaks in dominating fashion over her own gender and gamely in the Preakness Stakes against the boys -- will face colts again in her next start, the Haskell Invitational H.-G1 at Monmouth Park.

"Rachel Alexandra is progressing well after her stakes record victory in the Mother Goose," said Jackson, owner of Stonestreet Stables, in a statement to the media. "We are all looking forward to seeing this great athlete perform again against both colts and fillies."

In the Haskell, Rachel will get a slightly shorter trip than she weathered against colts and geldings in the Preakness. The Aug. 2 Haskell is 9 furlongs, while the Preakness distance is 9.5f. And, having done all the work on the front end, had the Preakness been about five jumps longer (or had Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird gotten a slightly better trip under replacement jockey Mike Smith), Rachel might well have been caught.

She won't face Mine That Bird in the Haskell, but she is likely to face a horse that has beaten him -- Summer Bird, another son of Birdstone and winner of the Belmont Stakes, in which the Derby winner came home third.

The Haskell sets up as a good race for Rachel, however. She gets to run for $1 million, in G1 company against males, but on a weekend when two other races have drawn away some of the competition.

The Jim Dandy S.-G2 at Saratoga (where she's training) is a summer classic at America's mecca for horse racing, and though its purse is half that of the Haskell's and its grade is lower, it always attracts nice horses. Among them could be Charitable Man, who last ran in the Belmont, and Warrior's Reward, who stumbled badly at the start as the 4-5 favorite in the Dwyer S.-G2 (under Rachel's regular rider, Calvin Borel) and might be in the Jim Dandy seeking redemption.

Meanwhile, Mine That Bird is committed to the $750,000, Grade 2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park. And other top 3-year-olds have fallen by the wayside, with Quality Road seemingly not yet ready to return in time for the Jim Dandy, and Musket Man, who was third in both the Derby and Preakness, hurt and taken out of training.

That doesn't mean the Haskell won't be a challenge. Whomever else is entered, Rachel will likely be on the front end with the determined closer Summer Bird coming to catch her late. He'll stand a very good chance if there's any speed in the race to press Rachel on the pace.

Whether every race is stacked, they'll all be interesting as we watch to see which horses move on toward the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga at the end of August. We know that's where Mine That Bird is pointed if he comes out of West Virginia well. Likely Charitable Man and Summer Bird, as well, and who knows which other colts and geldings.

And, depending on how she fares in the Haskell, maybe which filly.


  1. I think everyone is waiting to see if RA runs the Travers after the Haskell. If so, all 3 winners of the Triple Crown races will be running.

  2. I would say that if she wins the Haskell, there's a fair chance. If she loses the Haskell, maybe not.

    On the other hand, maybe not either way.

    Since she is supposedly not running in the Breeders' Cup, I think she needs to try and beat older fillies and mares somewhere else before the year's out. If she wins the Haskell, she'll have beaten colts twice, and might start hunting for a race with older mares.

    Of course, if she beats colts THREE times -- Preakness, Haskell, Travers -- I could see her perhaps being voted horse of the year without running in the Breeders' Cup at all.

    But I have a feeling she wouldn't win all three.

  3. I have little doubt that Jess has a plan to beat the boys three times to win HOTY without having to run on plastic. Personally I think he intends to run her again next year in hopes of winning HOTY two years in a row (see the pattern), retire her and then have babies that have the distinction of having both parents being two time HOTY.


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