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May 15, 2009

Top filly versus Derby winner in Preakness Stakes


Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Kentucky Oaks champ Rachel Alexandra top a field of 13 for Saturday's $1.1 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. The second jewel of racing's Triple Crown will be conducted at 1 3/16 miles and has a scheduled post-time of 6:15 p.m. (et).

Rachel Alexandra, the first filly in the Preakness since 1999, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite. She will be ridden by Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel and will start from the far outside post.

Mine That Bird has been made the 6-1 third choice, along with defeated Kentucky Derby favorite Friesan Fire. Mine That Bird will be ridden by Mike Smith and break from post two.

Owned by Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick, Rachel Alexandra is perfect in her four starts this year. The filly has won seven of 10 career starts for $958,354.

Steve Asmussen is the new trainer since she was recently sold.

"I think we're all getting used to each other, but it's been really smooth so far," assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. "We're just trying to keep her happy, and she's responding to everything that we're doing. It's like being around a great horse. She's just very classy and kind of takes in whatever you want to do with her."

The filly is a winner of her last five starts, including the Kentucky Oaks, Fantasy Stakes, Fair Grounds Oaks and Martha Washington Stakes.

Rachel Alexandra will carry 121 pounds in the race, while her 12 rivals will each tote 126 pounds.

Owned by Double Eagle Farm and Bueno Suerte Equine, Mine That Bird is trained by Bennie Woolley. Woolley has given the riding assignment to Mike Smith, who won the 1993 Preakness with Prairie Bayou.

"Mike watched the Derby. He saw how the horse ran and knows the kind of running style he has," Woolley said. "We're confident that he'd do his job well."

Borel is the first Kentucky Derby winning rider to ever change mounts for the Preakness.

Mine That Bird is the winner of five of nine career starts with nearly $1.8 million in earnings. He is the only three-year-old who can snap the 31 year drought of Triple Crown winners. Affirmed was the last to sweep the Triple Crown races in 1978.

Mine That Bird was fourth to Kelly Leak in the Sunland Derby prior to the Run for the Roses. He was second in the Borderland Derby. also at Sunland Park in New Mexico.

He began his career at Woodbine Race Course in Canada and was voted Canada's champion two-year-old following three straight stakes victories at the Toronto track. Mine That Bird was 12th to Midshipman in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile to close 2008.

"I'm having a lot of fun now," Woolley said. "It took a little while after the Derby to sink in, but now I'm starting to really enjoy it.

"Horses fire big races, and I'm not saying he didn't run over his form, but they do fire big races, and hopefully he'll fire back like that this week. If he does, that's wonderful; if he doesn't, we'll regroup and aim him for the Belmont (Stakes) and see what happens."

Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile is 5-1 in the program and will start from post nine with Garrett Gomez again in the saddle.

Friesan Fire will be ridden by Gabriel Saez from post five.

Here is the complete field for the 134th Preakness in post position order: Big Drama, 10-1, John Velazquez; Mine That Bird, 6-1, Mike Smith: Musket Man, 8-1, Eibar Coa; Luv Gov, 50-1, Jamie Theriot; Friesan Fire, 6-1, Gabriel Saez; Terrain, 30-1, Jeremy Rose; Papa Clem, 12-1, Rafael Bejarano; General Quarters, 20-1, Julien Leparoux; Pioneerof the Nile, 5-1, Garrett Gomez; Flying Private, 50-1, Robby Albarado; Take the Points, 30-1, Edgar Prado; Tone It Down, 50-1, Kent Desormeaux and Rachel Alexandra, 8-5, Calvin Borel.

The weather forecast for Saturday calls for a few morning showers. Post-time temperature near 75.

The third leg of the Triple Crown will be the $1 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 6.

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