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Sep 04, 2009

Rachel Alexandra versus seven older males in Woodward



Saratoga Springs, NY (Sports Network) - Rachel Alexandra, first in the current national thoroughbred poll, steps up in class to take on seven handicap horses in Saturday's $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. The purse for the 1 1/8 mile race was increased by $250,000 when it was announced that the Preakness Stakes champ was going to be entered.

'Rachel' will become the first three-year-old filly to start in the Woodward since Summer Guest in 1972. Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr., Summer Guest finished second to entrymate Key to the Mint, but was disqualified and placed third.

Rachel Alexandra has been made the overwhelming 1-2 favorite for the race and will start from post three with regular rider Calvin Borel. This week Borel was reunited with Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird for the remainder of the year.

Trained by Steve Asmussen for Stonestreet Stable and Harold McCormick, 'Rachel' is coming off a six-length win over three-year-old males in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. The filly will carry 118 pounds compared to the 126 the seven males will tote.

Earlier this year she devastated the field by a record 20 1/4-lengths in the Kentucky Oaks, then became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness. She won by 19 1/4-lengths in the Mother Goose Stakes.

"I look at the long term picture," said co-owner Jess Jackson about running in the Woodward. "I felt Rachel could have handled the Travers. We had already defeated (Travers winner) Summer Bird and I felt Quality Road wasn't quite ready for her yet. But taking on older horses was the next defining factor. We're not discounting any of the horses in this race. These horses are the best of their age group."

'Rachel' is working on an eight race winning streak, including all seven starts this year. Lifetime she has won 10 of 13 races for nearly $2.5 million.

"As we did with Curlin, history is always on our mind," Jackson noted about winning a second straight Woodward. "Every time she passes one of the hurdles we've given her we go on to the next. It's all about defining her greatness."

Jackson has strongly emphasized that his filly will not run on the artificial surface at Santa Anita Park, where the Breeders' Cup will again take place. During Tuesday's teleconference he left open 'Rachel's next start.

"We have several options, including the Beldame Stakes if Zenyatta should show up for that," Jackson said. "But if she should win the Woodward, there would be no necessity to run her again. She's a tired horse in a way, which is why we've been giving her long periods of time between races. We plan on racing her in 2010. It's going to be her decision whether she's ready to race after the Woodward. If Zenyatta should come to the Beldame that would certainly direct us to that race."

An additional $400,000 will be added the $600,000 Beldame purse to invite Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to participate in the stakes at Belmont Park. The $400,000 has been pledged by TVG-Betfair in an effort to have the top two racehorses this year meet

Here is the complete field for the Woodward in post position order: Da' Tara, Jose Lezcano, 12-1; Bullsbay, Jeremy Rose,6-1; Rachel Alexandra, Calvin Borel, 1-2; Cool Coal Man, John Velazquez, 12-1; Macho Again, Robby Albarado, 8-1; It's a Bird, Julien Leparoux, 10-1; Asiatic Boy, Alan Garcia, 10-1 and Past the Point, Edgar Prado, 15-1.

Owner Robert LaPenta's Da' Tara and Cool Coal Man are coupled as an entry.

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