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Sep 11, 2009

Rachel Alexandra holds on to capture Woodward Stakes


Saratoga Springs, NY (Sports Network) - Leading three-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra held off a challenge down the stretch by Macho Again to capture Saturday's $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. 'Rachel' becomes the first three-year-old female to win the Woodward.

Owned by Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick, Rachel Alexandra was sent off as the 3-10 favorite versus seven older male thoroughbreds. During the warmup prior to the race the filly acted up and jockey Calvin Borel jumped off to help settle her down.

The eight horse field broke well from the gate with Past the Point first out of the gate followed by the filly. Around the clubhouse turn 'Rachel' assumed the lead followed by 2008 Belmont Stakes winner Da' Tara, Past the Point and Cool Coal Man.

Da' Tara and jockey Jose Lezcano pressured the favorite through the first quarter-mile, but Borel was able to slow the pace down nearing the far turn. 'Rachel' still had the lead as the field entered the turn with Past the Point moving into second and Cool Coal Man racing in third.

Around the final turn Macho Again, Bullsbay and Asiatic Boy began to drew closer to the leader. The filly had a one-length lead as the field entered the stretch.

Down the stretch Borel had 'Rachel' racing off the rail as Macho Again and Bullsbay mounted their charge. The filly refused to give up and prevailed at the wire by a head over Macho Again with Bullsbay finishing a close third.

The filly stopped the timer for the 1 1/8 miles at 1:48.29 on a fast track.

Rounding out the order of finish was Asiatic Boy, It's a Bird, Past the Point, Cool Coal Man and Da' Tara.

Rachel Alexandra returned $2.60, $2.40 and $2.10. Macho Again paid $3.80 and $2.80, and Bullsbay paid $4.00 to show.

'Rachel' is only the second three-year-old filly to start in the Woodward. Summer Guest ran in 1972 with future Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. and finished second to entrymate Key to the Mint, but was disqualified and placed third.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Rachel Alexandra's history making Woodward victory was worth $450,000. The purse for the race was increased by $250,000 when the filly was announced to be headed for the stakes.

'Rachel' extends her current winning streak to nine, including all eight starts this year. Lifetime she has won 11 of 14 races for more than $2.9 million.

The filly was coming off a six-length win over three-year-old males in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. For the Woodward she carried 118 pounds compared to the 126 for the seven males.

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.

Jess 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 to 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

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