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Mar 08, 2010

Rachel Alexandra has last work before year's debut


New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Rachel Alexandra, 2009 Horse of the Year, had her final major workout Tuesday morning before her 2010 debut. The four- year-old filly breezed six-furlongs at the Fair Grounds in preparation for the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies on Saturday, March 13.

With regular exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard, Rachel went the six-furlongs in 1:13 3/5 on a track listed as fast. She went seven-furlongs in 1:26 2/5 and 1:41 1/5 for a mile.

"I was hoping she'd go a little quicker," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "She settled off the other horse (Depaul) really nicely. She stayed with her left lead trying to stay with the other horse, then she switched to her right lead and accelerated. We're happy with where she's at. The main thing is she's healthy and this is a step in the process to getting her back to her previous level.

"She was a little keen early. She was very aggressive and hard-held early. For him (Terry) to still have control with one in front of her was very impressive. It was a little slower from the five-eighths to the three- eighths."

Owned by Jess Jackson and Hal McCormick, Rachel Alexandra could face as many as 10 challengers in the 1 1/16-mile New Orleans Ladies. When nominations for the race closed this past Saturday 16 fillies and mares were named.

Seven of the horses are considered probable with several others listed as possible. Among the probables are Clear Sailing, a four-year-old filly trained by Glenn Delahoussaye and owned by Keith and Ginger Myers.

"She's doing great," said Delahoussaye. "She's going to work Wednesday and we'll see how she works and how she comes out of it and take things from there. We're working her Wednesday with the intention of running her in the New Orleans Ladies."

Clear Sailing is the winner of three of four career starts with earnings of $92,940. Last month she won the $60,000 Pelleteri Stakes at the same distance as the New Orleans Ladies. The daughter of Empire Maker is undefeated in her last three starts, all with jockey Shane Sellers.

"I don't think there's any trainer in the world who's insane enough to say he's looking forward to running his horse against Rachel Alexandra," said Delahoussaye, "but for me this race is not about whether it's Rachel or not Rachel in there against our horse. The New Orleans Ladies fits the progression about where I wanted to be at this point in time.

"Right now we're trying to keep our filly's races at least a month apart, because my owners have this dream of winning a stakes races at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby week. The New Orleans Ladies would keep us on a schedule for Churchill's La Troienne Stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day. That's our long term goal."

According to Fair Grounds stakes coordinator Scott Jones, other probable starters for the Ladies include Bayakoa Handicap winner Zardana, trained by Zenyatta's trainer John Shirreffs; Double Espresso, winner of the Pan Zareta Stakes at the Fair Grounds and Unforgotten, second in last year's Chicago Handicap behind 2009 champion female sprinter Informed Decision.

Rachel Alexandra will follow her start in March with an ultimate showdown versus Zenyatta. The two female thoroughbreds are to finally meet at Oaklawn Park in the $5 million Apple Blossom Invitational on Friday, April 9.

Zenyatta is based at Hollywood Park where she has been working out. Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta will start in the $250,000 Santa Margarita Invitational on March 13.

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