Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Defending Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra notched her first victory of the year Saturday in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs. The four-year-old filly snapped a two race streak of finishing second.
With regular rider Calvin Borel in the saddle, Rachel broke first from the gate in the 1 1/8-mile race. She was quickly joined on the lead by 5-1 second choice Jessica Is Back.
Garrett Gomez guided Jessica Is Back to the lead around the clubhouse turn with the 1-10 favorite to her outside in second. Racing in third was Distinctive Dixie followed by Made for Magic and Multipass in the five horse field.
Jessica Is Back continued on the lead up the backstretch with Rachel right next to her. The favorite edged to the lead around far turn as Distinctive Dixie ranged up from the outside.
On the final turn Rachel had taken over the lead as Distinctive Dixie and jockey Robby Albarado moved into second on the outside.
Unlike her first two starts of the year, Rachel had a lot left in the tank and Borel was not afraid to push her. She took complete control of the race at the top of the stretch and powered away from the field.
Reminiscent of 2009, Rachel ran away from her competition to post a 10 1/2- length win over Distinctive Dixie followed by Jessica Is Back, Multipass and Made for Magic.
"She's just getting back. You have to give her a chance," noted Borel. "She's a filly and she did the impossible when she was a three-year-old. I think you'll see a great future now. She did everything right today. (Trainer) Steve (Asmussen) told me just to run my race and see where we're at. She showed up today. She felt the same. I just don't think she was ready before. Steve knows what he's doing. She showed up today. She was perfect and we couldn't ask for more."
Rachel covered the 1 1/8-miles in 1:48.78 on a fast track.
"I'm very proud for everybody involved that she won," said Asmussen. "We are all grateful that (co-owner) Mr. (Jess) Jackson and (Jackson's wife) Barbara (Banke) put a Horse of the Year back in training and take all the advice or criticism or whatever, but she is a tremendously sound filly.
"She's a machine and she ran a great race today, and hopefully this is a step in the right direction for the rest of the year. It's an honor to train a horse like her. We will take her back to the barn and there will be a lot of petting her, and peppermints, and loving on her."
Owned by Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick, the victory was worth $120,000 giving the filly $245,696 for the year. Rachel has now won 12 of 17 career starts for $3,194,050.
Rachel came up short in her initial two starts this year. She was second to Zardana at the Fair Grounds in the New Orleans Ladies Classic and runner-up to Unrivaled Belle at Churchill Downs in the La Troienne.
Zardana is entered in Sunday's Vanity Handicap versus Zenyatta at Hollywood Park and Unrivaled Belle was second in Saturday's Ogden Phipps to Life At Ten at Belmont Park.
There was no show wagering in the Fleur de Lis. Rachel Alexandra paid $2.20 and $2.10, and Distinctive Dixie paid $5.60.