The Road to the Kentucky Oaks enters the Championship phase on Saturday as a field of eight sophomore fillies lines up in the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds.
The earlier Prep Season portion of the series featured races worth 10-4-2-1 points toward a starting berth in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs. Contests in the Championship segment will begin offering 50-20-10-5 points before upping the ante to 100-40-20-10 later on.
Wonder Gadot will try to take full advantage of the increase in points in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra. The Mark Casse trainee closed out her juvenile campaign with a nice 3 3/4-length victory in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct while going the Kentucky Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles. She made her sophomore bow January 12 at Fair Grounds in the Silverbulletday Stakes, just missing by a neck as the even-money favorite, and returns here under jockey John Velazquez.
Like Wonder Gadot, Patrona Margarita closed out 2017 with an easy 3 3/4-length win, this time in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. The Bret Calhoun pupil upset that 8 1/2-furlong affair at 23-1 with returning rider Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard. The dark bay daughter of Special Rate makes her three-year-old bow here but has been working at Fair Grounds since mid-December.
Monomoy Girl is another making her first start of the year in the Rachel Alexandra. The Brad Cox-conditioned chestnut lass captured her initial three races, including the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill last October in her dirt debut, before suffering her first career loss when a neck second in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) on November 25. The Tapizar filly earned a career- and field-best 99 BRIS Speed rating in that contest, and keeps Florent Geroux in the irons here.
Heavenly Love romped by 5 1/2 lengths in the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) at Keeneland last October, but didn’t do so well in her subsequent two efforts for Casse. In her past pair, the bay daughter of Malibu Moon was a well-beaten 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and then filled the fifth spot in the Silverbulletday. Jockey Julien Leparoux retains the mount and will try to guide Heavenly Love back to the winner’s circle.
Testing One Two and Classy Act could both provide a nice upset in the Rachel Alexandra. The former has captured her last three, including two stakes, by a combined 26 3/4 lengths for trainer Victor Arceneaux, while the latter wired her maiden and an allowance/optional claimer over the track by easy lengths in her past two. Diego Saenz has the call on Testing One Two and Javier Castellano pilots Classy Act.
She’s a Julie was third behind Classy Act most recently and lines up here under Corey Lanerie. Actress on Board is winless in six starts thus far and gets Marcelino Pedroza aboard in this spot.