Nine fillies will vie for the winner’s share of a $200,000 purse in Saturday’s Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds, but more importantly up for grabs in the 1 1/16-mile contest is 85 points toward a starting berth in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The Rachel Alexandra kicks off the Kentucky Oaks Championship series of points races, upping the reward from 10 points to the winner to 50 points. Second receives 20, third takes home 10 and fourth-place is good for five points in the opening Championship series races.
Whoever wins on Saturday will take over the top spot on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard from undefeated champion Songbird, who currently boasts 40 points after capturing her sophomore bow in the Las Virgenes (G2) on February 6 at Santa Anita Park.
Stageplay currently sits in fourth on the leaderboard with 14 points and is looking to bump Songbird from being number one, at least leaderboard wise, in the Rachel Alexandra.
The Steve Asmussen trainee earned her 14 points thanks to a second in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs to close out her juvenile season and a 2016 opening win in the Silverbulletday S. at Fair Grounds on January 16. The Golden Rod ranks as Stageplay’s only loss to date, as before that she also scored in the Rags to Riches S. under the Twin Spires and broke her maiden by three lengths during Keeneland’s fall meet.
Florent Geroux was aboard for the first time in the Silverbulletday and retains the mount on Saturday.
Standing in Stageplay’s way are three nice fillies, of whom Forever Darling might stand the best chance of denying Stageplay.
That Richard Baltas pupil will be trying Fair Grounds for the first time after taking the Santa Ynez (G2) at Santa Anita Park on January 2. The chestnut miss broke her maiden last September at that venue before shipping to Keeneland for a subpar eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
The Breeders’ Cup was Forever Darling’s first and only attempt at two turns, but she’ll get a second shot at proving herself at a distance in the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra with Javier Castellano taking over from regular rider Rafael Bejarano.
Midnight on Oconee and Lovable Lyss took Stageplay on in the Silverbulletday but were unable to get to that winner when second and fourth, respectively. They’ll each be looking to turn the tables in their graded debut.
There are three in the Rachel Alexandra who will be putting perfect marks on the line – Shaken, Finley’sluckycharm and Royal Obsession are undefeated at this point from very short records.
Shaken took her career debut sprinting six furlongs at Fair Grounds last out on January 30. Finley’slukcycharm broke her maiden in an off-the-turf Fair Grounds contest before arriving at Oaklawn Park to win an allowance/optional claimer on January 18. And, finally, Royal Obsession captured her maiden last November at Churchill and triumphed her sophomore bow at Fair Grounds on January 23.
That leaves the Rachel Alexandra field to be completed by maiden winner Venus Valentine, who was fourth last out against Fair Grounds allowance/optional claiming company, and Lemon Drop Belle, another maiden scorer who just missed by a head to Royal Obsession most recently.