Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick’s Rachel Alexandra, the reigning Horse of the Year preparing for a start on Friday in the $400,000-added La Troienne Stakes (GII), will work early Monday at Churchill Downs.
“She’ll work in the morning,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.
The 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has posted an official workout each of the past three Mondays. Majority owner Jess Jackson said earlier in the weekend that Monday’s breeze will be a “light” one and that “it’s not going to be a bullet.”
The timed workout is expected in the early morning under Churchill Downs’ new permanent lights, likely within the hour of training that opens at 5:45 a.m.(all times EDT). “We’ll see what the weather does,” Blasi said.
Rachel Alexandra has typically gone out with the second group of horses from Asmussen’s barn but was out with the first set Sunday, completing her exercise by 6 a.m.
“She galloped two miles,” Blasi said, describing the effort as “great.”
The La Troienne, formerly known as the Louisville Stakes, is a 1 1/16-mile race for older fillies and mares on Kentucky Oaks Day. It was on the same racing program last year that Rachel Alexandra scored a record-smashing 20 ¼-length victory in the Oaks.
In her 4-year-old debut, the March 13 New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds, Rachel Alexandra finished second to Zardana, who is also probable for the La Troienne. The loss snapped a nine-race win streak for Rachel Alexandra that dated to a victory in the Golden Rod Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs in November 2008.
Both Jackson and Asmussen had expressed concerns before that setback that their star filly was not completely fit following a six-month layoff. Prior to the New Orleans Ladies, Jackson gauged Rachel Alexandra’s fitness level to Joe Drape of The New York Times as “about 85 percent.” On Saturday, he described her fitness to Churchill Downs publicity staff as “85 percent to 90, maybe 95.”
Probable starters for the La Troienne (with trainer), according to the Churchill Downs racing office, include: Be Fair (D. Wayne Lukas), Careless Jewel (Josie Carroll), Distinctive Dixie (Wally Dollase), Morena (PER) (Michael Matz), Rachel Alexandra (Asmussen), Unrivaled Belle (Bill Mott) and Zardana (John Shirreffs).
Rachel Alexandra was undefeated in eight races during her 2009 Horse of the Year campaign, including five consecutive Grade I races and three victories over males. She followed her historic Kentucky Oaks win with a victory over Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird in the Preakness (GI), the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. She again defeated 3-year-old males, including Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Summer Bird, in the Haskell Invitational (GI) at Monmouth Park, and capped off her legendary season with a win over older males in the Woodward (GI) at Saratoga. Her victory was the first by a female over older males of that prestigious. Rachel Alexandra’s season also earned her the 2009 Eclipse Award that honored her America’s champion 3-year-old filly.
Friday’s running of the La Troienne is the first renewal of the race for older fillies and mares since its name was changed to honor one of the greatest broodmares in the history of American racing. La Troienne’s offspring included champion Black Helen and 1940 Kentucky Derby runner-up and Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Bimelech. Her notable descendants included Kentucky Derby winners Sea Hero and Go for Gin, Kentucky Oaks winner Princess Rooney, and champions Easy Goer, Buckpasser, Busher, Pleasant Tap, Caerleon and Woodman. Churchill Downs had previously honored La Troienne by placing the great mare’s name on a race for 3-year-old fillies. That race was renamed last year in honor of ill-fated 2008 Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles and is part of the Kentucky Derby Day stakes schedule.