05/19/2009 11:00PM

Abbott Hall keeps barn's chances live


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Hal Wiggins was widely hailed as a gracious winner after he sent out Rachel Alexandra to win the Kentucky Oaks. But when the filly walked out of his Churchill Downs stable just a few days later, having been sold to connections that eventually would win the 134th Preakness with her, that's when Wiggins really showed his class.

Steve Asmussen, the new trainer of Rachel Alexandra, has made innumerable mentions about how the filly was ready-made, thanks to Wiggins and his staff. Wiggins, in turn, has consistently expressed thanks for merely having had the opportunity to train a horse of such magnitude after toiling in relative obscurity for decades.

Yes, a lot of history has been written in the three weeks since Rachel Alexandra stepped onto the Churchill surface for the Oaks. At some point in the future, Wiggins, 66, will kick back and reminisce about the thrill that resulted, but for now, he is busy with the 15 or so horses that remain in his Churchill barn.

Perhaps the best of those holdovers is Abbott Hall, a 3-year-old filly with just a couple of degrees of separation from her famous ex-stablemate. They both were bred and were owned by Dolph Morrison, and they share a common race, the Pocahontas here last November, when Rachel Alexandra suffered her last loss.

And, they both raced here May 1 - with decidedly mixed results. A few hours before Rachel Alexandra ran to glory, Abbott Hall was laboring through a ninth-place finish in the Edgewood Stakes on the Oaks undercard. Her 9-2 odds that day suggest she is considerably better than that effort, and when she returns to action in the $52,700 feature on a Friday twilight card at Churchill, she is liable to prove as much. This is the third race in her form cycle, and she is dropping from rugged stakes company into a second-level allowance. Abbott Hall comes favorably drawn on the hedge in a field of seven.

Two other returnees from the Edgewood, Our Dahlia (fourth) and Complicity (seventh) are among the primary opposition for Abbott Hall in the 10th of 11 Friday races. Laureldean Gate and Hungry Tigress also merit close scrutiny.

One other allowance, a $50,200 turf sprint (race 7), is carded for Friday, when first post is 2:45 p.m. Eastern.