08/02/2009 11:00PM

All eyes following Rachel Alexandra

Christiana Scavuzzo/EquiPhoto
Rachel Alexandra, Calvin Borel up, comes home a winner after her Haskell victory over males.

Let the Rachel Watch begin anew.

After disposing of 3-year-old males - again - in Sunday's $1.25 million Haskell Invitational at sloppy Monmouth Park, Preakness winner Rachel Alexander ratcheted up her star power another notch. Now, the racing world will wait - again - with bated breath for owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen to decide when and where she will strut her stuff next.

If her next start is at Saratoga - where Rachel Alexandra returned Monday morning - Jackson has a multitude of Grade 1 options, beginning with the $1 million Travers for 3-year-olds on Aug. 29, the $300,000 Personal Ensign against older females the next day, or the $500,000 Woodward Stakes against older males on Sept. 5. While she would naturally be eligible for the Alabama against 3-year-old fillies on Aug. 22, that race would do virtually nothing for Rachel Alexandra in her quest to become Horse of the Year.

While the Travers would mean a potential matchup of three Triple Crown race winners - something that hasn't happened in the Travers since 1982 - a start in the weight-for-age Woodward would give Rachel Alexandra the opportunity to become the first filly to win that prestigious race.

"I'd look at that opportunity if she tells me she's ready for that," Jackson said Sunday.

The Woodward, which Jackson and Asmussen won last year with Curlin, would represent another out-of-the-box race that could help Rachel Alexandra gain Horse of the Year without running in the Breeders' Cup. Jackson, for the third time in five weeks, said Rachel Alexandra would not run in the Breeders' Cup over Santa Anita's synthetic surface, meaning a matchup with the undefeated Zenyatta is unlikely.

Rachel Alexandra's six-length victory over Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird in Sunday's Haskell left many - including those remaining doubters - in awe.

"I think every time she runs you're that much more in awe of her," said Tim Ice, trainer of Summer Bird. "We knew what we were up against. We were hoping she'd stub a toe. She's one of those horses that doesn't come around very often."

"Rachel has done things we've asked her to do again and again and more importantly - wow! - she exceeds our expectations," Jackson said. "I don't know what the depth of her is, I don't know that Calvin [Borel] and Steve do. We will take on what we have to take because I do push them, as you know."

Rachel Alexandra, who earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 116 on Sunday, arrived at Saratoga shortly before 9 a.m. Monday morning. Asmussen took a quick glance at the filly before he, his wife, and their three sons headed to Albany airport for a trip to Louisville. Asmussen said evaluating how Rachel Alexandra handled the Haskell will determine when and where she will run next.

Another mitigating circumstance regarding the Travers is that Asmussen and Jackson may have Kensei to run in that race. Kensei won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy on Saturday, validating his victory in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes last month at Belmont. Kensei earned a career-best 106 Beyer Figure in the Jim Dandy.

"Having Kensei might also come into play into the decision process, which is not a problem to have but a blessing," Asmussen said. "If Kensei trains lights-out between now and the Travers, it's hard to deny him the option of running. . . . I might be speaking out of turn here, but it is my belief that it would be unlikely the two of them would run against each other."

Kensei suffered some superficial cuts on his left hind hock, but Asmussen said, "They're very clean right now."

In addition to the Haskell and Jim Dandy, Asmussen also won the $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Saturday with Soul Warrior, who upset Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. Soul Warrior, owned by Ahmed Zayat, is likely headed to the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on Labor Day.

Lost in Rachelmania is the fact the 3-year-old male championship is up for grabs. Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who arrived at Saratoga Monday afternoon following a third-place finish in the West Virginia Derby, and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, who was scheduled to arrive at Saratoga on Tuesday, are headed for a showdown in the Travers.

"I think it should be," Ice said. "He's beaten me once, I've beaten him once. I would hope [Sunday] opened everybody's eyes this is an improving horse. This colt has come a long way in a short period of time."

Others who may run in the Travers include Warrior's Reward, third in the Jim Dandy; Blame, winner of the Curlin Stakes; and Our Edge, winner of three straight, including the Grade 3 Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park.

Meanwhile, Big Drama, runner-up in the West Virginia Derby, and Munnings, the third-place finisher in the Haskell, will shorten up to their preferred distance of seven furlongs in the Grade 1 King's Bishop on the Travers undercard, their respective trainers said Monday.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch