02/23/2013 6:39PM

Fair Grounds: Unlimited Budget cruises to victory in Rachel Alexandra Stakes

Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts
Unlimited Budget turned in a strong effort in her 3-year-old debut to win the Rachel Alexandra.

Unlimited Budget cruised away to an impressive triumph when stamping herself as a major Kentucky Oaks prospect Saturday in the 32nd running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

With leading jockey Rosie Napravnik aboard for Repole Stable and Todd Pletcher, Unlimited Budget prevailed by 3 3/4 lengths over 20-1 shot Promise Me More after confidently moving into the lead leaving the quarter pole. Blue Violet was another four lengths back in third at 12-1.

Unlimited Budget returned $5 as the favorite in a field of 10 3-year-old fillies after finishing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.38 over a fast track. A $475,000 2-year-old purchase by Street Sense, Unlimited Budget is now 3 for 3. The filly was making her first start in three months after winning a maiden race and the Grade 2 Demoiselle, both at Aqueduct in November.

“She’s been a filly that’s shown that she could do pretty much whatever she needs to,” Pletcher assistant Whit Beckman said afterward. “With that hot pace in front of her, it set up well, and she showed some versatility, so we were happy.”

Unlimited Budget was fifth early before cruising up to the leaders on the far turn without much apparent effort. After straightening away and putting away front-running Dancinginthecircle, she remained on her left lead until switching with about 100 yards to go when never asked for her best by Napravnik.

The $2 exacta (7-6) paid $78.80; the $1 trifecta (7-6-7) returned $227.30; and the 10-cent superfecta (7-6-5-8), ended by 17-1 shot Every Way, was worth $171.29.

The Rachel Alexandra is a qualifying race toward the May 3 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Unlimited Budget earned 50 points toward making the Oaks field, which will be limited to 14. Eligibility is patterned after the new points system being implemented this year for the Kentucky Derby.

The disappointments in the race were Dancinginthecircle, who faded to fifth as the 19-10 second choice, and Midnight Ballet, who was never in the hunt when seventh under jockey Gary Stevens as the 5-1 third choice.

Dancinginthecircle set fractions of 22.88 seconds, 46.40, and 1:12.32 before tiring.

“She was very rank,” trainer Larry Jones said.

The Rachel Alexandra is named for the superstar filly who was the 2009 Horse of the Year. The race originally was known as the Davona Dale (1982-2000) and the Silverbulletday (2001-10) until being renamed in time for the 2011 renewal.

Napravnik became the first female rider to win the Kentucky Oaks when guiding Believe You Can to victory last year for Jones.