02/21/2013 2:10PM

Fair Grounds: Unlimited Budget invades as favorite in Rachel Alexandra Stakes


The Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra had all the makings of a terrific race among local fillies striving for the next level. Finding More, Dancinginthecircle, and Promise Me More are all minor stakes winners reaching for a brassier ring, while Alluring Lady, Blue Violet, Every Way, and Daddy’s Song all have recorded sharp victories at the 2012-13 meet at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

And then up pops the Pletcher juggernaut to spoil it all.

Unlimited Budget, the unbeaten winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct in November, will make her return to action for the Repole Stable and uber-trainer Todd Pletcher as a solid favorite in a field of 10 3-year-old fillies in the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

“The filly has been training very well for her first start of the year,” Pletcher said this week from his south Florida headquarters. “She’s a big, well-built, two-turn filly with good tactical speed. We’re excited about her prospects for this year.”

Unlimited Budget, a $475,000 2-year-old purchase by Street Sense, was a 9 1/2-length winner of her career debut in taking a one-mile maiden race Nov. 9. Just 15 days later, she wheeled back to go wire-to-wire in taking the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle. Since then, following a brief rest, the filly has had six recorded workouts at the Palm Meadows training center.

[FAIR GROUNDS: Get PPs, watch video previews of Saturday's stakes]

Unlimited Budget will break from post 7 when ridden by leading jockey Rosie Napravnik in the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra.

Besides the local contingent, the field also includes two other shippers: Neith, in from Oaklawn Park off a so-so performance in the Dixie Belle Stakes for Calumet Farm and D. Wayne Lukas, and Midnight Ballet, making her first start at 3 and her first outside of Southern California after four decent efforts to begin her career for Tom Proctor.

The Rachel Alexandra directly precedes the Risen Star Stakes on a blockbuster Saturday card as the ninth of 13 races. Post time is 4:25 p.m. Central. 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. The Silverbulletday since has been reprised as an ungraded prep for this race.

The Rachel Alexandra is a qualifying race toward the May 3 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. The winner gets 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.

Fair Grounds fans are invited to give their well-wishes throughout this weekend to 7-year-old Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year who is in Kentucky recovering from serious complications in the aftermath of her recent delivery of a Bernardini filly. Fans can sign a 15-foot get-well banner that will be forwarded to her owner, Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Farm.