02/25/2017 7:06PM

Farrell looks impressive winning Rachel Alexandra Stakes

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Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
Farell, ridden by Channing Hill, captures the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra for 3-year-old fillies.

NEW ORLEANS – Farrell won the Silverbulletday Stakes last month at Fair Grounds in decidedly ho-hum fashion, but she looked much more like a real Kentucky Oaks contender on Saturday capturing the Grade 2, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths over Majestic Quality.

Farrell went straight to the front from post 2 under Channing Hill and set a solid pace, going 23.92 seconds for the first quarter-mile and racing unopposed through a half-mile in 47.32. Her pursuers, Valadorna in particular, closed in a quarter-mile out, but Hill and his filly were sandbagging, drawing clear again by midstretch and winning comfortably. Farrell jumped marks on the track left by the starting gate and got onto her wrong lead in the final yards, making her finish look more awkward than it was.

“She galloped out really well, too,” said Hill.

For New Orleans native Wayne Catalano, who trains Farrell for the Coffeepot Stables, Farrell’s performance lifted some weight from his shoulders. Farrell is the only horse who has won here from Catalano’s Fair Grounds string, and last Monday at Oaklawn, his favorite in the Southwest Stakes, Uncontested, turned in a disappointing effort.

But Catalano was confident Farrell would run better this time than she had last month making her 3-year-old debut. Catalano thought Farrell had struggled over a muddy, sealed surface in the Silverbulletday and would prefer a fast track, and indeed, Farrell traveled more comfortably the entire trip.

“I thought she would make the lead,” Catalano said. “If someone else wanted it, I told Channing it was fine to lay second. I just didn’t want her getting caught between horses.”

Farrell ran 1 1/16 miles in a good 1:44.09 and paid $9.60 to win. Majestic Quality, who shipped from California for trainer Keith Desormeaux, still is a maiden after eight starts, but earned a graded stakes placing and edged favored Valadorna for second in the final strides.

“I thought we were going to be third,” said jockey Kent Desormeaux. “She has a big heart.”

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Valadorna broke sharply and showed more positional speed than she had in a first-level allowance win here last month that started her season. She loomed behind the leader at the quarter pole but failed to sustain her run.

“I had a good feeling turning for home, but she just couldn’t go on with it,” said trainer Mark Casse. “She flattened out on us a little late.”

Wicked Lick was fourth, Shane’s Girlfriend fifth, Untapped sixth, and Gris Gris seventh. Shane’s Girlfriend, another California shipper who was the strong second choice, failed to show her customary speed and never really got involved in the running.

Kentucky Oaks qualifying points were awarded 50-20-10-5 to the race’s first four finishers. Farrell, by Malibu Moon out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Rebridled Dreams, won the Golden Rod before taking the Silverbulletday, and now has 70 Oaks points. She obviously will get into the Oaks, but now Catalano must determine the best way to get her there. He said the Fair Grounds Oaks would be considered, but stopped short of committing his filly to the race.

“We’ll sit down and talk about it, but first of all we’ll let her tell us,” he said.

Valadorna, meanwhile, is likely to skip the Fair Grounds Oaks and make her next start in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, Casse said. “She did so well when she was at Keeneland last year,” he said.