06/09/2010 12:00AM

Fleur de Lis looks likely for Rachel


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Majority owner Jess Jackson was expected to announce that Rachel Alexandra will race Saturday in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs, ending weeks of speculation about where the 2009 Horse of the Year will make her next start.

Caroline Shaw, who handles public relations for Jackson, said Tuesday afternoon that she was scheduled to confer by phone with Jackson and that an official announcement would be forthcoming soon thereafter.

Jackson announced last week that he also was considering three other Saturday races for Rachel Alexandra: the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill, the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park, and the Grade 3 Obeah at Delaware Park.

Entries were to be drawn Wednesday for the Fleur de Lis and four other graded stakes Saturday at Churchill, including the Stephen Foster, which is open to both genders.

All signs have pointed to Rachel Alexandra running in the Fleur de Lis, including the lack of announced plans to ship her elsewhere. A source with knowledge of the situation who didn't wish to be identified said that Jackson has settled on the Fleur de Lis.

Rachel Alexandra, based at Churchill with trainer Steve Asmussen, surely will be a huge favorite when carrying high weight of 124 pounds in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis, a 1 1/8-mile race in which the competition is expected to be moderate at best. In fact, Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman said early Tuesday that "We've really been struggling with the Fleur de Lis, with or without Rachel."

From a nominations list of 20 fillies and mares, Distinctive Dixie, a non-stakes winner, was the only horse that Huffman was certain of getting to oppose Rachel Alexandra. Surely the difficulty in attracting entries is partly the result of a major scheduling conflict within the filly-mare division. Besides the Fleur de Lis, Ogden Phipps, and Obeah, there is yet another major race in the division this weekend: the Grade 1 Vanity on Sunday at Hollywood Park, where the undefeated Zenyatta is expected to carry high weight of 129 pounds.

Rachel Alexandra won all eight starts last year to earn Horse of the Year honors but is winless in both tries at 4. She was second at 1-20 odds to Zardana in the March 13 New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds, then second at 1-5 to Unrivaled Belle in the La Troienne Stakes on the April 30 Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill.