08/17/2009 12:00AM

A hunch Woodward is next for Rachel


NEW YORK - Had the good fortune to spend a couple of days in Saratoga last week, and a lot of folks there are talking about the same thing racing fans everywhere are wondering: Where will superstar filly Rachel Alexandra make her next start?

As Daily Racing Form's fearless leader Steven Crist pointed out in conversation, one reason why everyone seems to be speculating on Rachel Alexandra's next move is, being a 3-year-old filly, she has more options to choose from than, for example, Curlin did last year. That's true. But still, Rachel Alexandra seems to have caught the imagination of the racing public in a way that hasn't been seen since the golden era of the 1970s.

One thing that did surprise me was how seriously the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Labor Day is being mentioned as a potential next race for Rachel Alexandra. I heard this three times within a couple of hours last Thursday. I laughed out loud the first time I heard it, but by the third time, I was asking if I somehow missed the big announcement, which a lot of folks are expecting this week, probably right around cocktail hour. If it is only about the money for Rachel Alexandra's people, well then yes, the Pennsylvania Derby would be an option. But when it comes to advancing or enhancing Rachel Alexandra's position regarding Horse of the Year, then the Pennsylvania Derby, a race that will always be overshadowed by the Travers unless it finds a different spot on the calendar, will do absolutely nothing for her.

After trying to handicap owner Jess Jackson, the race most landed on as the likely next start is Saratoga's Woodward Stakes on Sept. 5, two days before Labor Day. The Woodward is worth only half as much as the Pennsylvania Derby, but it would afford Rachel Alexandra a relatively easy chance against older males while also providing the opportunity to make history as the first 3-year-old filly to win the race.

Speaking of Rachel Alexandra, everyone had a chuckle last week over the efforts of Gulfstream Park to get in on the act and try to get her and Zenyatta in the 2010 Donn Handicap, offering to waive nomination fees as incentive. The one small problem here is, the whole impetus behind getting Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta together has to do with 2009 Horse of the Year honors. The 2010 Donn will be run more than a month after the balloting has been completed.

Less amusing, but no less unrealistic, was the continued speculation, based almost entirely on hope, that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta could meet in late November in a race like the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. That might work for Zenyatta, and then only maybe, as the Clark comes just three weeks after the Breeders' Cup. But it

wouldn't work for Rachel Alexandra, not considering how long she has been in training without a break, and not if she is to race next year, which is the plan.

Also found it interesting that you will not find the name Rachel Alexandra on any of the latest future book odds updates on the Breeders' Cup Classic or Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic issued by the Race and Sports Book at Wynn Las Vegas. There's good reason for that. For the millionth time, Rachel Alexandra will not be competing in the Breeders' Cup because of her owner's extreme distaste for synthetic racing surfaces. Although, if you have such a strong desire to be removed from your money that you still want to bet on Rachel Alexandra in a Breeders' Cup race, I'm sure the folks at Wynn will accommodate you.

Wynn's future book odds for the Classic find Zenyatta and Einstein, who won the Santa Anita Handicap at the same distance over the same surface the Classic will be run on, co-favorites at 10-1. Given the one-two finish in last year's Classic, also run at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, by European shippers Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator, it's no surprise to see respect for the European trio of Sea the Stars, who has had an awesome season winning the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, and the Eclipse; Fame and Glory, who dominated the Irish Derby after sustaining his only career loss when second in the Epsom Derby; and Rip Van Winkle, winner of the Group 1 Sussex, a race that last year Henrythenavigator won by a head over Raven's Pass. Their odds are 12-1, 15-1, and 20-1, respectively.

Other noteworthy future book odds on the Classic at Wynn include Tiago, third in last year's Classic, and who has been working on turf of late at Del Mar, at 15-1. At 18-1 is the trio of Colonel John, who is pointing to the Woodward; Mine That Bird, winner of the Kentucky Derby; and Quality Road, who is to meet Mine That Bird in the Travers, assuming Mine That Bird comes out of his throat surgery well on Tuesday. The other name horse pointing to the Travers, Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, is 30-1. Bullsbay, upset winner of the Whitney, and Rail Trip, a most impressive winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup, are both 25-1. Rail Trip seems like an overlay at that price, and Misremembered, the improving winner of the Swaps, seems like an insane overlay at 100-1.

As for the Ladies' Classic, Zenyatta is the 5-8 favorite to win this race for a second straight year. But aside from how smart it is betting on an odds-on favorite so far in advance, remember, you can also lose if Zenyatta's connections opt to face males in the Classic. Life Is Sweet is second choice here by a long way at 3-1, with Stardom Bound, who does not have a published work since being shelved last April, third choice at 11-1.

It's doubtful Telling's implausible upset of Saturday's Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga will do much to affect Wynn's future book odds on the Breeders' Cup Turf. Gio Ponti, winner of four straight Grade 1 races, is the 5-1 favorite, with Conduit, who just regained the form that enabled him to win this race last year winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, right behind at 7-1. Fame and Glory seems a relatively generous 10-1, while Battle of Hastings, as sharp as he is off wins over 3-year-olds in the Virginia Derby and Colonial Cup, seems an underlay at 12-1. Spanish Moon, a Group 1 winner in France last time out, is a nice price at 14-1. And while I know he didn't run great in the Arlington Million, and realize he is a candidate for the Classic, Einstein seems disrespected here at 35-1.