05/13/2009 11:00PM

Opinions vary on running Rachel

Barbara D. Livingston
Friends gave owner Mark Allen a custom Mine That Bird belt buckle.

BALTIMORE - While many fans and horsemen are excited about the prospect of watching the superstar filly Rachel Alexandra run against the boys in Saturday's Preakness Stakes, there is at least one person who doesn't think it's such a good idea.

Don Lucarelli, part-owner of Preakness entrant Take the Points, believes it is not in the best interests of the sport or the filly to run Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness just two weeks after she won the Kentucky Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths. Lucarelli thinks Rachel Alexandra would be better served by waiting for the Belmont Stakes or another race later this summer to take on males.

"Purchasing the horse and within 24 hours deciding that he wants to go and run in the Preakness to me seems like a self-serving interest instead of what may be best for the industry at this juncture," said Lucarelli, who owns Take the Points under the Starlight Partners banner with his wife, Barbara, and Jack and Laurie Wolf. "[Jackson] always says he's doing this for the horse and doing it for the industry. My own personal viewpoint is that I think the horse would have been better off having more time to regroup from such a peak performance. Even though nobody really contested her in the Oaks, the fact is she did prep for that race and ran a super race."

Rachel Alexandra has won her last five races dating back to last fall, but the Oaks was clearly her best performance. She ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.87 and earned a career-best Beyer of 108.

"From a handicapping angle you would almost expect a bounce off of that performance," Lucarelli said.

Few alibis, but a few laughs

Thursday's annual Alibi Breakfast was short on alibis, but long on attempted humor from the connections of the 13 Preakness starters. Among the highlights:

* Bob Baffert, the trainer of Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, told a tale of what happened to owner Ahmed Zayat a few days before the Derby: "There's an old saying, if a bird craps on you it's supposed to be good luck, and Mr. Zayat, two days before [the Derby] a bird crapped on his glasses; he was so happy. Little did he know that two birds were going to crap on him."

* Scott Blasi, assistant trainer of Rachel Alexandra, on drawing post 13: "Hopefully, Calvin [Borel] doesn't get confused which rail" he should be hugging.

* Larry Jones, trainer of Friesan Fire, who finished 18th as the Derby favorite, was asked if he was still going to retire at year's end: "If this horse runs like he did in the Kentucky Derby, that thing may happen on Sunday."

* Vic Carlson, part-owner of Derby third-place finisher Musket Man, alluding to a bumping incident with Pioneerof the Nile in deep stretch of the Derby: "Hopefully, Pioneerof the Nile will stay in his own lane when we go by him at the sixteenth pole."

Buckle up, cowboy

Working cowboys might go in for more utilitarian garb, but if you dress cowboy-style off the ranch, a big, shiny belt buckle pretty much is a required accessory. Mark Allen, co-owner of Mine That Bird and the son of a Western oilman, had worn the same buckle since 1991, one that commemorated his purchase of Cash Risk, a pricey Quarter Horse yearling. But that was before he got a horse into the Kentucky Derby.

When some friends found out Mine That Bird was Derby-bound, they had a Kentucky Derby/Mine That Bird buckle made for Allen, who has worn it proudly ever since.

"It was a surprise from friends," Allen said Thursday. "It's brought me luck."

Mine that Bird, meanwhile, continued training right along here at Pimlico, going out for a two-mile gallop Thursday over a racetrack somewhat wet from early-morning rain.

"The track might have been a little sticky, but he did fine," trainer Chip Woolley said.

Mine that Bird is scheduled to gallop two miles again on Friday. And as for the rain - well, let it keep raining, as far as Mine that Bird's connections are concerned. When your horse is 1-1 on a wet dirt track, and that '1' came in the Kentucky Derby, a few days of deluge would be just fine.

Media awards handed out

Tom Pedulla of USA Today, Bob Fortus of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and Jeannine Edwards of ESPN were honored at the breakfast. Pedulla received the David F. Woods Memorial Award for the best Preakness story of 2008. Fortus and Edwards received the Old Hilltop Award, given to those who cover Thoroughbred racing with excellence and distinction.

Rob Carr, of The Associated Press, received the Jerry Frutkoff Preakness Photography Award.

* On Preakness Day there will be rolling daily doubles beginning with the opener, eight pick threes, and two pick fours. The early pick four, which begins in race 5, will have a guaranteed pool of $250,000. The late pick four, which begins with race 9 and ends with the Preakness, will have a guaranteed pool of $1 million.

Saturday's nine-hour card begins at 10:15 a.m.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh