06/22/2009 12:00AM

Plenty of spots for Rachel

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Michael Amoruso
Rachel Alexandra's next start after the Mother Goose remains a mystery.

NEW YORK - That Saturday's Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park was picked to be the first race for Rachel Alexandra since she won the Preakness is about as surprising as the sun rising in the east.

Given owner Jess Jackson's apparent distaste for synthetic-track racing, that seemed to rule out California and Chicago. The Churchill Downs meet is winding down with only four stakes left, two for 2-year-olds and two on the turf - a world that Rachel Alexandra has yet to conquer. There were few, if any, other suitable spots for Rachel Alexandra to return besides the Mother Goose. But that's okay. The Mother Goose is a Grade 1 event with a list of past winners drenched with champions.

What's more interesting is speculating on what race Rachel Alexandra might run in after the Mother Goose, providing, of course, she does the expected Saturday and masters whatever permutation of Dream Play, Flashing, Don't Forget Gil, and Malibu Prayer shows up to oppose her. You might be surprised how many racing options there could be for her, ranging from conservative to exotic, even when the options are restricted to conventional dirt and to geography east of Kentucky and north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Let's take a look at some of Rachel Alexandra's potential next races after the Mother Goose, listed by the number of weeks between starts.

* Three weeks: There would be two potential spots, both at Delaware Park - the Delaware Oaks on July 18 or the Delaware Handicap the day after. Not to denigrate the Delaware Oaks, but there's little incentive for a champion in waiting like Rachel Alexandra to run in that spot. But the Delaware Handicap . . . well, now you're talking. The Del Cap's $1 million purse is the kind of money to pique the interest of Rachel Alexandra's connections; she would finally get the opportunity to go 1 1/4 miles, her success at which could dictate the shape of her subsequent campaign; and she would get to face older females likely no tougher than the likes of Unbridled Belle, who prepped for the Del Cap with a score over modest company in Saturday's Obeah Stakes.

The issue here is the three weeks. Even though Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness off a two-week turnaround, she bypassed the Belmont Stakes, and her people suggested that they may understand what her previous connections seemed to know: This filly is at her peak with at least four weeks between starts. Yes, I'm saying that I think Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness with something less than her best performance.

* Four weeks: The Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont on July 25, America's only classic race for fillies, it is probably the most conservative choice Rachel Alexandra's people could make. She would get a chance to go 10 furlongs and likely against a field no tougher than the one she will face in the Mother Goose. The CCA Oaks is a wonderful race for a filly to have on her resume. But it's fair to wonder what winning the CCA Oaks would actually prove for Rachel Alexandra. It just seems like she should be going after bigger things.

* Five weeks: This is the weekend the wise guys think Rachel Alexandra will be in action. There are two options for her on Aug. 1, although neither seems the right fit. She could run for a $750,000 purse in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park or race for two-thirds of that at Saratoga in the Jim Dandy Stakes. But why go to West Virginia to face Mine That Bird, especially when Rachel Alexandra already beat the Kentucky Derby winner in the Preakness? And why race for $500,000 in the Jim Dandy when you can wait a day and run for $1 million in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park?

Although the CCA Oaks would be the most conservative next race for Rachel Alexandra, I sense that more people expect her connections to target the Haskell on Aug. 2. It makes sense. Jackson has already said that his filly would likely take on colts again, and the seven-figure purse is commensurate with Rachel Alexandra's status. Moreover, while the Haskell would not be an easy spot - with Summer Bird, winner of the Belmont Stakes, and Musket Man, third in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, pointing to it - the main track at Monmouth is rarely unkind to speed types like Rachel Alexandra around Haskell time.

But if money isn't driving the decisions, then there is another, more intriguing option for Rachel Alexandra on Aug. 2, and that is the Grade 1 Go for Wand Handicap at Saratoga. The Go for Wand has a purse of only $300,000, and Rachel Alexandra might have to face the toughest group of older females this side of Zenyatta, including Seattle Smooth and Seventh Street. But it would be another feather in Rachel Alexandra's cap if she beat such a group of older opponents in the summer of her 3-year-old year.

* Six weeks: This would be the most exotic choice of all, and maybe you would have to be equally crazy and sporting to do it, but what about the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 8? Yes, Rachel Alexandra would have to face older males, including Commentator, who would be attempting to win the Whitney for a third time. But even after his recent romp over New York-breds, the jury is still out as to whether Commentator is all the way back to his 120 Beyer Speed Figure form. And outside of an in-form Commentator, and Einstein, who doesn't appear to be targeting the Whitney, the handicap division is weak. Even still, Rachel Alexandra would pull a lot of weight because of her age and sex. It's something to think about.