11/27/2008 1:00AM

Rachel Alexandra has upset potential


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A quick look at the past performances of Saturday's Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs could suggest to many the race is essentially a two-horse race between Sara Louise and Dream Empress.

The strengths of the two fillies are difficult to miss. Sara Louise has won 2 of 3, including the Grade 3 Pocahontas over the Churchill Downs strip with a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. Dream Empress, winner of the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland, comes off a runner-up finish behind likely champion Stardom Bound in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

I see potential vulnerability in the two likely favorites, however. Sara Louise, coming off a favorable trip in the Pocahontas, could bounce after advancing 20 Beyer points upon her prior top, and Dream Empress is unraced on dirt, having run exclusively on turf and synthetic surfaces.

Should either fall back on figures, the possibility exists for an upset victory. If that happens, the most likely upsetter is Rachel Alexandra.

First or second in her last four starts, she ran very well to be second in the Pocahontas behind Sara Louise considering a tough-luck trip. Stuck in a pocket behind horses for much of the race, she didn't get clear after entering the stretch, and by that point Sara Louise had gotten the jump on her and was well on her way to victory.

Unfortunate trip or not, Rachel Alexandra likely was not going to beat Sara Louise - who flew in the Pocahontas, running a mile in 1:34.57.

But I am encouraged by the experience Rachel Alexandra received, an effort that should move her forward.

Without a lot of speed in the Golden Rod, she also figures to get a much more favorable trip. I'm envisioning Calvin Borel, aboard Rachel Alexandra, conceding the lead to War Echo - the only true front-runner - and placing Rachel Alexandra in the clear, where she can make a steady run from start to finish.

I will play Rachel Alexandra, and use her in the exotics with War Echo and Sara Louise.

Caressing: Sugar Mom can rebound

A race later on the Churchill card, I like Sugar Mom to return to winning form in the Caressing Handicap, a mile turf race for 2-year-old fillies.

Although never a major factor in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf - running seventh of 12 - she ran deceptively well to lose by 4 1/2 lengths despite being three wide into the first turn and at least four wide on the second turn.

She was also too close to a demanding early pace set by third-place finisher Laragh, which sapped Sugar Mom of her finishing kick.

To win the Caressing, she will need to outrun Striking Dancer, who won a 1 1/16-mile turf race for maidens over the Churchill Downs course on Nov. 1 in a swift 1:43.61.

Remsen: Old Fashioned looks solid

Except for a comment in Old Fashioned's past performances that he was "roughed" at Delaware Park on Nov. 3, he gives the impression of a horse that comes off a near-perfect trip. He raced on the lead at every call on his way to a 15 1/2-length triumph, and the fractions in the mile race of 47.26 and 1:12.19 appear modest.

Yet his trip was surprisingly tough, making his margin of victory and the 96 Beyer he earned legitimate.

He hopped at the start, and was immediately squeezed between horses in the opening strides of the race. But instead of being intimidated, Old Fashioned bulled his way between horses, knocking them out of the way and leaving no doubt who was boss.

He didn't get away with an easy pace, either. Down the backstretch and turn he was pressured, and his splits, relative to other fractions over a tiring racetrack, were actually lively.

The strength of that race makes him the choice to win Saturday's Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct.

Cigar Mile: Tale of Ekati offers value

An abundance of speed in the Cigar Mile will likely send many handicappers looking for a closer, but I'm intrigued by a stalker: Tale of Ekati.

In winning the Jerome last month in the slop, he proved himself as an effective one-turn miler, but it was his victory earlier this year in a fast-paced Wood that points to him having a strong chance in the Cigar Mile.

If the Cigar Mile sets up like that race did - with a hotly contested pace - the race plays to his steady-paced style.

Tale of Ekati's inconsistency necessitates that he be a price to warrant support, but at 6-1 or better, he merits a wager.