03/31/2009 11:00PM

Rachel Alexandra pretty to watch


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Who says blondes have more fun?

Rachel Alexandra, a dark bay - or brunette - had a blast Wednesday morning at Oaklawn in her final prep for Sunday's Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy. Looking every bit the part of one of the nation's top 3-year-old fillies, she took to the track at 7:15 a.m. on a 45 degree morning and breezed a half-mile in an effortless 47.60 seconds.

The work was the quickest of 17 at the distance, but it gets even better. Clockers caught Rachel Alexandra galloping out five furlongs in 59.40 seconds, and six furlongs in 1:12.60. And through it all, Calvin Borel, her regular rider, was simply a passenger on the long-striding filly, who is set to run here Sunday.

"The gallop-out times were a little surprising," said Hal Wiggins, who trains Rachel Alexandra for L and M Partners. "It was a little bit more than what I wanted, but like Calvin said, she just did it so easy and all, and he felt that it was okay. So, that's good enough for me."

Borel has teamed with Rachel Alexandra in each of her last three starts, which have resulted in easy wins in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in November, the $50,000 Martha Washington at Oaklawn in February, and the Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks in her last start March 14.

With credentials like those, Rachel Alexandra will look pretty salty in the Fantasy, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies that could draw a field of five when entries are taken Friday. Others expected for the race include Just Jenda, Afleet Deceit, Bon Jovi Girl, and possibly More of the Best. The Fantasy is one of nine stakes worth a cumulative $2.8 million to be run over the final week of the meet as part of Oaklawn's annual Racing Festival of the South.

The series opens with the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom and the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on Saturday, and concludes with the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11. The Fantasy is one of five graded stakes during the festival. The race is expected to be Rachel Alexandra's springboard to the Grade 1, $500,000 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill on May 1.

The Oaks has long been Rachel Alexandra's spring objective, and her connections have discussed several means of getting her there. They considered training her up to the race following the Fair Grounds Oaks, or looking for another stakes option, including the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. Ultimately, they decided to target the Fantasy.

"It's four weeks before the Oaks, and that meant a lot to us, and she's doing so well, and we're sitting right here," Wiggins said. "We just lead her out of her stall and go to the paddock. And all that played a part in it. If this was three weeks before the Oaks, we probably wouldn't do it."

Instead, they're letting Rachel Alexandra get out and have some fun this weekend at Oaklawn.

It's a Bird shooting for $1M

It's a Bird can become a millionaire Saturday with a win in the Oaklawn Handicap, and he will be among the favorites in the 1 1/8-mile race. It's a Bird won the $1 million Sunshine Million Classic two starts ago at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24, and in his most recent race was third in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap on March 14.

"The timing of this was perfect," said Marty Wolfson, who trains It's a Bird. "I had given him a lot of time between his last two starts, didn't run him for almost two months. And if you look at his record, when I ran him in the Sunshine Millions, I ran him back in three weeks and he ran really huge. I think the eight weeks - he's a big horse - he might have gotten a little tired on me."

It's a Bird, who earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 107 in the Sunshine Millions, is a rare Oaklawn starter for the Miami-based Wolfson, who in 1998 sent out Unruled to finish sixth to Precocity in the Oaklawn Handicap. It's a Bird races for Edmund Gann, who won the Oaklawn Handicap in 2003 and 2004, with Medaglia d'Oro and Peace Rules.

Jones firing up for festival

Trainer Larry Jones will be active through the Racing Festival of the South, with a host of capable horses pointing for upcoming stakes. Honest Man will lead the barn off when he runs Saturday in the Oaklawn Handicap. Also this weekend, Jones has Just Jenda for the Fantasy.

For next Wednesday, he will send out My Heavenly Sign and Tammy's Victress in the $100,000 Bayakoa, a race he has won each of the last two years, with Gasia and Buy the Barrel.

Jones will close out the meet April 11 with Payton d'Oro in the $100,000 Instant Racing, It Happened Again in the $100,000 Northern Spur, and Old Fashioned in the Arkansas Derby.