12/04/2009 12:00AM

Rachel Alexandra settles in at track


PNEW ORLEANS - A week after her arrival at Fair Grounds, Rachel Alexandra has taken to her new routine of jogging on the main track in the mornings.

On Friday morning, after most works had been completed, Rachel Alexandra jogged the wrong direction once around the oval. With exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard and led by assistant trainer Scott Blasi on a pony, she made the circuit, at times nearly walking.

As she entered the track, Rachel Alexandra was bucking and reared back once, but Blasi and Terry kept her to the assignment.

"She feels just as good or better as when she was performing this summer," said Terry, her regular exercise rider. "She's filled out and happy, and when she is happy, I am happy."

Trainer Steve Asmussen watched the entire jog, following 10 yards behind on a pony, and was pleased with her progress.

"Off of her down time, it is extremely encouraging, but it's not like you'd expect any different from her," Asmussen said. "She was playful and very physical, with a tremendous amount of personality."

Asmussen believes the morning jogs have helped Rachel Alexandra settle into life at Fair Grounds.

"She was a lot more settled in after she went to the track," Asmussen said. "She lay down in her stall for the first time here."

In addition to her many accomplishments, Rachel Alexandra won the Fair Grounds Oaks handily last year over a muddy track, prevailing by 1 1/4 lengths as Calvin Borel wrapped her up and began celebrating with 40 yards to go.

Since then, she dominated the Kentucky Oaks before coming under Asmussen's tutelage and winning the Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell, and Woodward, launching her into consideration for Horse of the Year.

With her return to the Fair Grounds, she is united in Asmussen's barn with Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire, who spent Friday recovering from his first race in more than six months, a third-place effort in a high-level optional claimer.

Off since disappointing efforts in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Friesan Fire staged a mild rally around the turn before tiring in the mile and 40-yard race, finishing six lengths behind the winner, Good and Lucky.

It was Friesan Fire's first race for Asmussen, who began training him when Larry Jones retired. The third-place finish reminded Asmussen of a race in December 2008, when an Asmussen trainee, Uno Mas, beat Friesan Fire as he came back from a layoff.

"Scott reminded me of Friesan Fire's first race back, and how well he did after that," Asmussen said.

Asmussen said that the Donn Handicap on Feb. 6 at Gulfstream Park was still Friesan Fire's first goal for 2010, and that another race before then was a possibility.

Good and Lucky eyes Tenacious Handicap

While the race was a disappointment in the Friesan Fire camp, it was validation of trainer Josie Carroll's decision to send the winner, Good and Lucky, in the allowance race at the Fair Grounds rather than ship him to Delta Downs for the Delta Mile.

"We were thinking to send him to Delta for the Delta Mile this week, but this race came up for him," Carroll's assistant trainer Ruth Schmidt said.

With the victory, Good and Lucky ran his record at the Fair Grounds to 5 wins and 2 seconds from 9 starts.

"He loves the track down here," Schmidt said. "We'll see how he comes back and possibly point him toward the Tenacious Handicap" on Dec. 20.

Campbell targets post-Christmas return

Jockey Jesse Campbell, who was injured in a paddock accident last weekend, will need additional weeks to recuperate, though his prognosis remains good.

Campbell injured his hand during a workout on Nov. 28 and then hurt his foot and ankle in the paddock before the sixth race that day, when his horse flipped over.

"The hand is doing fine," Campbell said. "I actually was riding with the hand and won a race that way. The foot has swollen up though and is very sore."

Campbell has 9 wins from 58 mounts at the meet.

"With any luck, I'll be back right after Christmas," Campbell said. "There are no breaks on the foot, but the orthopedist was afraid I would hurt it worse, so rather than take a chance, we decided to exercise caution."