02/14/2009 12:00AM

Rachel Alexandra starts path to Ky. Oaks


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Rachel Alexandra will take her first step toward the Kentucky Oaks on Sunday, when she makes her 3-year-old debut at her home track of Oaklawn Park in the $50,000 Martha Washington.

The one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies is one of two preps at the meet for the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy here April 5, and it drew a full field of 10. The series will continue in the $100,000 Honeybee on March 15.

Rachel Alexandra is a standout on the strength of her powerful, 4 3/4-length front-running win in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in her most recent start Nov. 29. She covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.08, and her time was noticeably quicker than the 1:44.14 in which 2-year-old males ran the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club on the same day.

"What impressed me, of course, was the way she ran," said Hal Wiggins, who trains Rachel Alexandra for L and M Partners. "And then I saw two races later they ran the Jockey Club, and she ran a second faster than they did - and that was three colts fighting it out for at least an eighth of a mile.

"Considering everything, I thought it was just really a bang up race."

Rachel Alexandra earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 99 in the Golden Rod, which was her first start around two turns. She also was flattered last weekend when War Echo, the third-place finisher from the race, won the Grade 3 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds in her first race since the Churchill start, earning a 95 Beyer.

Rachel Alexandra was freshened following the Golden Rod and has been working regularly at Oaklawn.

"She's progressed just the way we wanted her to with her breezes," Wiggins said, "so I think she's about as ready as we can get her, really."

Rachel Alexandra, who has been effective from off the pace in the past, will break from post 5 under Calvin Borel.

"If somebody wants to gun it out of there, we'll just kind of let her run her race," Wiggins said. "Calvin will make those decisions when the gates open."

There could be a solid pace. A number of fillies in the race are stretching out to two turns, including Hello Again, an undefeated runner for trainer Moises Yanez who won the $50,000 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn on Jan. 24. Other stakes winners in the field are My Spanx and Peach Brew.