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Rachel Alexandra will point to Acorn at Belmont
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Rachel Alexandra came out of her record-breaking Kentucky Oaks victory on Friday in fine fashion and will remain at Churchill Downs while being pointed to the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes on the June 6 Belmont Stakes undercard, trainer Hal Wiggins said Saturday morning.
"She had about a handful of feed left in her tub this morning, and I promise you when we took her out of her stall, she had a lip shank on her and just dragged us around the barn," Wiggins said.
The victory was the first in a Grade 1 race and easily the most satisfying ever for Wiggins, who began training Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds nearly 35 years ago before switching solely to Thoroughbreds in the early 1980s.
"It's just overwhelming, very humbling," Wiggins said. "I'm just tickled to death for everybody involved. It's hard for them to realize it all happened the way it did."
Without one bit of urging from jockey Calvin Borel, Rachel Alexandra powered to a 20 1/4-length triumph over six overmatched opponents in the filly classic. Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby two years ago aboard Street Sense, said afterward that Rachel Alexandra is the best horse he has ever ridden.
The margin is believed to be the largest in race history, although Churchill records date only to 1910.
Dolph Morrison, who bred and co-owns Rachel Alexandra, all but ruled out a run versus males in the May 16 Preakness in the immediate aftermath of the Oaks, saying he believed the Triple Crown should serve as a showcase for the future stallions of the industry.
Rachel Alexandra paid a mere $2.60 on Friday but returned $8.40 to those who backed her in March in the only Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool offered this year by Churchill.
Meanwhile, the Friday ontrack crowd of 104,867, fourth-highest in race history, was up nearly 5 percent over the 2008 crowd, when rainy conditions prevailed. However, the all-sources wagering total of $30,020,877 on the 12-race Friday card was down nearly 4 percent from last year. The ontrack handle of $10,475,352 was down nearly 7 percent.
Wagering on the Oaks itself was $6,839,926, down a whopping 25 percent over the more than $9.1 million bet last year. The short field with a huge favorite surely was partly responsible for that decline.
Many in the crowd on Oaks Day were attired in pink in a show of support for breast cancer research and awareness. It was the first Oaks telecast by the Bravo cable network.
Quiet Derby Day for Carroll
In 2008, David Carroll sent out his first-ever Kentucky Derby starter, a major milestone in an ascendant career. Denis of Cork did not win the race, but he finished third and made the day even more resonant for a career horseman like Carroll. Derby morning this year, Carroll had not even a single horse entered to race. There was no reason to be jittery as he went about finishing up the morning's final tasks around the barn - hanging up tack, taking bandages out of a dryer, chatting with local owners.
"Everyone was so excited last year," Carroll said. "A year later, it's a very quiet morning here at the Carroll barn. Getting to have the Derby experience, to have it with my kids around, knowing what it meant, it was everything you work for. The thing is, once you get a taste for it, you want to get back every year - and win it."
Carroll had some early winter hopes for a colt named Au Moon, owned in fact by Louisvillians. But Au Moon finished third in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds and didn't really progress from there.
"It turned out he wasn't good enough," Carroll said.
But there are 2-year-olds in Carroll's barn at Churchill Downs and at Keeneland. The old cry goes up: Wait until next year.
Unbridled Belle to breeding shed
Unbridled Belle, winner of the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont in 2007, raced Friday at Churchill Downs in the Louisville Breeders' Cup, finishing fifth in the mud.
Twenty-four hours later, she had another date - an afternoon breeding with A.P. Indy at Lane's End Farm on Saturday.
Barry Irwin, head of Team Valor Stables, which owns the 6-year-old Broken Vow mare, said he was unsure in the days leading up to the Louisville Breeders' Cup if she would compete, knowing she was getting close to coming in season. But the timing worked for her to run and then head to Lane's End on Saturday.
Some mares perform well when in heat; others do not. In the case of Unbridled Belle running fifth, Irwin said, "It was just the mud."
Saturday's breeding marks the second covering this spring for the mare, Irwin said.
If all goes well with her breeding, plans call for Unbridled Belle to continue racing while in foal, with the Obeah Stakes and Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park and the Personal Ensign at Saratoga being stakes options for her, Irwin said.
She won the Obeah last year before running third in both the Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign. In 2007, she won the Delaware Handicap and was second in the Obeah and Personal Ensign.
Irwin also said that Kinsella, a flashy maiden winner for Team Valor on turf when debuting at Gulfstream on March 15, displaced his soft palate in finishing eighth in an allowance at Churchill Downs on Wednesday. The 3-year-old colt, a son of Mr. Greeley who topped the Saratoga summer yearling sale in 2007 when he sold for $2.2 million, fought rider Julien Leparoux when rank in the early stages of the race.
"We might do a myectomy," Irwin said.
Todd Pletcher trains Unbridled Belle and Kinsella.
Good, bad of racing on display
It was tough to reconcile races 10 and 11 here Friday. In the 11th, the Kentucky Oaks, Rachel Alexandra ran the kind of race that makes onlookers' skin tingle, the kind of race that reminds people why they like watching horses run at all. But in race 10, the American Turf, Stormalory, a really good young grass horsed owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum's Darley Stable, shattered his lower left foreleg and had to be put down.
"I guess he just took a bad step," trainer Bill Mott said about 7 p.m. Friday outside his Churchill barn.
Stormalory was splinted while out on the racetrack, loaded onto the horse ambulance, and taken back to the barn. But after X-raying the limb, it quickly became apparent that there was no chance of saving Stormalory.
"He kind of blew everything," Mott said. "There was really no gray area."
Stormalory, bred by Stonerside Stable, had won three races and was coming off his first stakes score last month at Keeneland.
Warrior's Reward targets Travers
There was a time this winter when trainer Ian Wilkes thought Warrior's Reward could be running Derby weekend in the main event. Instead, Wilkes had to settle for winning a first-level allowance race with Warrior's Reward on Friday's Kentucky Oaks undercard.
But Wilkes still believes Warrior's Reward has the talent to ultimately have an impact on some of the division's most important races this year. The long-range goal is the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga.
Warrior's Reward couldn't have been more impressive winning his Friday allowance, rallying up the rail to easily outfinish Munnings in a performance that earned the son of Medaglia d'Oro a 104 Beyer Speed Figure.
"He didn't run as a 2-year-old, and his disappointing effort in Tampa might have been a blessing," Wilkes said in reference to Warrior's Reward's sixth-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby, which ultimately took him off the Kentucky Derby trail. "We did some minor throat surgery called a myectomy to help improve his breathing because he was displacing, and now we're going to take our time and point for the Travers. I don't want to sound too ambitious, but I think he has that kind of ability."
Wilkes said he has nothing definite picked out for Warrior's Reward's next start, although he does plan to stretch him out around two turns and keep him locally if he can.
"We'll probably look at the Northern Dancer," Wilkes said. "It's at Churchill Downs, it's a mile and one-sixteenth, and at this point that suits us nicely."
- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh, Byron King, and Mike Welsch