05/13/2009 12:00AM

Rachel draws outside post for Preakness

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Mine That Bird, ready for his close-up Wednesday at Pimlico, is not the Preakness morning-line favorite despite his Kentucky Derby victory.

BALTIMORE - Now, is that any way to treat a lady? Rachel Alexandra, the Kentucky Oaks winner, landed the outside post when a field of 13 was entered on Wednesday for the 134th Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

Mine That Bird, the upset winner of the Kentucky Derby, did far better, winding up in post 2.

Rachel Alexandra is the lone filly in the Preakness field. Yet even though she will be making her first start against males, Rachel Alexandra was so impressive in the Oaks that she is the favorite on the morning lines set by both Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, and Frank Carulli of Pimlico.

Watchmaker has Rachel Alexandra at 9-5, with Mine That Bird next at 9-2. Carulli made Rachel Alexandra the 8-5 favorite, with Pioneerof the Nile, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, the second choice at 5-1. Carulli has both Friesan Fire, who was 18th as the favorite in the Derby, and Mine That Bird the co-third choices at 6-1.

The outside post did not seem to faze those connected with Rachel Alexandra, who was pointed to the Preakness only after she was purchased privately last week by Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stable and Harold McCormick and turned over to trainer Steve Asmussen.

"After speaking with Steve and Mr. Jackson we're happy with the draw," said Scott Blasi, Asmussen's top assistant, who accompanied Rachel Alexandra to Pimlico from Churchill Downs on Wednesday. Blasi said they were happy Rachel Alexandra would not be surrounded by male horses. And the possibility of losing ground, Blasi said, could be overcome by Rachel Alexandra's good early speed. "There's a long run to the first turn," he said.

Rachel Alexandra had to be supplemented to the Preakness by Jackson and McCormick at a cost of $100,000. That is added to the purse of the race, making the second leg of the Triple Crown worth $1.1 million. The Preakness is run at 1 3/16 miles, 110 yards shorter than the Derby, 110 yards farther than the Oaks.

Rachel Alexandra is the first Oaks winner to contest the Preakness. Of the 52 fillies who have run in the Preakness previously, only four have won, and not since Nellie Morse in 1924. Winning Colors, the 1988 Derby winner, was the last filly to be favored in the Preakness. She finished third. Rachel Alexandra could be the first horse since Linkage in 1982 to be favored in the Preakness after not running in the Derby.

The field was drawn late Wednesday afternoon at Pimlico in a traditional format, with a numbered pill being dispensed from a plastic bottle concurrent with a slip of paper bearing a horse's name. A murmur went through the crowd when "13" and "Rachel Alexandra" were called by Dave Rodman, the track announcer, who moderated the draw.

The speedy Big Drama, another prominent newcomer to the Triple Crown trail, drew the rail. Another horse who is likely to be near the front, Friesan Fire, got post 5.

"I'm happy with it, but I was happy with 6 at the Derby, and that didn't turn out to be a good spot," said Larry Jones, the trainer of Friesan Fire. "Hopefully this will be better."

The Preakness is the 12th race on a 13-race card that begins at 10:15 a.m. Eastern. Post time for the Preakness has been announced as 6:15 p.m., but is expected to be later. The race will be televised live by NBC.

Rachel Alexandra arrived at Pimlico on Wednesday afternoon at 4:20 p.m. following a flight from Kentucky. She was joined on the flight by Preakness runners Pioneerof the Nile and Terrain.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Al Stall Jr., the trainer of Terrain. "This is my first classic."

Rachel Alexandra's arrival was highly anticipated. Most Preakness runners are housed in a single stakes barn, and trainers with horses there congregated near the ramp where Rachel Alexandra and her flying partners were unloaded.

It was a casual, lighthearted atmosphere. Gary Stute, the trainer of Papa Clem, came by with a beer in his hand.

"I'm going to have one," Stute said. "Might as well. My whole staff is."

Rachel Alexandra had a routine gallop at Churchill Downs before departing, Asmussen said.

Mine That Bird got his first feel of the Pimlico main track on Wednesday morning, a little more than 12 hours after his arrival from Churchill Downs. His trainer, Chip Woolley, joked that the police escort Mine That Bird received for the final few miles of the trip was "the first time I've even been escorted by the police and didn't go to jail."

Woolley drove the van during the 10-hour trip, and said a few people along the highways recognized him and realized he was hauling the Derby winner.

"The cars would go by, then they'd slow down and wave," he said.

At the one place Woolley stopped to eat, he said no one realized the horse in the parking lot was Mine That Bird. Woolley did not put anything on the van, like a bumper sticker, to identify his cargo was Mine That Bird.

"I'm a no-flash kind of guy," he said. "I like to fly under the radar. That's not me. That's not my style. I'm glad nobody noticed. I guess it's pretty easy to recognize me right now."

Flying Private, General Quarters, and Luv Gov also went to the track on Wednesday after arriving by van from Churchill Downs on Tuesday.

Ten of the 13 Preakness horses were on the grounds as of Wednesday evening. Musket Man (who is based at Monmouth Park), Take the Points (Belmont Park), and Tone It Down (Laurel) are all scheduled to arrive early Saturday morning via van rides.

Mine That Bird won the Derby over a sloppy, sealed track at Churchill Downs. He may get another off track for the Preakness. Forecasts called for a 30-percent chance of rain, including isolated thunderstorms, on Saturday, with similar conditions for Friday. The high temperature both days is predicted to be in the upper 70s.

$1.1 million Preakness Stakes

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Big Drama J. Velazquez D. Fawkes 10-1
2 Mine That Bird M. Smith B. Woolley Jr. 9-2
3 Musket Man E. Coa D. Ryan 10-1
4 Luv Gov J. Theriot D.W. Lukas 50-1
5 Friesan Fire G. Saez L. Jones 10-1
6 Terrain J. Rose A. Stall Jr. 30-1
7 Papa Clem R. Bejarano G. Stute 8-1
8 General Quarters J. Leparoux T. McCarthy 20-1
9 Pioneerof the Nile G. Gomez B. Baffert 5-1
10 Flying Private A. Garcia D.W. Lukas 50-1
11 Take the Points E. Prado T. Pletcher 30-1
12 Tone It Down K. Desormeaux W. Komlo 50-1
13 Rachel Alexandra C. Borel S. Asmussen 9-5

DRF odds by Mike Watchmaker