09/01/2009 11:00PM

Rachel going for a piece of history

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Barbara D. Livingston
Bullsbay, trained by Graham Motion, was a strong winner in last month's Whitney.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - On paper, the task would appear daunting. A 3-year-old filly taking on a group of older male horses who have combined to win 23 stakes - 13 graded - and earn $9,011,613.

But in the case of Rachel Alexandra, Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward appears to be just another stepping-stone on the road to racing immortality. Rachel Alexandra will attempt to become the first female of any age to win the Woodward when that historic race is run for the 56th time, the fourth straight year at Saratoga. Rachel Alexandra has won eight consecutive races - all stakes - including victories against 3-year-old males in the . This is her first time facing older males.

"We want to prove she's a great horse, one for the history books," Barbara Banke, wife of Rachel Alexandra's primary owner, Jess Jackson, said after Rachel Alexandra drew post 3 and was installed as the 1-2 morning-line favorite for the Woodward by the New York Racing Association's linesmaker, Eric Donovan.

No 3-year-old filly has won a Grade 1 route dirt race against older males in the modern era. In 2000, the 3-year-old filly Surfside won the Grade 2 Clark Handicap against older males at Churchill Downs. In 1986, the 4-year-old Lady's Secret finished second to Precisionist in the Woodward.

The roster of Woodward winners includes Forego (four times), Kelso (three times), Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, Cigar (twice), and Curlin. This year's crop of older males would not be confused with those legends, but they may be a bit underrated.

Bullsbay comes off an emphatic victory in the Whitney Handicap here last month. Macho Again won the Stephen Foster and was second in the Whitney. It's a Bird has won the Oaklawn and Lone Star Park handicaps as well as the Sunshine Millions Classic. Cool Coal Man was very impressive winning an overnight stakes here on Aug. 10.

"She gives us confidence watching her train, watching her energy level that she can beat any horse on any given day," said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "That being said, I do feel this is the strongest group she's faced."

As a 3-year-old filly, Rachel Alexandra gets in with 118 pounds, eight fewer than her male counterparts, who all carry 126 pounds. Regular rider Calvin Borel will be up.

"It's a big deal giving it to a horse of that quality, definitely," said Graham Motion, trainer of the Woodward second choice, Bullsbay. "Without having a standout older horse around too, it's probably a good year for her to be taking on older horses."

In post 3, Rachel Alexandra is outside the speedy Da' Tara, who is on the rail, but inside of Past the Point, who will break from post 8. Past the Point set the pace in last year's Woodward before being run down by Curlin.

"Everybody's in the same boat," said Brian Ange, assistant to Past the Point's trainer, Eoin Harty. "She's facing older horses for the first time, and they're facing her for the first time."

The field:

Post position (program number)

1. (1) Da' Tara - Jose Lezcano - Nick Zito - 12-1

2. (2) Bullsbay - Jeremy Rose - Graham Motion - 6-1

3. (3) Rachel Alexandra - Calvin Borel - Steve Asmussen - 1-2

4. (1A) Cool Coal Man - John Velazquez - Nick Zito - 12-1

5. (4) Macho Again - Robby Albarado - Dallas Stewart - 8-1

6. (5) It's a Bird - Julien Leparoux - Marty Wolfson - 10-1

7. (6) Asiatic Boy - Alan Garcia - Kiaran McLaughlin - 10-1

8. (7) Past the Point - Edgar Prado - Eoin Harty 15-1

* Da' Tara and Cool Coal Man coupled