07/26/2009 11:00PM

Rachel looking good as ever

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Barbara D. Livingston
Rachel Alexandra, at Saratoga Monday, will try follow her Preakness and Mother Goose victories with a successful run in this Sunday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Though he had just arrived in town only a few hours earlier, trainer Steve Asmussen was happy to be up and about at the Oklahoma training track just before 6 a.m. Monday.

After watching his prized filly Rachel Alexandra work an easy half-mile in 49.23 seconds, Asmussen is getting even more excited for Sunday's $1.25 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, in which Rachel Alexandra will try to beat the boys for a second time this year.

"I'm excited to run her," Asmussen said. "She's extremely talented. Being in racing, that's what you want to be a part of. She needs a few more healthy days and we'll see how it works out."

Monday's workout was Rachel Alexandra's fourth move since coming to Saratoga following her record-setting 19 1/4-length victory in the Mother Goose at Belmont on June 27. It was her final breeze before she meets Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird and the multiple graded stakes winner Munnings in the Haskell at 1 1/8 miles. In May, Rachel Alexandra defeated males in the Preakness, becoming the first filly since 1924 to pull off that feat.

According to exercise rider Dominic Terry, Rachel Alexandra has blossomed during the month she's spent at Saratoga.

"I think she likes this track a lot," Terry said. "She's had some good works. I'm happy with how strong she is, how much energy she's had. I think she likes the cool air up here. She's actually been a lot more playful and a lot stronger to gallop in the morning than before."

Terry said he is glad owner Jess Jackson and Asmussen did not run her in the Delaware Handicap on July 19, a race that had been under consideration.

"She's come into herself waiting for this race as opposed to running at Delaware," Terry said.

In Monday's work, done under cloudy skies and muggy conditions, Rachel Alexandra went off her first eighth-mile in 13.10 seconds, picked it up to go a quarter in 25.01, and then came home in 24.22 seconds. She galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.78 and pulled up six furlongs in 1:18.03.

"I was really happy when she was coming to the wire," Terry said. "She was pricking her ears around, and that's how I knew she was doing it easy. She galloped out amazing."

Asmussen said Rachel Alexandra's big move was last week when she went six furlongs in 1:13.80.

"This week, we're just staying in a nice rhythm, keep plenty of energy in her, want her on her feet, want her responsive to Calvin in his hands so he can do what he thinks is appropriate with her come race day," Asmussen said.

Asmussen was referring to jockey Calvin Borel, who has ridden the filly in her last seven races and who was among those in attendance Monday to watch her work.

"She looked awesome this morning. She's ready," Borel said. "When she gets her ears flapping like that, that tells me she's comfortable and happy and ready to run."

Rachel Alexandra will leave Saratoga by van early Friday morning for Monmouth Park, where she will school in the paddock later in the day during the races.