04/26/2010 12:00AM

Rachel looks like old self in Churchill breeze


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra turned in her final prep for Friday's $400,000 La Troienne Stakes when breezing four furlongs in 49.87 seconds over a sloppy track early Monday morning at Churchill Downs.

With regular exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard, Rachel Alexandra was bucking and playing and ready to roll once released by assistant trainer Scott Blasi, aboard a pony, approaching the six-furlong pole. Terry was able to keep Rachel Alexandra well within herself once breaking off at the half-mile pole, getting her to settle into a relaxed stride to complete her opening furlong in 13.37 and quarter in 25.78. Rachel Alexandra picked up the pace without need of urging upon exiting the turn, rolling strongly through her final quarter in 24.09 before galloping out five-eighths in 1:03.56.

"The level of excitement for Friday, it's definitely there," said Steve Asmussen, who trains the filly for owner Jess Jackson, after watching Rachel Alexandra's work from the grandstand. "I am very, very pleased with her. She's doing very well."

The La Troienne will be Rachel Alexandra's second start of the season and first since she launched her 2010 campaign finishing second to Zardana in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds on March 13. The La Troienne will mark her first start at Churchill Downs since her outstanding performance in the Kentucky Oaks one year earlier.

Asmussen said putting Rachel Alexandra back on her old schedule has been the key to getting her ready for her second start of the year.

"After trying to rush her back and seeing how it didn't work, Mr. Jackson and the whole team thought we should get her back on her once a week schedule and see how that went," said Asmussen. "Her last two works before we left the Fair Grounds were not what we've come to expect from Rachel, but the three works she had before this morning were what we have come to expect."

The La Troienne is expected to again pit Rachel Alexandra against Zardana as well as Grade 1 winner Careless Jewel, who will make her first start since finishing eighth as the 9-5 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.

Other possible starters in the Grade 2 La Troienne include Be Fair, Morena and Unrivaled Belle.

-additional reporting by Marty McGee