05/06/2009 11:00PM

Rachel now with Asmussen; Preakness an option

Email

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Rachel Alexandra was transferred early Thursday into the Churchill Downs stable of trainer Steve Asmussen, who said the May 16 Preakness Stakes is an option for the standout filly.

Rachel Alexandra, a record-setting winner of the May 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill, was led by Asmussen and his assistant, Scott Blasi, from the Churchill barn of her previous trainer, Hal Wiggins, at about 5:15 a.m. Thursday. Jess Jackson, who purchased the filly the previous day for an undisclosed price in the name of his Stonestreet Stables and in partnership with Harold T. McCormick, a longtime friend, was on hand at Churchill for the exchange.

About an hour after being led into the Asmussen shed row, Rachel Alexandra was sent out for routine training. Asmussen called her "a tremendous physical specimen. We're honored to be around her. She looked great going over the racetrack this morning. The way she looks and the way she trains is a credit to Mr. Wiggins and his staff."

Asked later if it was the Jackson's intentions to race her against males in the Preakness at Pimlico, Asmussen said: "Her ability allows for a tremendous number of options."

Asmussen said he intends to put Rachel Alexandra through an easy workout "Sunday or Monday, depending on the weather and the condition of the surface," and that there was no specific timetable regarding a decision on whether she will run in the Preakness.

Entries for the Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, will be taken Wednesday. Rachel Alexandra is not nominated to the Triple Crown and therefore would have to be supplemented for a $100,000 fee. Supplemental entries in any Triple Crown race have lowest preference for making the field, so in the case that more than 14 horses are entered in the Preakness, she would be excluded.

Pimlico officials said they had been contacted Tuesday by a Stonestreet representative about procedures involving supplemental entries but that the name of a specific horse had not been mentioned.

If Rachel Alexandra were to run in the Preakness, it is unclear how that would affect Calvin Borel, who became just the seventh jockey in history to win the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby on the same weekend. A little more than 24 hours after winning aboard Rachel Alexandra in the Oaks, Borel rode Mine That Bird to a 50-1 upset in the Derby. Borel's agent, Jerry Hissam, declined to comment when asked about a hypothetical conflict, although he might not even have to make such a difficult decision, since Jackson and Asmussen rarely employ Borel on their horses.

Robby Albarado was the regular rider for Jackson and Asmussen on Curlin, their 2007-08 Horse of the Year. Asked if acquiring Albarado's services for the Preakness was in the works, Asmussen said: "That decision has not been made."

Rachel Alexandra was sold by her breeder, Dolph Morrison, who co-owned her with Mike Lauffer in L and M Partners, LLC. Wiggins has trained for many years for Morrison, a retired steel executive from Alabama who now lives in Columbia, Mo.

"Obviously it's very tough losing a filly like her from your stable," said Wiggins, who currently has about 14 horses, with a handful of 2-year-olds on the way. "But it's a business decision, and I certainly understand. In a day or two, we'll be back to our normal routine here. Life will go on."

Rachel Alexandra won the 135th Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths, easily the widest winning margin in the race since 1910, the earliest date for which Churchill has such records. The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro has won her last five starts.