04/26/2010 11:00PM

Rachel ready for rematch


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - While the highlight of Friday's 12-race Churchill Downs card is supposed to be the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, it is a race run 4 1/2 hours earlier that will likely steal the spotlight.

Defending Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra tries to get her 2010 campaign back on track when she meets Zardana - who defeated her in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes in March - and four others in the Grade 2, $400,000 La Troienne Stakes. The La Troienne, run at 1 1/16 miles, is carded as race 6 and goes off at 1:26 p.m. Eastern. It is the first of five stakes that are run before the Oaks.

Last year, Rachel Alexandra set the standard by which all other Kentucky Oaks will be measured with her record winning margin of 20 1/4 lengths in a near stakes-record time. She would go on to win the Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell, and Woodward en route to being crowned Horse of the Year.

The La Troienne will be her second start of the year and first since being upset by the John Shirreffs-trained Zardana in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds on March 13. That performance prompted owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen to pull the plug on an anticipated showdown with the undefeated Breeders' Cup Classic winner Zenyatta last month at Oaklawn Park.

But in her recent morning training, Rachel Alexandra has shown signs of her former championship self.

"I'm very anxious for Friday, I think that's the measure of where we're at," Asmussen said. "We're very happy with how healthy she is and how well she's traveling. She has a ton of ability, but she is not back up to the speed that she was last summer yet. We're hoping that a good race Friday puts us back in that direction."

Rachel Alexandra drew post 4 and will be ridden by Calvin Borel. Zardana, who arrived from Southern California on Tuesday, drew post 3 and will carry 120 pounds under David Flores. Unrivaled Belle, who won the Deputy Minister at Gulfstream last out, Be Fair, Morena and Distinctive Dixie complete the field.

Alysheba: Bullsbay seeks repeat

Macho Again and Bullsbay, who finished second and third behind Rachel Alexandra in the Woodward last September, head a field of nine entered in the Grade 3, $150,000 Alysheba Stakes. Bullsbay, who won this race last year, beat Macho Again by 1 1/2 lengths in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga.

Friesan Fire, who finished 18th as the favorite in last year's Kentucky Derby, returns to Churchill Downs in the Alysheba. Other 2009 Derby alumni in this field include Chocolate Candy (fifth) and Flying Private (last). Arson Squad, Bold Start, Prom Shoes, and Cool Coal Man complete the field.

American Turf: Field of 11

Wanna-be Kentucky Derby starters Make Music for Me and Setsuko, who on Tuesday were on the outside looking in for the big race, were both entered as part of an 11-horse field for the Grade 2, $175,000 American Turf Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

In his only start on turf, Setsuko finished second in an allowance race. He then finished second in the Sham Stakes and Santa Anita Derby, run over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface. Make Music for Me won the Pasadena Stakes in his only turf start.

Lost Aptitude, who is 2 for 2 over the Churchill turf, and Doubles Partner, who is 2 for 2 on turf, are the most accomplished turf 3-year-olds in the race.

In other stakes:

* Chamberlain Bridge, who won last year's $100,000 Churchill Downs Turf Sprint Stakes by a head, seeks a repeat against 10 rivals in the 15th running of the five-furlong turf sprint. Chamberlain Bridge will break from post 3 in an 11-horse field that includes Shakertown winner Silver Timber.

* A trio of fillies coming off dominant maiden wins look like the top competitors against six colts in the Grade 3, $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile at five furlongs. Twelve Pack Shelly was a 10 3/4-length winner at Laurel for John Salzman Jr., and the Wesley Ward uncoupled entry of Final Mesa and Nina Fever are coming off wins of 7 1/2 lengths and eight lengths, respectively.

Lou Brissie and Wetzel are the only colts in the field to have won. The race includes four maidens.