04/29/2009 12:00AM

Rachel showed her talent from start


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Rachel Alexandra stood out from the moment she arrived at Diamond D Ranch in Lone Oak, Texas, to be begin her initial training stages in August 2007. And it wasn't just because of the yearling filly's strapping size, her big stride, or the unique blaze that runs down her face.

"Her mother was tough to break, and when Rachel showed up she had that shark eye, that big white eye on her, and I said, 'Oh my goodness, this is going to be fun,' " said Jimmy Dodwell, who manages Diamond D for his semi-retired father, Ed Dodwell.

A white eye is often associated with meanness, but Jimmy Dodwell said Rachel Alexandra proved to be nothing of the sort. Instead, she was a model student, and if she wins the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, she would be the first Grade 1 winner to come out of one of the Southwest's most noted training centers, located about an hour and half from Lone Star Park.

Ed Dodwell, his wife, Caroline, and Jimmy break about 100 yearlings each season at Diamond D, with their operation opening its doors in 1981. They have given early training to 124 stakes winners, some of the most notable being Kentucky Derby starter Jim's Orbit, Morris Code, Baghdaria, Darby's Daughter, Showtime Deb, Rapid Proof, and Yes I'm Blue. Also on the farm was the promising Unbridled Express.

But the best horse to come through Diamond D in close to 30 years of operation might prove to be Rachel Alexandra, who races for longtime Dodwell client Dolph Morrison and Mike Lauffer. She was part of a 2007 crop at the farm that included Silver City, Indygo Mountain, and Abbott Hall, and she was into being a racehorse from the start, Jimmy Dodwell said.

"Rachel was always good, she did everything perfect," he said. "She took to it like a fish to water.

"We broke her in the fall and turned her out 60 days in the pasture. The pasture was close to the track, and while the other horses would be grazing, a lot of times I would see her up at the fence, watching the horses up at the track. She was different."

Dodwell said that when Rachel Alexandra resumed training and progressed to working, her talent became evident.

"It was the way she did it, it was effortless," he said. "That's the way she is now."

Rachel Alexandra finished her early training sessions at Diamond D in May 2008 and was shipped to trainer Hal Wiggins at Churchill Downs. She heads into the Kentucky Oaks off four dominant stakes wins: the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill in November, the $50,000 Martha Washington at Oaklawn in February, the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, and the Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn in April.

Ed Dodwell said it was particularly special to have had a horse like Rachel Alexandra go through the program at Diamond D.

"It means everything," said Dodwell, who had a heart attack in September 2004 and has since had seven neck operations that have left him with partial paralysis on his left side. "That's the one we've been sitting on the front porch waiting on."

"She's one of a kind, it looks like," Jimmy Dodwell said.

Rosier gets first Derby mount

Jockey Chris Rosier rode at Lone Star last weekend and has since been at Churchill Downs, where he will be aboard Summer Bird in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. It will be the first mount in the storied race for the 28-year-old rider, who later this month will be based at Louisiana Downs.

Rosier has been aboard Summer Bird in each of his starts, all at Oaklawn. The horse won his maiden in his two-turn debut March 19, then stepped up and finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind winner Papa Clem, in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11.

"He ran well," Rosier said. "He put himself where he wanted to and he came closing, and a little bit more ground, I think he was there.

"He's so mature for a young age. He only has three starts, but the colt runs like he's been doing it forever. He's got a well-settled mind to him, as far as when he runs. He relaxes for you.

"I'm excited about the race. I think he's handled the track well, really well, and I look for him to improve. He'll show up."

Tim Ice trains Summer Bird, who races for K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman.