03/08/2010 12:00AM

Rachel will face four foes in return

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NEW ORLEANS - Rachel Alexandra had her final work for Saturday's New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds, going a half-mile in 49 seconds there Monday. A few hours later, she drew post 2 in a field of five fillies and mares in the 1 1/16-mile race.

The work on Monday was her seventh since Jan. 31.

"It was just an easy half, to get along with her," said trainer Steve Asmussen. "She traveled well. She's a beautiful mover. How she runs is what makes her special."

Rachel Alexandra arrived at the track at 6:19 a.m., accompanied by assistant trainer Scott Blasi on pony, and walked the wrong way around the track before turning and being turned loose.

With regular exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard, Rachel Alexandra jogged toward the half-mile pole, turning slightly, before Terry let her begin to work in earnest. Her splits were 25.20 seconds, 37.20, and then a last furlong in 11.80. She galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.80.

The series of works is meant to have her ready for the New Orleans Ladies, a prep race for her anticipated meeting with Zenyatta in the Apple Blossom Invitational on April 9 at Oaklawn. Zenyatta also runs Saturday, in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita.

If Rachel Alexandra is in the form that earned her Horse of the Year honors last year, the competition in the New Orleans Ladies will be left to fight over the spoils on Saturday. But with only six weeks to prepare her for the race, Asmussen wasn't certain about her fitness.

"She's not 100 percent fit for this, and we're aware of that," he said. "But she's a very physical horse. She is Rachel."

Rachel Alexandra drew just outside the apparent speed of the race, Fighter Wing, and just inside Zardana, who is a John Shirreffs-trained stablemate of Zenyatta.

Fighter Wing's trainer, Greg Geier, was the only trainer present at the draw, and he was grinning ear to ear as he noted the post positions.

"I love my draw, because the front end is the way she wants to run," he said. "I'll be out early, and Rachel will probably be right there, too."

Zardana is scheduled to arrive Wednesday from Shirreffs's California stable and is capable of applying pace pressure or stalking.

Leaving from post 4 is Unforgotten, trained by Dallas Stewart. Unforgotten is a closer who finished seventh in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream on Jan. 30 and second at Fair Grounds in the DRF Distaff on Dec. 19.

Clear Sailing, trained by Glenn Delahoussaye, drew post 5. Clear Sailing has improved in each of her four races and brings a three-race win streak and an undefeated record at Fair Grounds into the race. She'll be looking for the kind of closing trip that saw her get up by a neck in the Pelleteri at Fair Grounds last month.