06/08/2010 11:00PM

Rachel will face just four in Fleur de Lis


By Marty McGee

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Rachel Alexandra will be a huge favorite when she faces just four other fillies and mares Saturday at Churchill Downs in the Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, a race in which the 2009 Horse of the Year will be seeking her first victory as a 4-year-old.

Calvin Borel will be aboard Rachel Alexandra for the 12th straight time when the superstar filly breaks from post 4. Rachel Alexandra will spot her opponents seven to 11 pounds when carrying high weight of 124 pounds in the Fleur de Lis, a 1 1/8-mile race that figures to garner at least as much national attention as the richer Stephen Foster Handicap, a Grade 1, $600,000 race that is also part of Saturday's card.

Jess Jackson, majority owner and managing partner in Rachel Alexandra, announced Wednesday morning that he had selected the Fleur de Lis over three other Saturday races: the Foster, the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park, and the Grade 3 Obeah at Delaware Park.

Rachel Alexandra won all eight starts last year to earn Horse of the Year honors but was defeated in both tries at 4. She was second at 1-20 odds to Zardana in the March 13 New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds, then second at 1-5 to Unrivaled Belle in the La Troienne Stakes on the April 30 Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill. Since the La Troienne, Rachel Alexandra has had five workouts at Churchill for trainer Steve Asmussen.

By e-mail through his public-relations representative, Caroline Shaw, Jackson said Wednesday that "as long as she continues to progress, we intend to race her with the expectation that she will obtain her fitness level of last year. Our ultimate goal and hope is to enter the Breeders' Cup in November."

From the rail, this is the lineup for the 36th Fleur de Lis: Multipass, 113, Jose Lezcano; Made for Magic, 117, Omar Berrio; Distinctive Dixie, 114, Robby Albarado; Rachel Alexandra, 124, Borel; and Jessica Is Back, 116, Garrett Gomez.

Jessica Is Back, a Florida shipper trained by Marty Wolfson, could be the second choice with Gomez riding. The 6-year-old Jessica Is Back has 11 wins and 13 seconds from 42 starts and comes off a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne.

The other most plausible upset possibility is another highly experienced runner, Made for Magic, a California shipper trained by A.C. Avila. The 5-year-old Made for Magic has 8 wins from 33 starts and comes off a May 16 victory in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap on the synthetic surface at Hollywood Park.

Borel has been aboard Rachel Alexandra in every race since the filly won her final start as a 2-year-old, the Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill.

HRTV will provide live coverage of all the Foster Day races. Post time for the Fleur de Lis, the sixth of 11 races, is set for 3:26 p.m. Eastern, with the Foster going at 5:29.