06/23/2009 11:00PM

Rachel will pass on Breeders' Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Owner Jess Jackson said Rachel Alexandra could face males in races such as the Haskell or Travers but would not race on a synthetic surface.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Owner Jess Jackson said Wednesday he would love to race his Preakness-winning filly Rachel Alexandra against the boys again this year, but that she would not compete in this year's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. He also suggested that she could run again next year as a 4-year-old.

Jackson made those remarks during a conference call Wednesday to preview Rachel Alexandra's return to the races in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Mother Goose at Belmont Park. Rachel Alexandra drew post 3 in a field of five 3-year-old fillies and was installed as the 1-5 favorite by Belmont linemaker Eric Donovan. The Mother Goose will go as race 9, scheduled for 5:17 p.m., on a 10-race program. No show wagering will be available.

The Mother Goose will be Rachel Alexandra's first race since she defeated Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and 11 other males in the Preakness, becoming the first filly to win that race since Nellie Morse in 1924. She was held out of the Belmont Stakes because her connections felt she needed more time, but Jackson said Wednesday he had no reservations about trying Rachel Alexandra against the boys in races such as the Haskell and/or Travers.

"If she stays healthy, we'll try to pick out a spot where she could compete with the boys," Jackson said. "We're even considering a 4-year-old campaign."

What Jackson isn't considering is a start in the Breeders' Cup, regardless of whether it's against the boys or the girls. His main reason is that the Breeders' Cup will be run on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita, the same surface that the Jackson-owned Curlin finished fourth over in last year's Classic.

"That's absolutely certain," Jackson said about skipping the Breeders' Cup. "If I'm going to run [next year], the Breeders' Cup is not that essential for her. I just don't want to risk her. You may not think it's a risk, but I saw what Curlin did and how he struggled and I saw four or five other horses that raced on plastic and they struggled. If it's a dirt horse, it's a dirt horse."

Jackson said one reason he is contemplating keeping Rachel Alexandra in training next year is because the Breeders' Cup is scheduled to be run at Churchill Downs, which has a traditional dirt surface.

Jackson was noncommittal about Rachel Alexandra's summer campaign beyond the Mother Goose. He mentioned the $1 million Delaware Handicap (July 19), the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks here (July 25), the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park (Aug. 2), the Alabama (Aug. 22), and the Travers (Aug. 29) - both at Saratoga - as races that would be considered for Rachel Alexandra.

"We're going to read the horse and see what condition she is in and consider the best options we have," Jackson said.

Rachel Alexandra seemed to be in fine condition Wednesday morning when she took to the Belmont Park main track for a one-mile gallop. Being it was her first day at a new track, Rachel Alexandra appeared quite curious as she galloped around the spacious 1 1/2-mile oval under exercise rider Dominic Terry.

"I think she was really comfortable on the big track, she was looking at the grass in the infield a little bit," Terry said. "Hopefully [Thursday] she'll be nice and settled in. I thought she went as beautiful as she does any other day. She walked home really relaxed, not breathing hard; just looking around and getting to know the place."

Both Terry and assistant trainer Scott Blasi were in agreement that skipping the Belmont Stakes makes Rachel Alexandra a much stronger filly entering the Mother Goose.

"Our comfort level right now as opposed to going into the Preakness is very high," said Blasi, the assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. "She hasn't had a bad day, but you can tell she's stronger, especially after that work last week. It was a strong work, and she came out of it with a lot of energy."

Calvin Borel will once again be aboard Rachel Alexandra and will be riding here for the first time since he rode Mine That Bird to a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. Going into that race, Borel didn't feel that he needed a preliminary ride over Belmont's main track - a surface he hadn't ridden on since 2007 - and didn't ride any races leading up to the Belmont. Saturday, Borel is named to ride three races before the Mother Goose.

As expected, Rachel's competition in the Mother Goose will include Flashing, winner of 4 of 5 starts including the Nassau County; Florida Oaks winner Don't Forget Gil; and Malibu Prayer. Hopeful Image (50-1) was a late entry from part-owner/trainer Gerald Procino.

"We weren't going to run there, but the racing office nudged us a little bit; maybe we can do a little better than fifth," Procino said. "Rachel is by herself, then there's the rest of us."