08/30/2010 3:08PM

Rachel's camp takes moment to regroup

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Barbara D. Livingston
Persistently gets a kiss from Allison McGaughey, wife of trainer Shug McGaughey, after her upset win.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Still stung by her loss in Sunday’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes, the connections of Rachel Alexandra were not prepared on Monday to look ahead to the racing future of the reigning Horse of the Year.

“We all have to take a step back and see how things go,” said Barbara Banke, the wife of Jess Jackson, the primary owner of Rachel Alexandra. “You bet we’ll be thinking about what we should do. We want to do what’s best for her, so we’ll figure it out.”

Asked about the possibility of retirement for Rachel Alexandra, trainer Steve Asmussen said “that wasn’t brought up to me,” in conversations with Jackson Sunday night.

Jackson, who watched the race from California, put out a press release on Sunday saying he was disappointed that Rachel Alexandra lost, but the release did not address her future.

No decision on Rachel’s future is likely to be made until she returns to training. She is expected to return to the track on Wednesday, but it could be two weeks before she works again. Asmussen said he is considering skipping Rachel Alexandra’s traditional postrace breeze nine days after the race, to get back on a Monday schedule.

If Rachel Alexandra does run again, her next start would most likely occur in the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont Park on Oct. 2. That 1 1/8-mile race comes five weeks after the Personal Ensign and five weeks before the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

“We’ll talk to Jess and decide what’s next,” Asmussen said. “Still trying to absorb [Sunday].”

After putting away a pace challenge from Life At Ten in the Personal Ensign, Rachel Alexandra tried to persevere to the wire under Calvin Borel only to get nailed in the final 50 yards by Persistently, a 4-year-old filly who had never before won a stakes race. Persistently won by a length over Rachel Alexandra, who finished 10 1/4 lengths clear of Life At Ten. Persistently covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.49 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

Borel said Rachel Alexandra was basically running at the same pace from the quarter pole to the wire despite his urging. Borel hit Rachel 14 times with his whip in the stretch.

The shock and disappointment that Asmussen felt immediately about losing after the race did not dissipate by Monday morning.

“If I’d ever went to sleep last night I would have woke up saying, 'You’re lying,' ” Asmussen said.

Asmussen said that Rachel Alexandra was “blowing extremely hard” after the race ,but by Monday morning she was in good shape. Asmussen said Rachel Alexandra looked good and jogged sound Monday morning.

Meanwhile, trainer Shug McGaughey was still basking in Persistently’s upset victory over Rachel Alexandra. McGaughey trained Personal Ensign to an undefeated career for the Phipps family, which bred and owns Persistently. Ogden Phipps, who turns 70 in September, was in attendance at the race. Phipps had been hospitalized for a long time last year because of circulatory problems.

“With all Mr. Phipps has been through, for that to happen and win the Personal Ensign with their family was pretty exciting for me,’’ McGaughey said.

McGaughey said that Persistently would be pointed to the Beldame, which could possibly be a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic.