09/02/2009 12:00AM

Rachel's morning chauffeur

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Barbara D. Livingston
Dominic Terry is much happier working with Rachel Alexandra in the mornings than he was riding in races during the afternoon.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - As first impressions go, Rachel Alexandra didn't really make a lasting one on exercise rider Dominic Terry the first time he got on her back.

"She just galloped a mile, and you know I wasn't totally impressed,'' said Terry, who rode more than 1,000 races in his career as a jockey.

Things have certainly changed since that early May morning when Rachel Alexandra was purchased by Jess Jackson, transferred to trainer Steve Asmussen, and entrusted to the 23-year-old Terry.

"Since she's been in our barn she's grown to be more impressive in the mornings,'' Terry said.

Terry should know. Since May 7, he has been the only one to get on Rachel Alexandra in the morning. Terry has played a vital role in the development of Rachel Alexandra, who will take on older males in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. No filly or mare has won the Woodward, which is being run for the 56th time on Saturday.

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Rachel Alexandra brings an eight-race winning streak into the Woodward. Since being transferred to Asmussen, Rachel Alexandra beat 3-year-olds in the .

All totaled, Rachel Alexandra has gone 7 for 7 this year, all in stakes. But to hear Terry tell it, the long campaign has not had an impact on the sturdy 3-year-old filly.

"The campaign needs to catch up to her,'' Terry said earlier this week after putting Rachel Alexandra through her final Woodward workout. "I'm waiting for the day that one of the races does tone her down a notch. When she came back after the Haskell I'm like I know that had to affect her in some way and it just didn't.''

Terry said Rachel Alexandra's first day back to the track following the Haskell "she was stronger than the day before the race.''

So what is it that makes Rachel Alexandra different from any other horse?

"It's got be her stride,'' Terry said. "You come down the lane on a regular horse they take a bunch of steps. With her, [Monday] morning I felt like it took five or six strides from the top of the lane to when I passed you guys at the wire, and what makes her different is that she jumps so far. Horses just don't do that and that's what makes her do everything so effortlessly, I believe.''

Terry wound up on Rachel Alexandra through a longstanding relationship with Asmussen. Terry rode for Asmussen in 2004-05 at Sunland Park and in 2007 at Evangeline Downs. He also rode for Asmussen at Fair Grounds in 2008 and at the time galloped the multiple graded stakes winner Pyro.

"He's a very good horseman,'' Asmussen said of Terry. "Either you can or you can't. He has that talent, whatever that talent is.''

Asmussen praised Terry for his ability to keep Rachel Alexandra from doing too much in her morning workouts.

"I think he's done a tremendous job with her, getting her broke off, getting her smooth in her works, getting to the pole and getting her away from the pole smooth, because that's the one thing about talent, you can do too much,'' Asmussen said.

Terry, who was born in Baltimore but who grew up on Long Island not far from Belmont Park, is the son of former jockeys Elizabeth Kirkland and James Terry. Kirkland still gallops horses in south Florida while James Terry owns horses with trainer Henry Collazo.

"They call me every day to get the updates,'' Dominic Terry said. "They're extremely proud of me and remind me every day of how blessed I am and put me in my place.''

Terry has won 74 Thoroughbred races in his career. He has not ridden in a race since last November at Fair Grounds. While Terry said weight has been an issue for him, he said it's not the reason he is not riding in the afternoon.

"It's hard to make a living and it's not that I can't make the weight. It affects my work habits,'' said Terry, who weighs 117 pounds. "It puts me in a bad mood to be hungry and stuff like that. It's not that I physically can't do it, but it doesn't make any sense because I'm not happy and I'm not working as hard as I normally do.''

Terry said he has no plans to return to race-riding until after Rachel Alexandra retires. Jackson has said that he plans to run Rachel Alexandra next year, meaning Terry's return could be more than a year away.

"I'll sit down and see what I want to do,'' Terry said. "With the support of Jess Jackson and the money he spends and the horses he brings into the stable, I believe there'll only be one Rachel, but there'll be other good ones coming in. I don't see another like her in my lifetime.''