01/14/2009 1:00AM

Spotlight falls on Rachel Alexandra


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The best 3-year-olds to come out of Oaklawn Park last year were fillies: Eight Belles, who ran second in the Kentucky Derby following her win in the Grade 2 Fantasy, and Pure Clan, her frequent rival who went on to win the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park.

This year, the most credentialed 3-year-old on the grounds is another filly, Rachel Alexandra. She won the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in her last start Nov. 29 and is a top contender for the Kentucky Oaks. To get there, she could make two or three starts at Oaklawn, with her first objective here being the $50,000 Martha Washington on Feb. 15. Oaklawn's other races in its 3-year-old filly series are the Grade 3, $100,000 Honeybee on March 15 and the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy on April 5.

"I think we'll go ahead and go in the Martha Washington and the Honeybee, and then after the Honeybee I think we'll sit down and decide what is best from there," said Hal Wiggins, who trains Rachel Alexandra. "We've got the Fantasy here and the Ashland at Keeneland. We'll have to make a decision. That's kind of our plan."

Wiggins trains Rachel Alexandra for the L and M Partners stable of Mike Lauffer and Dolphus Morrison. She has won 3 of 6 career starts, including an allowance at Keeneland in October and the Golden Rod at Churchill. The Golden Rod was a career performance for the filly, who led throughout for a 4 3/4-length win over a field that included Grade 1 winner Dream Empress. Rachel Alexandra was timed in 1:43.08 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.

"What impresses me about her, she went six furlongs at Keeneland in 1:09 and change after a layoff and then she comes up and goes a mile and a sixteenth and sets a stakes record at Churchill," Wiggins said. "It takes a pretty decent horse to do that. And that same day, two races later, they ran the Kentucky Jockey Club, and there were three colts fighting it out for three-sixteenths of a mile and she ended up going a full second faster."

The Kentucky Jockey Club winner, Beethoven, was timed in 1:44.14.

Calvin Borel rode Rachel Alexandra for the first time in the Golden Rod and said she is a developing filly right now whose stride covers ground. He is excited about her prospects at 3.

"I think she's for real," he said. "It was a very tough race last time, and she won it pretty impressively. She did everything right."

Rachel Alexandra has a lot of tools in her arsenal. She stands about 16 hands tall and has some of the same physical attributes as her strapping sire, Medaglia d'Oro. Her dam, Lotta Kim, won the Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds for Wiggins at 3 after running second in the Golden Rod.

"She's larger than her mother," Wiggins said. "She's a little muscular and has got a lot of substance to her, a lot of length to her, and so, apparently, she may have taken after her dad. And she's a very easy-going filly. She doesn't get herself into trouble, so she's a pleasure to be around."

Wiggins has another 3-year-old filly of note in his barn. Abbott Hall, who also races for Morrison, was a six-length winner of the $150,000 Happy Ticket Stakes at Louisiana Downs in September. She returned to Wiggins on Wednesday after a freshening and is expected to run later this meet, he said, perhaps in the $75,000 Instant Racing on the April 11 closing-day card.