07/22/2010 2:54PM

Timing right for Rachel Alexandra in Lady's Secret


For both the filly herself, and the New Jersey racing industry as a whole, Rachel Alexandra’s appearance at Monmouth Park couldn’t come at a better time.

On the heels of a New Jersey commission report that called for the state no longer to provide financial assistance to the racing industry as well as to investigate selling both Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, Rachel Alexandra’s presence in Saturday’s $400,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes should provide racing officials and fans an uplifting experience.

“The timing’s always right when you have a horse of her caliber show up,” said Bob Kulina, Monmouth’s vice president.

For Rachel Alexandra, the reigning Horse of the Year, the timing of the Lady’s Secret works well, according to her connections. The race is six weeks from her victory in the Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill on June 12 and five weeks from a possible start in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 29.

“I hope that it is a bridge or a building block to more substantial races toward the end of the year,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Rachel Alexandra for Jess Jackson’s Stonesteet Stable and Harold McCormick.

The Monmouth Park racing office, led by racing secretary Mike Dempsey, had been attempting to lure Rachel Alexandra back to Monmouth – where last year she won the Haskell Invitational – since early spring. To seal the deal, they opted to accommodate Jackson’s request that the Lady’s Secret be moved up by one week – the race was originally scheduled for Aug. 1 – and the distance extended to 1 1/8 miles from 1 1/16 miles. Also, the purse was bumped from $150,000 to $400,000.

Conservatively, Kulina estimates that Rachel Alexandra’s presence could add 2,500 to 5,000 people to what he says is traditionally the lowest Saturday crowd of the meet, being the week before the meet’s marquee race, the Haskell.

“There’s a lot of energy, a lot of interest from the media, a ton of interest in the social networking stuff the marketing department is doing,” Kulina said Thursday. “I know there’s a lot of interest in her, a lot of people are coming to see her, that’s why we went after her and recruited her.”

Last August, Rachel Alexandra dazzled New Jersey racing fans with a tour-de-force, six-length victory against 3-year-old males in the Haskell Invitational. She was the 1-2 favorite that day. A nine-time graded stakes winner, Rachel Alexandra will most likely be a 1-20 shot to Win the Lady’s Secret against six rivals who have yet to win a graded stakes.

After finishing second in her first two starts this year, Rachel Alexandra won the Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs by 10 1/2 lengths on June 12.

“The Fleur de Lis was very encouraging from a fitness standpoint,” Asmussen said. “It was simply a step in the right direction where you want to end up whereas the negatives of it were the tremendous humidity and heat of the day.”

Rachel Alexandra left Churchill Downs shortly after a slow five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs on June 28. She has breezed three times at Saratoga, including a sharp six-furlong drill in 1:12.40 on July 12.

“I love where she’s at right now,” Asmussen said.

While Rachel Alexandra holds a distinct class edge over her six opponents, she does share a similar running style to all of them. Rachel Alexandra likes to be involved early and so, it appears on paper, does everybody else. Fabulous Babe, claimed for $35,000 two starts back, looks to be the fastest of the opponents, but it’s unlikely she can hang with Rachel, who will break from post 5 under Calvin Borel.

“She’s a high-octane, run ’ em off their feet horse,” Asmussen said of Rachel Alexandra. “She’s got a tremendous cruising speed.”

Perhaps the wild card in the field is Queen Martha, a daughter of Rahy, who has raced exclusively on turf and primarily in Europe. She finished second in a second-level turf allowance race on May 30.

“I think we are running for second,” said Patrick Biancone, trainer of Queen Martha. “But second would be good.”

The connections of Stage Trick, Ask the Moon, Hark, and Yes She’s a Lady would agree.

◗ The National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s website, NTRA.com, will offer free, live video streaming of the Lady’s Secret Stakes. The race will also be shown on TVG.

◗ Saturday’s original feature was the $100,000 Desert Vixen for 3-year-olds on the turf at 1 1/16 miles. Now, the Desert Vixen goes as race 2 and likely comes down to a battle between Profiteroles, a winner of two allowance races at this meet, and Triple Cream, the third-place finisher in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs. Noted chef Bobby Flay owns Triple Cream.