A field of eight 3-year-old fillies will face off in the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes, a mile-and-a-sixteenth event on the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots main track which is the second of three local preps on Churchill Downs Road To The Kentucky Oaks and awards the Top 4 finishers points according to a 50-20-10-5 scale.
Breaking to the outside is 8-5 morning line favorite Monomoy Girl. Owned by Monomoy Stables LLC in partnership with Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group LLC and Bethlehem Stables LLC, the daughter of Tapizar suffered her only loss last time out in her two-turn debut in Churchill Downs' Gr. II Golden Rod Stakes, where she set the pace but was beaten a neck by Road To Victory. Her career debut took place over the turf at Indiana Grand Race Course in September where she was the lukewarm favorite. Monomoy Girl ran once more on grass in her next start over Churchill Downs' Matt Winn Turf Course which she won in wire-to-wire fashion. Trainer Brad Cox changed tactics in her following start and ran her on the dirt in the Rags To Riches Stakes, which she drew off to win by 6 ½ lengths.
“I'm glad that we have a two-turn race under our belt,” Cox said. “I think we got a good post where we can sit off of the speed or we can be the speed. She was a little unfortunate not to win the Golden Rod. I don't really know that we have any excuses other than we just got nailed right at the wire. She's done extremely well, and she's ready to go.”
Florent Geroux has piloted Monomoy Girl in every start with the exception of her maiden win and he will return to the saddle when she makes her 3-year-old debut in Saturday's race.
The Mark Casse-trained pair of Wonder Gadot and Heavenly Love will run against one another for the third time in their career. In the Silverbulletday Stakes, they finished a respective second and fifth which was the most recent start for both fillies. They also ran sixth and 11th respectively in the Gr. I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar.
Breaking from post four as the 4-1 second-choice, Wonder Gadot currently sits at No. 3 on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard and has earned 14 points. The Ontario-bred daughter of Medaglia d'Oro acquired four points when finishing second in the Silverbulletday Stakes behind 33-1 longshot Stronger Than Ever and was awarded 10 when she won the Gr. II Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 2 by 3¾ lengths.
“There's going to be some serious pace on Saturday and we'll sit right behind it,” Casse said. “We're not going to let (trainer) Brad (Cox's) filly get too far away.”
Wonder Gadot won her career debut in her native Canada over the Woodbine turf against allowance company by four lengths and returned to the Toronto oval in her next start to finish third in the Gr. I Natalma Stakes on Sept. 17, where she was beaten three-quarters of a length. Next out, she switched surfaces to run over Woodbine's Polytrack in the Gr. III Mazarine Stakes, which she won by six lengths before a sixth-place finish in the Gr. I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar. Wonder Gadot was ridden by John Velazquez in her last two outings and will receive the riding services from the Hall of Fame jockey on Saturday.
Owned by Debby Oxley, Heavenly Love was beaten 7¼ lengths in the Silverbulletday Stakes. As a 2-year-old, she broke her maiden at second asking over the turf at Kentucky Downs. She followed her grass win with a victory in the Gr. I Darley Alcibiades Stakes over the main track at Keeneland. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, she was a disappointing 11th and was beaten 25 lengths.
“My thoughts are she didn't get enough out of the Breeders' Cup,” Casse said. “The track was funny that day and there was a serious track bias. I thought that she'd run a little better last time but she ran into some traffic trouble. After the race, (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) said that he couldn't get her going again. She may just have a great affinity for Keeneland, but she's ready.”
Julien Leparoux has ridden Heavenly Love in all five of her career starts with the exception of her career debut and will return to the saddle for Saturday's race. She breaks from post six at odds of 6-1.
Mark Casse isn't the only conditioner with a multiple fillies in the Rachel Alexandra. Trainer Bret Calhoun will be represented by Classy Act (post three, 6-1, Javier Castellano) and Patrona Margarita (post seven, 6-1, Brian Hernandez, Jr.). Owned by Carl R. Moore Management LLC, Classy Act broke her maiden over a yielding Stall-Wilson Turf Course by four lengths in December. It was the daughter of Into Mischief's fourth start and her lone effort on grass. She returned to the main track last time out where she defeated winners over the local main track on Jan. 19. The Rachel Alexandra will be Classy Act's stakes debut.
Craig Upham's Patrona Margarita will have to overcome a five-month layoff when she runs in the Rachel Alexandra. The Texas-bred daughter of Special Rate was last seen winning the Gr. II Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs where she acquired 10 points on the Road to The Kentucky Oaks. She broke her maiden in her career debut at Churchill Downs in June, where she defeated multiple stakes-placed Upset Brewing and stakes winner Laudation. Calhoun has won three previous runnings of the event with Baghdaria (2006), Jody Slew (2010) and Summer Applause (2012).
A victory from Brittlyn Stable Inc.'s Testing One Two would give her Louisiana based and bred sire Star Guitar his first graded stakes win as a stallion. Breaking from post two under Diego Saenz at 6-1 odds, she will also be going for her fourth straight victory. The homebred Victor Arceneaux-trainee broke her maiden second time out at Delta Downs by 6¾ lengths. She won her next start in the Louisiana Jewel Stakes at the Vinton oval by an even wider margin when she won the stakes event by 16½ lengths. Her last start took place in the Take Charge Brandi Stakes against open company, which she won by four lengths.
Whispering Oaks Farm LLC's She's A Julie (post five, Corey Lanerie, 12-1) made her first start in seven month last time out when she was third to Classy Act in an allowance race over the Fair Grounds main track in January. Prior to her third-place effort, she had not run since a well-neaten seventh in Churchill Downs Debutante Stakes last July. She broke her maiden in her career debut over the Louisville oval last May and is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who trained Rachel Alexandra and will be going for his fifth victory in her namesake race. He previously won with Summerly (2005), Appealing Zophie (2007), War Echo (2009) and Untapable (2014).
Rounding out the field is Actress On Board, a Tennessee-bred daughter of Langfuhr who is still in search of her first career win. Owned by Margaret Keach, she has made six starts but hit the board four of those times and finished behind the likes of Missive who finished third in the Silverbulletday Stakes and stakes winner Cosmic Burst. She breaks from the rail under Marcelino Pedroza at odds of 20-1.
The Gr. II Rachel Alexandra Stakes is named in honor of the 2009 Horse of the Year who put together a stellar campaign as a 3-year-old. She prepped for her eventual victory in the Gr. I Kentucky Oaks at the Fair Grounds and won the Gr. III Fair Grounds Oaks for trainer Hal Wiggins. Following the Kentucky Oaks, she was privately purchased by the late Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Farm and transferred to the barn of Steve Asmussen, who conditioned her to four more Grade I victories that year, including three against colts – the Preakness Stakes, the Haskell Invitational and the Woodward Stakes.
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