The Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Saturday has shaped up to be the deepest sophomore filly race of the year and a fantastically exciting prep for the May 6th
Kentucky Oaks. The field of seven includes stakes winners Gran Lioness, Bouquet Booth and Inglorious. But all eyes will be fixed on Kathmanblu to see if the Bluegrass Cat filly can continue her brilliance on the dirt and remain one of the heavy favorites for the Kentucky Oaks.
Last year Kathmanblu
finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies in early November before rolling to an 8 ½ length victory in the Golden Rod Stakes over Churchill Downs’ dirt track on November 27th
. In her 3-year-old debut Kathmanblu raced to an effortless victory in the Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park on the turf. She looks unbeatable if you go by her last two wins and each race seems to be a little bit easier for her. While she has shown affinity for both dirt and turf her Golden Rod performance suggests that she is best on the dirt. That doesn’t bode very well for the rest of the field.
Even with Kathmanblu looking as strong as she does coming into the Rachel Alexandra, it will be no walk in the park for the talented filly. Bouquet Booth enters the Rachel Alexandra riding a three race win streak, the last two coming in stakes races. She is the only graded stakes winner in the field aside from Kathmanblu. On November 20th Bouquet Booth unleashed a terrific rally to capture the Delta Downs Princess (gr.3) for her second consecutive win. In her 2011 debut Bouquet Booth ran her streak to three when she held on to take the Silverbulletday Stakes on January 22nd at Fair Grounds. She won the Silverbulletday while racing on the lead and figures to be close to the pace, if not helping set it in the Rachel Alexandra. With the presence of Kathmanblu coming from behind she will need a whole lot of class to pull off a win.
Gran Lioness is the most likely pacesetter in the field and she enters in great form, fresh off a win in the January 14th My Trusty Cat Stakes at Delta Downs. Before the My Trusty Cat she finished 5th behind Kathmanblu in the Golden Rod Stakes and unless she has improved by 14 lengths since then she will most likely be setting the pace and running for place or show money.
Inglorious could be the biggest threat to Kathmanblu in the entire field. Undefeated in two starts, both stakes wins over Woodbine’s all-weather surface Inglorious has won her starts by more than 7 lengths. In the Fanfreluche Stakes she came from dead last after balking at the start to win going away by 1 ¾ lengths. Next out she flew to a 5 ¾ length victory in the 1 1/16 miles Ontario Lassie Stakes, needing very little encouragement to get the job done. The Ontario Lassie Stakes is the same distance as the Rachel Alexandra and it appeared the Hennessy filly loved stretching out further in distance. She has been working brilliantly in preparation for the 2011 debut and if she takes to the dirt like she did to the all-weather surface Kathmanblu could have her hands full.
Lilacs and Lace won the California Oaks in her most recent start, defeating three time stakes winner Cathy’s Crutches. She seems a bit outclassed by the quartet of Kathmanblu, Inglorious, Bouquet Booth and Gran Lioness but seems to be improving. A win seems unlikely but she might be able to catch a piece of the action.
The field is completed by Tapit Dancer and Chloe Kate.
Tapit Dancer finally broke her maiden in her fourth start last November but her works have been far from impressive leading up the Rachel Alexandra. If she wins it will be one of the biggest surprises of the meet.
Chloe Kate on the other hand enters with a record of progressive improvement in her last three starts. Winning her last two starts after finishing second in a maiden race at Churchill Downs it seems Chloe Kate is on the right track but she will have to improve by leaps and bounds to make a dent in the Rachel Alexandra.
Kathmanblu will be the heavy favorite in the Rachel Alexandra and it would quite honestly be a surprise if she lost this race. She has consistently run against the highest caliber fillies and won. She is still improving and I personally think she is in a different league than the other six fillies running but every athlete can have their bad day. If she trips up Inglorious could make herself a household name with a win.
So is it a two horse race between the proven Kathmanblu and the challenger Inglorious or could the very capable Gran Lioness or Bouquet Booth throw their names into serious contention for the Kentucky Oaks?[Check out how the Horse Racing Nation community ranks the 2011 Kentucky Oaks Contenders]
Photo Courtesy of Reed Palmer Photography