Can Horse of the Year
Rachel Alexandra possibly lose in Saturday’s $200,000
New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds?
“No way,” said
Donna Keen, wife of Fair Grounds-based trainer
Dallas Keen on Friday morning during training hours. “She’s a diva!”
What happens if Rachel Alexandra goes on to face Breeders’ Cup Classic heroine
Zenyatta in the Oaklawn’s Apple Blossom April 9?
we’ll have to see how she does tomorrow,” said Mrs. Keen. “She’s our
horse, by that I mean everybody’s horse here at Fair Grounds. Everybody
here at Fair Grounds loves her. Steve Asmussen
(Rachel Alexandra’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer) is so good with all
his horses. But he’s also good with other people’s horses. He’ll come
up to horses in our barn when he’s walking by and hold his hands out.
They all respond to him because he presents himself so well to them.
All horses just seem to love Steve.”
Incidentally, one of Rachel Alexandra’s halters, signed by trainer Asmussen and Rachel Alexandra’s jockey
Calvin Borel, is encased
in a handsome shadow box on display at Fair Grounds and subject to bids
during a silent auction that ends March 20. The two top bidders at the
silent auction will be invited to continue to bid publicly at the
Horsemen’s Dinner during the evening of March 26 – Fair Grounds Oaks
Profits from the auction will go toward a barn-raising fundraiser for the
Remember Me Racehorse Rescue
facility operated by Donna and Dallas Keen. Remember Me Rescue placed
36 retired race horses in new homes in 2009, some of which were rescued
from slaughter by the couple, but new horses on coming in constantly.
“We have to build a new barn at our facility because I refuse to stop taking in new horses,” said Donna Keen.
the two-part question about Rachel’s next two likely races was also put
to others on the backstretch in recent days, including Fair
Grounds-based trainer Bobby Barnett, who was for several years Oaklawn’s leading conditioner.
don’t think there’s any way they’ll beat her here tomorrow,” said
Barnett, “and I don’t think she’ll get beat up there either. It’s
always been her track up there, but I really think she takes her track
with her wherever she goes.”
The two-part question was put to
Frank Bernis, longtime assistant to Fair Grounds’ nine-time training champion
chance,” said Bernis, speaking of any potential upset Saturday at Fair
Grounds. Concerning the possible meeting with Zenyatta, Bernis added,
“that’s a tough call, but when Rachel’s at her top she’s a lot better
horse than Zenyatta.”
New Orleans native Al Stall
Jr., a three-time trainer champion at Fair Grounds, was less definitive – but only slightly.
all can be beat,” said Stall. Concerning Rachel’s possible future
faceoff with Zenyatta, Stall added, “We’ll have to see how their
comeback races go and how they (each) come back out of those. They’re
Eddie Johnston, one of the hottest trainers on the grounds in recent days: Can Rachel get beat Saturday?
he said. Asked about Rachel’s next possible assignment, he added, “The
biggest question is, does she get enough out of the race tomorrow? If
she does – she’ll beat Zenyatta. I think she’s just a better horse.”
Ruth Schmidt, assistant to Canadian-based trainer
Josie Carroll, who winters at Fair Grounds: Can Rachel get beat Saturday?
the way she’s been training,” Schmidt said. What about the next race,
if it happens? “That’s a tough one,” said Schmidt. “It depends on how
the race sets up. They’re both obviously stupendous fillies.”
Finally, the two questions were put to
Evan Downing, now an assistant to trainer Greg Foley but formerly an assistant at the Asmussen barn.
think she (Rachel) is probably the best horse in the race tomorrow,”
Downing said, “but if there’s a day she could get beat, it would be
tomorrow. I love Rachel, and I like Steve and Scott Blasi
(Asmussen’s main assistant), but I’m also a big Zenyatta fan. I saw
Rachel get really tested in the Woodward last year, and I saw what it
did to her. I haven’t seen Zenyatta nearly as much, but from what I’ve
seen, it looks like nothing that she has faced has ever bothered her.”
RACHEL ALEXANDRA GALLOPS, SCHOOLS ON LADIES EVE
NEW ORLEANS (Friday, March 12, 2010) –
Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra
made two appearances on the eve of her 4-year old debut in the $200,000
New Orleans Ladies, turning in a strong six-furlong gallop early in the
morning and then wowing a crowd of admirers in the paddock during the
afternoon’s fourth race.
gallop came at 6:15 a.m., when the Medaglia d’Oro filly stepped onto
the track at the half-mile gap and took a right-hand turn before
getting straight to the task at hand. With regular exercise rider Dominic Terry
up, Rachel Alexandra galloped very strongly from the
three-eighths pole to the three-quarters pole. Following the exercise
the champion filly was met by assistant trainer
Scott Blasi and trainer Steve Asmussen, who walked her off the track back where they entered.
Later in the day Rachel Alexandra arrived in the paddock, at 2:20 p.m., with the horses entered for the fourth race, and
followed the same routine as when she schooled during Saturday’s races.
She was led by assistant trainer Scott Blasi and groom
Javier Espinoza. Trainer Steve Asmussen
was present, as were other members of the superstar’s usual entourage, including her hotwalker
Juan Gonzalez and her security chief.
Unlike Saturday, Rachel Alexandra had company for today’s session. The last three stalls in the Fair Grounds paddock were
occupied by, from left to right, schoolers Rachel Alexandra; Devil’s Humor,
a promising 3-year-old filly by Distorted Humor out of multiple Grade I
winner Fleet Renee making her debut for Asmussen in Saturday’s fourth
race; and Zardana, the second choice in the New Orleans Ladies, from the barn of
Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs.
of the trio misbehaved in any way and all impressed onlookers with
their good looks. Fans applauded the first time Rachel Alexandra walked
around the ring, and one smitten railbird even cried out for “Rachel,”
like a fan at the Oscars seeking a celebrity autograph.
On her final lap around the paddock, Rachel Alexandra pranced on her toes as she crossed the path to the racetrack.