Rachel Alexandra’s second start of 2010, in the Grade 2 $400,000 La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs, was eerily similar to her previous start.
After sitting just off the front-running speed and gaining the lead at the top of the stretch, the 1-to-5 favorite was immediately tackled to her outside by a filly that would provide another upset after a tremendous battle through the lane.
This time it was Unrivaled Belle, under jockey Kent Desormeaux, that scored over Rachel, at the same 9-to-1 odds that Zardana, who finished a distant fifth today, went off at when she beat her last month in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes at the Fair Grounds.
“She isn’t quite as fast as she was at one point last year, and hopefully this is a step in that direction,” said Rachel Alexandra's trainer, Steve Assmussen. “It’s hard to imagine her getting beat, but it just happened. I don’t want to take anything away from Unrivaled Belle, she was a deserved winner.”
Concerns over Rachel not changing leads in the drive to the wire has speculation running rampant once again that this may have been the final race of her career. Hopefully, her trainer’s comments after the race prove to be genuine and she can continue her campaign.
“She stayed very steady to the wire and galloped out good. She’s a tremendous filly. Her health is excellent and she’s extremely sound,” continued Assmussen. “There’s a lot of positives, but it is a race and you have to go faster than your competition to win, and that’s what we’re trying to find.”
The crowd at Churchill Downs, who had last seen Rachel romping home by over 20 lengths in last year’s Kentucky Oaks, was silent in similar fashion as the crowd was at the Fair Grounds after Rachel’s previous defeat. However, this quiet was more of a disappointment rather than a stunned silence.
“We have to realize there has been improvement from her last race. Knee-jerk reactions are not very effective; consistency is,” Asmussen said. “The defeat last time put a whole lot more pressure on this one. We need to pet on her and realize she is the Horse of the Year for 2009 and let her know that we’re grateful for that.”
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