You might say that rematch is the guiding principle of Saturday’s $300,000 Rachel Alexandra S. (G2) at Fair Grounds. When Travel Column ran down Clairiere in the Nov. 28 Golden Rod (G2), experience might have been the decisive factor. The two will revisit that result in the Rachel Alexandra, worth five times the points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Rachel Alexandra (G2) – Race 12 (6:47 p.m. ET)
The opening salvo in the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series, the Rachel Alexandra offers points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the respective top four finishers. The Golden Rod alumnae bring the richest form at this 1 1/16-mile distance. The Brad Cox-trained Travel Column, a good-looking debut winner in a Churchill Downs sprint, stretched out for the Alcibiades (G1) and finished third after flubbing the start. Travel Column was crowded out of the gate in the Golden Rod, but that did not matter to the improving Frosted filly, who delivered a stout rally to prevail by a length.
Clairiere, on the other hand, was playing the role of stakes ingénue in the Golden Rod for Steve Asmussen. Stonestreet’s blueblood daughter of Curlin and multiple Grade 1 vixen Cavorting had gotten up in time in her premiere at the same track and trip, with future Martha Washington winner Will’s Secret back in third. In the Golden Rod, Clairiere made an earlier advance to strike the front, but might have idled a tad before being nabbed by Travel Column. While Clairiere stands to benefit from that education, she’ll need to be savvier to deal with her rail post, as her nemesis Travel Column is drawn in post 8.
Charlie’s Penny scored on the same “Stars of Tomorrow II” card at Churchill, dashing by daylight in a sprint allowance. The Chris Block pupil had the benefit of an interim race at Fair Grounds, a tough-start third in the Dec. 19 Letellier Memorial. Making her two-turn bow in the mile and 70-yard Silverbulletday, Charlie’s Penny was well placed tracking a slow pace and spurted clear. [Update: Charlie’s Penny is out after sustaining a shin fracture, according to Daily Racing Form.]
In contrast, hitherto unbeaten Souper Sensational found herself tactically disadvantaged in her first route off a layoff. Unraced since her star turn in the Oct. 17 Glorious Song on Woodbine’s Tapeta, the Mark Casse filly made a solid run for second. Souper Sensational figures to move forward from that tightener.
Aside from race circumstances, Souper Sensational and Clairiere bring another angle into play. They are the only two Triple Crown nominees in the Rachel Alexandra.
Also exiting the Silverbulletday are Moon Swag, third after being hampered early, and Littlestitious, a fading fifth as the pacesetter.
Littlestitious, who previously romped in the My Trusty Cat at Delta Downs, is one of three entrants for Tom Amoss. Stablemate Zoom Up could be the barn’s best chance, having won two straight including a salty allowance on Martin Luther King Day, and she keeps James Graham aboard. But Off We Go has kept good company in sprints. Runner-up to Travel Column on debut, the Amoss filly broke her maiden at Keeneland and finished fifth in the Songbird on Breeders’ Cup Friday, one spot ahead of future Busanda winner The Grass Is Blue. Off We Go was most recently a troubled second in an off-the-turf dash at Fair Grounds.
Becca’s Rocket comes off a pair of route wins for Scott Gelner, an off-the-turf maiden here as well as an allowance on the Sam Houston turf.