Jess Jackson, who purchased super-filly Rachel Alexandra days after she won the Kentucky Oaks by 20 lengths two weeks ago, then watched Satuday as she beat the boys in the Preakness, has yet to decide whether to run her in the Belmont three weeks from now.
He'd be wise to give her a rest and skip the race.
Rachel Alexandra's victory in the Preakness, by a diminishing length over fast-closing Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, was the first by a filly in that race since 1924.
Yet she went off as the favorite, and the race unfolded perfectly for her. Starting from the outside in post position 13, she had a long run to the first turn and so was able to use her tactical speed to grab an early, though contested, lead.
Because Pimlico has tighter turns than either of the other two Triple Crown tracks -- Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is held, and Belmont Park -- and because the Preakness is the shortest of the three races, at 1-3/16ths miles, Rachel Alexandra had an advantage over Mine That Bird, who likes to come from well off the pace.
Mine That Bird was last of 19 in the Derby before beginning his remarkable, rail-skimming ride under Calvin Borel that carried him to a 6-length victory at odds of 50-1. He also was last early on in the Preakness before rallying. Unlike in the Derby, however, there was no room inside for him, so he had to swing seven wide and couldn't quite get up in time. Had the race been the Derby distance of a 1-1/4 miles, he almost certainly would have won.
Rachel Alexandra clearly was tiring near the finish. To ask her to come back in three weeks and run an additional quarter-mile seems to be too much. Better to let her recuperate and point her to the summer's major races at Saratoga, where she could again take on the boys in the Jim Dandy and, more importantly, the Travers, also known as the Midsummer Derby.
If she doesn't run in the Belmont, that would enable Borel to climb back aboard Mine That Bird. Mike Smith, who rode "Bird" in the Preakness, is committed to ride in a stakes race at Hollywood Park, in California, the day of the Belmont. Borel created a stir when he took off the Derby winner to ride the filly in the Preakness. But his decision made sense on two counts -- he had ridden Rachel Alexandra in all her races this year, while only taking the mount on Mine That Bird after he was a late entrant to the Derby; and also because he -- rightly -- felt the filly was going to win.
Of course, whether Mine That BIrd's trainer, Chip Woolley, would want Borel is another matter.
Steve Asmussen, who took over the training of Rachel Alexandra from Hal WIggins after she was sold, has said he doesn't feel the same "urgency" to run her in the Belmont that there was in the Preakness.
The fact is, there's no urgency at all. And Jackson, who owns the Kendall-Jackson winery, should know that, just as no wine should be sold before its time, even the best horses need the proper amount of time between races.