Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fab filly early Preakness favourite

Rachel Alexandra also draws favourable post position

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BALTIMORE -- Rachel Alexandra was made the early 8-5 favourite Wednesday for the Preakness Stakes, the first filly accorded that status since 1988.

She brings a five-race winning streak into Saturday's 1 3-16-mile race at Pimlico.

Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Calvin Borel, Rachel Alexandra drew the No. 13 post on the far outside.

"It's beautiful. She's going to be able to get position," said Scott Blasi, Asmussen's assistant.

Borel chose to stay on as Rachel Alexandra's regular rider, switching off Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who gets Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

Mine That Bird was Canada's two-year-old champion in 2008.

"Calvin knows this filly so well, I don't think we have to tell him anything about where he wants to be with her," Blasi said. "He's very comfortable with her and we're very comfortable with him."

No filly since Nellie Morse in 1924 has won the Preakness. The last filly to go off as the wagering favourite was Winning Colors at 2-1 odds in 1988. She finished third.

"I am trying to help the industry," said Jess Jackson, the filly's co-owner. "I hope this helps revive horse racing in the United States."

Jackson, who founded Kendall-Jackson winery, and Harold McCormick bought Rachel Alexandra for an undisclosed price last week.

They paid a US$100,000 supplemental fee -- above and beyond the entry fees -- to get her into the Preakness because she wasn't nominated for the Triple Crown races by her previous owners.

They had expected her to only run against fillies.

"I think the fans deserve to see the best horses compete regardless of sex," Jackson said on a conference call. "This isn't about male or female, it's about the best athletes."

Pioneer of the Nile, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, was made the 5-1 second choice in the 13-horse field by Pimlico odds maker Frank Carulli. The colt drew the No. 9 post.

Mine That Bird and Friesan Fire were the co-third choices at 6-1. Mine That Bird will break from the No. 2 post, while Friesan Fire is in the No. 5 spot.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2009 C5

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