Smile Politely

Rachel Alexandra looks to be queen of Oaks

StardomAbout a week after her third-place finish in Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes, IEAH co-president Michael Iavarone announced that Stardom Bound would not be starting in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. After her exercise rider, Michelle Nevin, said she “didn’t feel comfortable working the filly,” her owners decided to give the champion sixty days off. As Stardom Bound has been training and racing all year with the Oaks being the ultimate goal, one has to wonder how no one anticipated this occurring after starting her in six consecutive Grade I races before the Oaks.

One question I have is whose idea it was to ship her to Keeneland for her last prep to be on the Polytrack, in the preparation for this big dirt race? Even supporters of synthetic surfaces will tell anyone Polytrack is a different animal than California’s Pro-Ride. If I’m judging this right, the Polytrack and a field of former foes wore out a filly that could’ve well been trained up to the Kentucky Oaks and been one of the favorites. This, remember, is the same filly that at the beginning of the year, had potential sights to be in the Kentucky Derby. In a further bogus move, before Stardom Bound was off the Oaks trail, IEAH took regular rider Mike Smith off of her and assigned Garrett Gomez to rider her in the Oaks. Good job, IEAH. Way to screw up a champion filly’s career in your first few months of owning her.

Rachel AlexandraWith Stardom Bound out of the picture, the prestigious Kentucky Oaks now has one clear-cut favorite: Rachel Alexandra. And by the look of the few entrants willing to ship to Churchill Downs to meet her, this girl will be almost impossible to beat. She won her last start at Fair Grounds effortlessly in the Fantasy Stakes, drawing away from the rest of the field to win by 8 3/4 lengths. This was her fifth win in a row of races that include the Fair Grounds Oaks, where she water skiied in the slop, and the Martha Washington Stakes, where she also won in dominating form. At this point in her career, she is looking to be this year’s Proud Spell, and dare I say, maybe even better. There’s no question Rachel Alexandra could handle the boys, and many wish she would be entered in the Kentucky Derby instead of the Oaks. But with this year’s Derby harboring such a talented field, she will be the lone standout in the Oaks.

Not to say she’s the only horse running. There are two fillies that stand a good chance if Alexandra should falter: Justwhistledixie and Hooh Why. Of these two, only Dixie has confirmed to run in the Oaks as of yet. Hooh Why’s connections are admittedly afraid of pitting their West Coast filly against the imposing Alexandra and may decide to send her elsewhere. Hooh Why is most noted for upsetting Stardom Bound in the Ashland Stakes, and losing the Santa Anita Oaks to her by a nose. Justwhistledixie will be entering the Oaks off a five-race winning streak, including the Davona Dale Stakes and the Bonnie Miss. Other probable contenders are Larry Jones-trained Just Jenda, winner of the Honeybee Stakes, Be Fair, and Flying Spur. Whoever wins the Kentucky Oaks will put their name on a prestigious list of past winners, including Rags to Riches, Proud Spell, Silverbulletday, Ashado, and Princess Rooney. Though this field may not hold as many individual champions as the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks should be a fun race to watch, and will hopefully provide us with a filly to continue watching the rest of the year.

The undercard for the Kentucky Oaks might prove to be just as exciting as the main event, with the possibility of the Eclipse-winning, unbeaten Zenyatta making her five-year-old debut in the Grade II Louisville Stakes. The California Colossus has been taking a well-earned break since winning the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic in her patented come-from behind rocket launch to beat the most talented assembly of fillies and mares in the world. According to her trainer, John Sherriffs, a match-up against the boys may be due in her future. Let’s hope a worthy male opponent steps forward to take on that challenge, as most, with the exception of Einstein, have been retired. Perhaps someone from this crop of three-year-old males will dare face Zenyatta later this year? Only time will tell of their worthiness.

 There’s only one week left. Are you ready? Stay tuned for next week’s “Call to the Post,” where I will be giving a detailed analysis of each Kentucky Derby contender, including odds, post positions, as well as what I thought of final workouts and breezes; I’ll be writing to you from Louisville, where I will be taking in all of the excitement first-hand. Unlike Steve Haskin, I’m waiting until the last possible moment to create a true top five. Let’s just say you’ll most likely find a previously-snubbed California contender sneak onto the list.


The Grade I Kentucky Oaks will be broadcast live on BRAVO and HRTV at approximately 5:00pm ET on Friday, May 1st. Check your local listings for up-to-date times and stations. ESPN will NOT be covering. For post times for the Oaks and undercard races, go to

More Articles