Archive for May, 2009

Rachel Alexandra will not run in Belmont

Statement by Jess Jackson on behalf of Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick

“Rachel Alexandra is an incredible thoroughbred who has proven to be the best three year old in racing today. We are elated by all the attention her wins in the Oaks and Preakness has garnered the sport.
The many letters and emails we have received from young girls and racing enthusiasts lets us know that many fans are proud of Rachel. When we purchased Rachel, our goal was to restore the sport’s vitality and grow its fan base by extending the racing careers of its stars.

After careful consideration, we have decided not to run Rachel Alexandra in the Belmont Stakes next weekend. We have advised Calvin Borel, Chip Woolley and Belmont of our decision. We thank them, the media and the fans for their many courtesies and patience while we pondered.

We know the media and many fans would have liked to see her run in the Belmont Stakes – we feel the same. But all of us sincerely interested in the horse must agree that we only want to see her run when it is best for her. While she is in great shape, having strong works, and recovering well from her amazing performances, we feel Rachel deserves a well-earned vacation. Since March 14, Rachel has won four graded races with just two weeks rest between her last two victories. We will always put her long-term well being first. And, of course, we want to run her when she is fresh.

Rachel, her owners, her trainers and her fans can continue to anticipate an exciting campaign. All major races will be considered as we look to the rest of Rachel’s racing career.”

Chip Woolley, trainer of Mine That Bird, confirmed Calvin Borel will be back aboard the gelding for the Belmont.

“We were willing to wait because we felt like we owed it to him,” Woolley said Friday. “We have this thing called loyalty and I’m happy to have him back.”

Rachel Alexandra – Cover Girl

She has a bankroll that totals in the seven figures, a highly-successful career, and she has already brought a slew of male counterparts to their collective knees.

To say the least, it’s good to be Rachel Alexandra these days. And now, the most famous lady in racing has notched a milestone millions of girls would love to achieve.

The Kentucky Oaks winner and Preakness Stakes heroine can now add ‘model’ to her illustrious resume. Four hours after taking her routine trip around the Churchill Downs oval Friday, the cameras were out and the backdrop was up between Barns 36 and 38 for a photo shoot of Rachel Alexandra by acclaimed fashion photographer Steven Klein for the August issue of Vogue.

Klein may be best known for his striking photos of such pop icons as Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Britney Spears, Natalie Portman and Justin Timperlake. His work has appeared in Vogue and W and in ads for Calvin Klein and Dolce and Gabbana.

Done photo shoots before, but first one for Vogue,” Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen said to the Churchill notes team. Klein’s session with Rachel Alexandra grew out of a trip to the Preakness by Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour.

In true diva fashion, Rachel Alexandra apparently had to be awakened in her stall to head out for her shoot. No word yet whether she channeled her inner Linda Evangelista and stated she “Wouldn’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day” or if Andre Leon Tally tried to make her wear a gold motorcycle jacket.

Friesan Fire sidelined for 60 days

Vinery Stables’ and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire, who was made the favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby after three consecutive graded stakes wins this spring, has been sidelined for a couple of months due to injury.

The son of A.P. Indy was initially x-rayed by Dr. Larry Bramlage at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital on Tuesday where it was discovered he had a non-displaced chip in his right fetlock. A further examination also revealed a stress fracture in the colt’s left front leg.

Friesan Fire finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby after grabbing a quarter at the start and then ran 10th in the Preakness Stakes.

“Obviously it’s very unfortunate but the good news for us is he had an excuse,” said Vinery manager Tom Ludt. “He won’t be back until the fall.”

Friesan Fire will undergo surgery to remove the chip tomorrow. The stress fracture will not require surgery.

Trained by Larry Jones, Friesan Fire won the Grade III LeComte and Risen Star Stakes prior to his 7 1/4-length romp in the Grade II Louisiana Derby. The bay colt will rehabilitate at Vinery’s Kentucky training center.

Woolley willing to wait until 11th hour for Borel

Chip Woolley, trainer of Kentucky Derby hero Mine That Bird, was on a national teleconference this afternoon and while he didn’t shed any light on his gelding’s jockey situation for the Belmont, he did say the decision could come down to the wire – aka, next Wednesday when entries are drawn.

Woolley is waiting to see if the owners of Preakness Stakes heroine Rachel Alexandra decide to run the star filly in the final leg of the Triple Crown. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is piloted by jockey Calvin Borel, the same man who guided Mine That Bird to his Derby win.

“We could wait up to or close to entry time,” Woolley said. “We’ll need a decision sometime at that point but I’m going to give Calvin as much time as possible. That’s only fair to him. He won me a Derby and I feel I owe him the opportunity if it’s possible.”

Rachel Alexandra is slated to work at Churchill Downs this coming Monday with the hope being owner Jess Jackson will make a decision on the Belmont shortly after that.

If Woolley had to stuck to his initial plan of naming a rider this past Monday, it could have left Borel without a mount for the Belmont if Rachel Alexandra’s connections opt not to send her.

I’m sure the thought of showcasing the Belmont without both the popular filly and her equally affable rider had the New York Racing Association and ABC Network in a cold sweat. But to his credit, Woolley’s patience looks like it will help both sides dodge at least one of those bullets.

“My main intention is I don’t want Calvin on the sidelines when we get to the Belmont,” Woolley said. “It just wouldn’t fair to him if they don’t make a decision until the last minute and decide not to go. I don’t want him to not have the opportunity to ride in the race.”

Theriot appeals suspension

From the Associated Press:

Jockey Jamie Theriot is appealing a 30-day suspension he received in connection with an accident at Arlington Park that left fellow rider Rene Douglas seriously injured.

Theriot said Wednesday that he consulted with attorneys and members of the racing community before deciding the appeal was “the best course of action to take.”

The Illinois Racing Board suspended Theriot Monday after Saturday’s spill at the Arlington Matron Handicap. Theriot’s horse clipped hooves with the horse Douglas was riding. Douglas’ horse flipped and tossed him over her head, then landed on him. Douglas’ agent has said doctors believe he may be partially paralyzed.

Theriot’s horse was disqualified and placed last in the race for causing interference in the stretch.

Lukas confirms pair for Belmont

The D. Wayne Lukas-trained duo of Flying Private and Luv Gov – who finished fourth and eighth in the Preakness Stakes, respectively – both will be heading to the Belmont Stakes after putting in works at Churchill Downs Wednesday.

Luv Gov worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 in company with Be Fair while Flying Private covered the same distance in 1:15.40.

“We pointed to the Belmont all spring long, but as the race gets closer you want to see horses show you something,” said Lukas, who has won four Belmonts with Tabasco Cat (1994), Thunder Gulch (1995), Editor’s Note (1996) and Commendable (2000). “This morning, we were more concerned about their energy level than with how they finished out. And we got the response we wanted.”

No Belmont decision yet for Rachel Alexandra, Borel

The most key figures in this year’s Triple Crown were all on the Churchill Downs track this morning, but none of their actions helped resolve any of the questions surrounding the upcoming Belmont Stakes.

Preakness Stakes heroine Rachel Alexandra posted her first work since her historic triumph, covering four furlongs in :50 1/5 over a sloppy track with owner Jess Jackson in attendance. Jackson said afterwards that while the bay filly is progressing, no decision has been made yet on whether she will contest the final leg of the Triple Crown.

“We still can’t make any decisions but she’s recovering nicely,” Jackson said during a rainy Monday morning. “I think for the time that has elapsed, it’s only been nine days (since the Preakness), she’s right on. But we can’t make that decision yet.

“My concern is her attitude,” Jackson continued. “She thinks she can run through a brick wall and her attitude has to be monitored and if anything we have to pull her back a little bit because she’s so eager to run.”

Rachel Alexandra is slated to work again this coming Monday. Jackson added that if the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro does not run in the Belmont, the Grade I Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont on June 27 is a possibility.

Also hitting the track Monday was Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up Mine That Bird, who covered four furlongs in :51 flat with jockey Calvin Borel up. While the bay gelding is a confirmed Belmont starter, the lack of commitment from the Rachel Alexandra camp has Mine That Bird’s connections in limbo as well.

Borel guided Mine That Bird to his Derby win but got off that mount to stay with Rachel Alexandra – whom he has guided to six straight victories – in the Preakness. Chip Woolley, trainer of Mine That Bird, originally gave Borel a Monday deadline to figure out his Belmont scenario. But with Jackson taking a wait and see approach with his filly, Woolley said he will continue to hold off on naming a rider until possibly next week.

“We’re probably going to hold off a few more days,” Woolley said. “Out of respect for Calvin and them, we’re going to give them a little bit more time to make their decision on what they’re going to do. We’ll see how things develop this week.”

Borel said he was pleased with what he felt during Mine That Bird’s work this morning, but refused to comment on his Belmont dilemma.

“If we keep him happy, we’ll be alright,” Borel said of Mine That Bird.

Dying sport? Not so fast

There have been an abundance of great stories to emerge from the first two legs of the Triple Crown so far, not the least of which is the fact that people have tuned in en masse to watch a sport many critics had written off. This year’s Kentucky Derby 9.8 national rating was the highest in 20 years while Rachel Alexandra’s historic Preakness triumph drew the largest audience for the race since 2004.

Over at the Paulick Report, Bradford Cummings has a good piece that puts the significance of these ratings in perspective – pointing out the fact the Derby ranks only behind the Super Bowl this year as the most watched sporting championship. More importantly, Cummings states how this proves that, when marketed correctly, horse racing can still capture the interest of casual viewers.

To view the compete story, visit http://www.paulickreport.com/blog/good-news-friday-sponsored-by-liberation-farm-tv-ratings-are-up-is-racing/

Brass Hat returning in Louisville Handicap

There has been a lot of gloom and doom concerning Churchill Downs these days but the Grade III Louisville Handicap this Saturday should be a bright spot for a few reasons. Included in the solid field of nine horses is the venerable Brass Hat, who will be seeking his first career win on the turf.

According to the Churchill Downs notes, when the eight-year-old Brass Hat made his turf debut in 2004, four of his rivals in Saturday’s race had not yet been foaled. The gelded son of Prized enters the Louisville Handicap off a third-place finish in the Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland.

“I thought he ran huge at Keeneland,” trainer Buff Bradley said. “Maybe he flattened out a little bit at the end. (Jockey) Calvin (Borel) keeps saying I should run him on the dirt the way he is training.”

The Louisville Handicap will mark the fourth race back for Brass Hat since he suffered a strained suspensory ligament in his left leg last summer.

“I am not completely off the dirt with him. I’d like to go back to the Mass Cap (a race Brass Hat won in 2007),” Bradley said. “But you get in a cycle and if I had gone in the New Orleans Handicap (instead of the Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial) which may have been better for him, I would have gone in the Alysheba (on May 1). I thought the surface (grass) would be kinder for him and the distance (a mile and a half) would make it so he would not have to run so hard the whole way.”

Mine That Bird jogs, no word on new jockey

One day after vanning back to Churchill Downs from Pimlico, Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness Stakes runner-up Mine That Bird returned to the track, jogging one mile the wrong way under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.

“He went good, he looked good,” trainer Chip Woolley said. “He was bucking and playing a little, so we’re in good shape I think.”

Woolley said Mine That Bird would gallop on Wednesday as the gelded son of Birdstone continues his preparation for the $1 million Belmont Stakes. There is no set schedule for Mine That Bird’s next work.

Meanwhile, Woolley said he continues to be flooded with calls from jockey agents who hope to pick up the mount on Mine That Bird for the Belmont. Mike Smith, who rode Mine That Bird in the Preakness, cannot ride because of a previous commitment in California.

Calvin Borel, who was aboard for his 50-1 upset in the Derby, is committed to ride Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, but her status for the Belmont has not been decided by majority owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen.

Woolley said he would discuss the issue with Mine That Bird’s owners and they hope to have a decision in “a couple of days.”

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