For the second straight race, reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra suffered a stunning narrow defeat when the Bill Mott-trained Unrivaled Belle caught the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro at the wire to win the Grade II La Troienne at Churchill Downs Friday.
Rachel Alexandra had lost her seasonal bow, the New Orleans Ladies on March 13 to Zardana, in what was her first effort since defeating older males in the Grade I Woodward Stakes last September 5. Though her connections admitted she was not 100 percent fit for that effort, the champion filly had looked much stronger in her recent works and a return to her usual form was expected on Friday.
After challenging Be Fair through soft fractions of :24.79 and :48.81, Rachel Alexandra hooked up with Unrivaled Belle coming off the final turn. The two were eyeball to eyeball in the lane with Unrivaled Belle just getting up by a head on the outside in the final stride to earn by far the biggest win of her career.
“You don’t run a horse looking to get beat by any means, let alone Rachel,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “It’s hard to imagine her getting beat. I don’t think she was short. She stayed pretty steady…just the one thing we kind of discussed before is she wasn’t quite as fast as she was at one point last summer. We just hadn’t seen her quite as fast. But there are definitely a lot more positives today with how she acted, how relaxed she was and how steady she was. She just wasn’t quite as fit. But the winner was a deserving winner.”
Prior to her loss in the New Orleans Ladies, Rachel Alexandra had not suffered a defeat since November 1, 2008 when she ran second to Sara Louise is the Grade III Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill.