Horse Racing

Filly Rachel Alexandra captures Kentucky Oaks by 20 lengths

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The Canadian Press
5/1/2009 6:44:23 PM
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Dolphus Morrison is a racing purist: The Kentucky Derby is for the boys; the Kentucky Oaks is for the girls.

You won't hear any of the Derby owners complaining.

Morrison's spectacular filly Rachel Alexandra crushed the field by a record 20 1/4 lengths in the $500,000 Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs, perhaps stamping herself as the best three-year-old horse in the world, boy or girl.

"If she stays sound, she'll be the next Secretariat," jockey Calvin Borel said.

She certainly put on a performance that harkened back to the legendary Triple Crown winner.

Rachel Alexandra eased past Gabby's Golden Gal on the far turn then poured it on as she entered the stretch, extending the lead as 100,000 spectators roared with every stride of her eye-popping victory in the filly version of the Kentucky Derby.

Borel blew a kiss and tapped her on the neck as they crossed the finish line for her fifth straight win, all by convincing margins.

"I've never been on a horse that good, to tell you the truth," said Borel, who won the 2007 Kentucky Derby aboard Street Sense.

Stone Legacy was a distant second, with Flying Spur third.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas joked during the week that his three entries -- Stone Legacy, Be Fair and Tweeter -- would have a better chance against Rachel Alexandra if they decided to turn the 1 1/8 mile Oaks into a relay race while the bay filly went it alone.

That probably wouldn't have worked, either.

"There is no disgrace to get beat by the winner," Lukas said. "Once Rachel Alexandra took off, the front-runner was of no consequence."

Rachel Alexandra took her time, loping along behind Gabby's Golden Gal down the backstretch before Borel nudged her to the outside as they entered the far turn.

A couple of quick strides put her in front and Borel knew it was over.

"I just let her cruise, let her do her thing," Borel said. "She loves to do what she does. When I stood up, I didn't know she had won by that far."

The win was so dominant it did little to quell speculation that she could more than hold her own against the boys in Saturday's Run for the Roses.

Morrison, however, said there was never any serious discussion about running Rachel Alexandra in the Derby even though she ripped off four straight victories after teaming up with Borel last fall.

"I don't think a stallion should be messed up by the occasional really, really outstanding filly," Morrison said. "They should run on their own."

The way she looked as she zoomed down the stretch, ears pricking, hardly exerting herself as she steadily pulled away, the guys should consider themselves lucky she's not heading to the post on Saturday.

The scary part?

Borel still hasn't needed to ask her to really run. That loving pat on the neck as they hit the wire was the only time he touched her all day.

"As fast as you want to go, you can go," Borel said.

Justwhistledixie appeared to have the best shot at pulling the upset, but was scratched hours before the race due to a hot spot in her left front foot.

The decision sent Rachel Alexandra off as the overwhelming 1-5 favourite. She covered the distance in 1:48.87 and was well into her gallop out before the rest of the field hit the line.

"If I'd have reached and grabbed her by the 16th pole, she'd have went a lot farther and broke the track record," Borel said.

Morrison isn't sure what's next. It may be hard to find enough fillies to take her on. Walking back to the barn, she didn't look like a horse who had just put together the race of her life.

"She's the epitome of race cool," Morrison said.

Jockey Corey Nakatani, a distant speck in Rachel Alexandra's rearview mirror while finishing fifth aboard Nan, isn't quite sure there's a horse out there that can hang with racing's leading lady.

"We'd have been all right if I'd have had a rocket," he said. "What can you say? She just ran away and hid."

Nan, the only Canadian horse in the field, is owned by J. Paul Reddam of Windsor, Ont.

Rachel Alexandra (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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