The Brock Talk

Friday, August 27, 2010

Personal Ensign Obstacles Look Managable For Rachel Alexandra

Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, returns to the site of her greatest triumph Sunday in the $300,000 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga. Last year she completed one of the most dynamic campaigns ever by a 3-year-old filly by winning the grade 1 Woodward Stakes over older horses at the upstate New York racing icon. In fact, in the 56-year history of the Woodward, Rachel Alexandra is the only filly to ever win the race. At that time she was atop the racing world. Sunday, she returns grade 1 competition for the first time since.

It has been a challenging year for Rachel Alexandra, who started the year with two close second-place finishes in the ungraded New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds and the La Troienne (gr. 2) at Churchill Downs. She has since rebounded with two victories in the Fleur de Lis (gr. 2) at Churchill Downs and the ungraded Lady’s Secret at Monmouth Park, but Sunday marks her her first start this year against grade 1 competition.

In all of those races, Rachel Alexandra has been the odds-on favorite and she is the 2-5 choice in the Personal Ensign morning line in a small field of five. Unlike any of those race however, the Personal Ensign appears to have a few more legitimate challenges and challengers as well.

The first challenge will be the 1-1/4 mile distance of the Personal Ensign. This will be the first time Rachel Alexandra has run a race at the classic distance while her two top foes, Life At Ten and Miss Singhsix, just finished first and second respectively at that distance in the grade 2 Delaware Handicap.

Life At Ten brings the other apparent challenges. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velasquez, Life At Ten rattled off her sixth consecutive victory in the Delaware Handicap going back to a win against allowance company at Aqueduct in November. That span includes her triumphs in the grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont and the Sixty Sails (gr. 3) at Hawthorne.

The other challenge Life At Ten brings to the Personal Ensign will be her early speed. Like Rachel Alexandra, Life At Ten likes to be on or near the lead when the field settles into the early running. Although Rachel Alexandra likes to go a bit faster than Life At Ten; and it is doubtful that jockey Calvin Borel would let Rachel Alexandra get into a compromising fast, early pace; Life at Ten should have the opportunity to at least apply some pressure.

Miss Singhsix looks to be the most logical to benefit should Life at Ten and Rachel Alexandra somehow exhaust themselves during the first mile of the race. But even under the most opportunistic of conditions, the Marty Wolfson-trained Miss Singhsix will have to improve significantly in order to defeat Rachel Alexandra.

No better place than the "Graveyard of Champions" to give a try though.

One interesting note that Rachel Alexandra has in her favor is the success of her sire Medaglia d’ Oro at Saratoga during his racing career. After finishing second in the Wood Memorial and Belmont Stakes, the Bobby Frankel trainee went to Saratoga to win both the Jim Dandy (gr. 2) and Travers as a 3-year-old. He returned the following year to win the Whitney Handicap over Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Valponi to finish his career 3-for-3 at the Spa.

No comments: