Daily Herald
Rachel Alexandra first filly favorite since 1988
Associated Press
Published: 5/14/2009 12:04 AM

BALTIMORE - Rachel Alexandra was made the early 8-5 favorite Wednesday for the Preakness Stakes, the first filly accorded that status since 1988.

She brings a five-race winning streak into Saturday's 1 3/16-mile race at Pimlico.

Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Calvin Borel, Rachel Alexandra drew the No. 13 post on the far outside.

"It's beautiful. She's going to be able to get position," said Scott Blasi, Asmussen's assistant.

Borel chose to stay on as Rachel Alexandra's regular rider, switching off Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who gets Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

"Calvin knows this filly so well, I don't think we have to tell him anything about where he wants to be with her," Blasi said. "He's very comfortable with her and we're very comfortable with him."

No filly since Nellie Morse in 1924 has won the Preakness. The last filly to go off as the wagering favorite was Winning Colors at 2-1 odds in 1988. She finished third.

"I am trying to help the industry," said Jess Jackson, the filly's co-owner. "I hope this helps revive horse racing in the United States."

Jackson, who founded Kendall-Jackson winery, and Harold McCormick bought Rachel Alexandra for an undisclosed price last week. They paid a $100,000 supplemental fee - above and beyond the entry fees - to get her into the Preakness because she wasn't nominated for the Triple Crown races by her previous owners. They had expected her to only run against fillies.

"I think the fans deserve to see the best horses compete regardless of sex," Jackson said on a conference call. "This isn't about male or female, it's about the best athletes."

Rachel Alexandra has a front-running style and hasn't been farther back than second while running her last five races.

"It's a good spot for her," said Bob Baffert, who trains rival Pioneerof the Nile. "She's out there in the clear. If you're in the middle and you don't break well, they can jam you up. She's going to be (running) one, two or three; that's a good spot for her."

Pioneerof the Nile, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, was made the 5-1 second choice in the 13-horse field by Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli. The colt drew the No. 9 post.

Mine That Bird and Friesan Fire were the co-third choices at 6-1. Mine That Bird will break from the No. 2 post, while Friesan Fire is in the No. 5 spot.

Bennie Woolley Jr., who trains Mine That Bird, was happy with his colt's post, pointing out that speedster Big Drama is in the No. 1 hole and Musket Man will start from No. 3.

"They should clear away from us, put us in a nice spot to coast down the front side," he said. "I like the fact that Big Drama is inside of me. He will move on. It should leave me a little bit of a spot there."

Musket Man, third in the Derby, was 8-1.

The draw was done in a tent near the stakes barn at Pimlico after being held in downtown Baltimore in recent years. It was a traditional "pill pull" where the horses' entry blanks were drawn simultaneously with a numbered pill to determine their position in the starting gate.

The field, from the rail out, is Big Drama (10-1), Mine That Bird (6-1), Musket Man (8-1), Luv Gov (50-1), Friesan Fire (6-1), Terrain (30-1), Papa Clem (12-1), General Quarters (20-1), Pioneerof the Nile (5-1), Flying Private (50-1), Take the Points (30-1), Tone It Down (50-1) and Rachel Alexandra (8-5).