Rachel Alexandra romps in Kentucky Oaks

By Alicia Winze of the Lexington Herald-Leader

LOUISVILLE — Of all the queries thrown at the connections of Rachel Alexandra this past week, one set of questions kept coming up.

What would happen if the time ever came when jockey Calvin Borel actually had to ask the filly to try?

What would be the result if the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, a multiple winner of graded stakes, found herself challenged and had to dig into her well of ability?

That managed to stump virtually everyone close to the bay filly. And in the aftermath of the 135th Kentucky Oaks, it’s a subject that remains thoroughly unresolved.

In an effort as stirring as anything witnessed under the Twin Spires, superfilly Rachel Alexandra left six rivals flailing and 104,867 fans breathless as she skipped to 201/4-length in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks — the largest margin of victory the race has ever seen.

Although few expected the Oaks to be little more than a coronation for racing’s newest queen, the ridiculous ease of Rachel Alexandra’s latest effort left even her firmest supports stunned.

After rating just off the flank of pacesetter Gabby’s Golden Gal down the backstretch, the long-striding filly cruised up under her own power around the final turn and had Borel in full celebration mode before she even hit the sixteenth pole.

Despite coming home in little more than a gallop, Rachel Alexandra’s final time of 1:48.87 for the 1 1/8-mile race was just off the stakes record of 1:48.64 set by Bird Town in 2003.

“She’s the best horse I’ve ever been on and she proved it today,” a beaming Borel said. “Street Sense (the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner) was a great horse and had one turn of foot but … I’ve never been on a horse this good.

“Until I really have to get down and ask her, I don’t know how good she is.”

Remarkably, Rachel Alexandra began her career by losing three of her first five starts. But since she won the Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill by 4 3/4-lengths last fall, no one has come within sniffing distance of co-owner Dolphus Morrison’s homebred filly.

In her four starts prior to the Oaks, Rachel Alexandra had won by a combined total of 23 1/4 lengths including an 8 3/4-length stroll in the Grade II Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn on April 5.

“Calvin tells me he’s never asked her to run and he doesn’t know what’s going to happen when he does,” said trainer Hal Wiggins, who earned his first Oaks triumph. “It’s overwhelming really. She’s getting better and better all the time.”

Stone Legacy, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, got up for second in the Oaks with Flying Spur coming home third.

Justwhistledixie, the second choice in the morning line at 5-2, was scratched earlier in the day with an abscess in her left front foot.

Rachel Alexandra’s rapid ascent is especially poignant considering the decades of dedication that went into making her success.

For 30 years, Wiggins has trained for Morrison in a partnership based as much on loyalty as it is respect. Though the two have brought up some solid stakes winners — including Rachel Alexandra’s dam, Lotta Kim — the Oaks marked the first Grade I triumph for both men.

“I’ve had some lucrative offers to move horses to other people … but I like to stick with the people I’m doing business with if they’re doing the job,” Morrison said of Wiggins. “He’s just a great person.”

Though offers came in to buy Rachel Alexandra last year, Morrison ultimately only sold half of her to partner Mike Lauffer just before her Golden Rod triumph.

“If I had any inkling to know what she would turn out to be, I wouldn’t have sold any of her,” Morrison joked.

But in earning her latest triumph, Rachel Alexandra has given everyone around her a reward they didn’t dare fathom.

“Unless you have loved someone with your entire heart and watched them go through bad times and good times … I cannot express what this means,” said Renee Wiggins, who has been married to her husband for more than 40 years. “It means more than anything in the world to me to see him getting the accolades that he has worked so hard for.

“Rachel Alexandra is really a gift from God and we are very thankful for it.”

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