Rachel installed as 4-5 choice in Haskell
Preakness (G1) queen RACHEL ALEXANDRA (Medaglia d'Oro) will make her second start against males when she squares off against six rivals in Sunday's $1.25 million Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park, and the Steve Asmussen trainee has been installed as the overwhelming 4-5 choice on the morning line. The mighty filly will bring a seven-race winning streak into the 1 1/8-mile event, and regular rider Calvin Borel will guide her from post 6.
Rachel Alexandra began her current win streak when concluding her two-year-old season with a 4 3/4-length score in the Golden Rod S. (G2) at Churchill Downs. She opened 2009 with a facile eight-length tally in the Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn, and toyed with her female rivals when posting a 1 3/4-length victory in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and an 8 3/4-length triumph in the Fantasy S. (G2). Next came the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and the dark bay lass rolled to record 20 1/4-length decision under the Twin Spires. That prompted Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick to pay a reported $10 million for the dominant performer, and her new connections decided to send her to the second leg of the Triple Crown, supplementing her for $100,000 to the Preakness.
The Kentucky-bred gamely held for a one-length win over Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mine That Bird (Birdstone) at Pimlico, and Rachel Alexandra returned to three-year-old filly competition for her last start, a 19 1/4-length, record-setting romp over two overmatched foes in the June 27 Mother Goose S. (G1). She will van to the New Jersey track on Friday morning and is scheduled to school in the paddock with the field for Friday's 6TH race at approximately 2:45 p.m. (EDT).
Belmont S. (G1) hero SUMMER BIRD (Birdstone) is perhaps the most formidable opponent. A fast-finishing third when making his stakes debut in the Arkansas Derby (G2), the Tim Ice-trained colt improved upon a sixth in the Kentucky Derby when posting a 2 3/4-length win in the Belmont S. (G1) last time out. Rated as the 7-2 third choice on the morning line, Summer Bird will keep jockey Kent Desormeaux in the irons and break from post 2.
MUNNINGS (Speightstown), who exits a pair of excellent sprint victories at seven furlongs, will stretch back out to a route for trainer Todd Pletcher and is listed as the 3-1 second favorite. Multiple Grade 1-placed as a juvenile, the chestnut colt made short work of a strong field of three-year-old rivals when winning the Woody Stephens (G2) by 5 1/4 lengths two starts back, and Munnings easily defeated elders as the odds-on choice in the Tom Fool H. (G2) most recently. John Velazquez will be up.
ATOMIC RAIN (Smart Strike), who garnered his first stakes victory when taking the local prep for the Haskell, the July 11 Long Branch S., was entered by his new owners, Godolphin. His status had been in doubt due a sore foot. A 3 1/4-length allowance winner at Monmouth Park two starts back, the Saeed Bin Suroor runner comes next on the morning line at 10-1.
Rounding out the line-up are Arkansas Derby (G2) winner and Long Branch third-placer PAPA CLEM (Smart Strike); Iowa Derby victor DUKE OF MISCHIEF (Graeme Hall); and multiple stakes winner BUNKER HILL (Trippi).
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