April 23, 2024

Farrell raises Oaks stature in Rachel Alexandra romp

Farrell with jockey Channing Hill aboard wins the 37th running of the Grade II Rachel Alexandra Stakes at fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

Although Southern California’s Unique Bella appears in a league of her own among Kentucky Oaks (G1) prospects, Farrell is steadily building up her resume, and made it three straight in Saturday’s $196,000 Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds. Her 50-point haul catapulted her to the top of the Oaks leaderboard, with a total of 70 to her credit.

Highly regarded by trainer Wayne Catalano, the Coffeepot Stables homebred galloped her foes into submission on the front end, just as she had done in the November 26 Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs. Last time in the January 21 Silverbulletday, Farrell deployed her tactical speed as a close stalker before asserting.

Farrell was nevertheless let go as the 7-2 third choice in the Rachel Alexandra. Bettors preferred California shipper Shane’s Girlfriend, the 7-5 favorite off her remote third to Unique Bella, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) runner-up Valadorna. Neither could hold a candle to the winner, who was also the 122-pound highweight.

Gliding to an easy lead through an opening quarter in :23.92, Farrell was in her comfort zone for the duration as she clicked off splits of :47.32 and 1:12.22. Valadorna took a short-lived run at her, and Farrell brushed her aside with ease to open up by 3 1/2 lengths. She covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.09 and returned $9.60 to win.

“She’s really versatile, so I just let her have her way,” regular rider Channing Hill said. “She did everything so well and settled really well on the backside, doing it all on her own. Down the lane I got after her a little bit and she went on with it and did it professionally. This filly is the real deal.”

Catalano is already looking to the first Friday in May.

“The way she’s running, she should be one of the top choices (in the Kentucky Oaks),” Catalano said, “but there are a few more races to go.

“She was moving pretty good and I was happy when (Hill) said that she settled for him on the backside. Speed is always dangerous and pace makes the races and today was our race.”

Majestic Quality, entering as a maiden after seven starts, outperformed her 23-1 odds to take second (and 20 Oaks points) from Valadorna.

“She works like she belongs here and today she proved it,” Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux said of Majestic Quality. “That made the whole trip (from Santa Anita). Mission accomplished: she’s graded-placed. I liked her determination. All the way to the sixteenth she was third, but she fought like hell and got second.”

Valadorna was a neck away in third, good for 10 points (resulting in 18 overall). Her connections paid tribute to Farrell.

“We had a good trip,” jockey Julien Leparoux said. “She traveled good, nice and relaxed and made a move around the second turn pretty easily. When I got to the winner, that one re-broke. No excuses.”

“I thought we had a good trip and thought she ran well,” trainer Mark Casse said. “She just flattened out late and got beat by a good horse.”

Wicked Lick was fourth at 40-1, earning 5 points toward the Oaks (for a total of 9). Shane’s Girlfriend was a non-threatening, wide-trip fifth.

The Rachel Alexandra figures to have an impact on this weekend’s Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, the only future wager for the fillies. As of 8:30 pm (EST) Saturday, Farrell, who started out at 15-1 on the morning line, has been nibbled down to 10-1. Valadorna, initially 12-1, has drifted up to 16-1, and Shane’s Girlfriend’s price has nearly doubled, from 15-1 to 26-1.

Farrell’s scorecard stands at 6-4-0-1, $361,357. Her first four starts came at Churchill Downs, where she was fourth on debut before rebounding in style next time. A similar pattern held in her first two stakes attempts – a third in the October 30 Rags to Riches, followed by her revelation in the Golden Rod. She hasn’t put a foot wrong since.

Farrell is the fifth stakes performer produced by the prolific Unbridled’s Song mare Rebridled Dreams. Her half-siblings include multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Carpe Diem (by Giant’s Causeway) and Grade 1 scorer J.B.’s Thunder (Thunder Gulch) – both successful in the Breeders’ Futurity – as well as multiple English stakes victor and Group 3-placed Doncaster Rover (War Chant) and Grade 2-placed Semper Fortis (Distorted Humor).

A Kentucky-bred by Malibu Moon, Farrell was part of a big day at Fair Grounds for her sire. Malibu Moon is also the broodmare sire of Risen Star (G2) upsetter Girvin.