Eight fillies will line up on Saturday in the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds in search of points toward a starting berth in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (G1).
The 1 1/16-mile contest kicks off the Championship portion of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races, and will award 50-20-10-5 points to the Run for the Lilies.
Wonder Gadot is looking for a return to the winner’s circle in the Rachel Alexandra after just missing by a neck as the even-money favorite in the January 13 Silverbulletday Stakes, the first of Fair Grounds’ series of stakes for three-year-old fillies heading to the Kentucky Oaks.
“There’s going to be some serious pace on Saturday and we’ll sit right behind it,” trainer Mark Casse said. “We’re not going to let (trainer) Brad (Cox’s) filly (Monomoy Girl) get too far away.”
Wonder Gadot began her career at Woodbine, sandwiching a third in the Natalma Stakes (Can-G1) between a four-length win in her debut and a six-length wire job in the Mazarine Stakes (Can-G3) on the grass. The maiden and Natalma came over Woodbine’s synthetic Tapeta, and she tried conventional dirt for the first time when shipping to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
The Medaglia d’Oro miss finished sixth after being sent off at 12-1 on that occasion, but returned a month later at Aqueduct to close out her juvenile season with a 3 3/4-length victory in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2) going the Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles.
Wonder Gadot keeps jockey John Velazquez in the irons here.
Also going for Casse on Saturday in the Rachel Alexandra is Heavenly Love, who was an easy winner of the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) at Keeneland last October. The Malibu Moon lass followed that with a well-beaten 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, then showed up in the Silverbulletday and ran a subpar fifth. She reunites with regular rider Julien Leparoux in this spot.
“My thoughts are she didn’t get enough out of the Breeders’ Cup,” Casse said. “The track was funny that day and there was a serious track bias. I thought that she’d run a little better last time but she ran into some traffic trouble. After the race, (jockey) Julien (Leparoux) said that he couldn’t get her going again. She may just have a great affinity for Keeneland, but she’s ready.”
Monomoy Girl and Patrona Margarita both exit races at Churchill Downs and are making their sophomore debuts in this spot.
Monomoy Girl captured her first three starts, including a 6 1/2-length wire job while making her dirt debut in the Rags to Riches Stakes last October, before wrapping up 2017 with a neck second in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2). The Brad Cox-trained daughter of Tapizar attempted to lead all the way home in that 1 1/16-mile contest under returning jockey Florent Geroux but was nipped on the wire.
“I’m glad that we have a two-turn race under our belt,” Cox said. “I think we got a good post where we can sit off of the speed or we can be the speed. She was a little unfortunate not to win the Golden Rod. I don’t really know that we have any excuses other than we just got nailed right at the wire. She’s done extremely well, and she’s ready to go.”
Monomoy Girl, who breaks from the far outside in the Rachel Alexandra, earned a career- and field-best 99 BRIS Speed rating in the Golden Rod and has been working well at Fair Grounds since early January.
Patrona Margarita was last seen upsetting the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) on September 16 by 23-1 for trainer Bret Calhoun. That was the first win for the Special Rate filly since she broke her maiden going 4 1/2 furlongs under the Twin Spires last June. She was eighth in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill three weeks after her debut victory, then shipped to Lone Star Park to miss by a neck when third in the fillies division of the Texas Thoroughbred Futurity on July 22.
Patrona Margarita closed out her juvenile season in the Pocahontas and keeps Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard here.
Classy Act makes her stakes bow in this spot for Calhoun off a 2 1/2-length allowance/optional claiming victory over the track on January 18. The Into Mischief lass broke her maiden one race prior by four lengths on Fair Grounds’ yielding turf, and receives the services of jockey Javier Castellano for the first time Saturday.
Testing One Two has suffered just one loss in her career, with that coming in her debut at Evangeline Downs in August. The Victor Arceneaux trainee proceeded to break her maiden by 6 3/4 lengths, take the Louisiana Jewel Stakes by 16 lengths and capture the Take Charge Brandi Stakes on January 12 by four lengths, all at Delta Downs. Regular rider Diego Saenz has the call as the Star Guitar filly ships to Fair Grounds to face graded rivals in this spot.
Maiden scorer She’s a Julie and Actress On Board, winless from six starts thus far, complete the Rachel Alexandra field.