Rachel Alexandra in the infield saddling area before the 2009 Preakness
The $1.1 million Preakness Stakes (G1) is the second leg of the Triple Crown, contested at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on the third Saturday in May. Only 77,850, down significantly from the over 112,000 who came last year, were in attendance on a warm afternoon with temperatures in the high 70's. Clouds passed through the day but light showers did not start to fall until the post parade for the Preakness, ending after the post-race ceremonies.
A field of 13 three-year-olds went to post in the 134th renewal of the 1 3/16 mile classic, but the eyes of the racing world were on 9-5 favorite Rachel Alexandra, the only filly in the race exiting a 20-length romp in the Kentucky Oaks, taking on male competition for the first time, and retaining the services of regular rider Calvin Borel. Pioneerof the Nile, who won four straight in California before finishing second in the Kentucky Derby, was the 6-1 second choice over Kentucky Derby upset winner Mine That Bird at 7-1, who had Mike Smith aboard for the first time, replacing Borel who rode him at Churchill Downs.
Rachel Alexandra leads down the stretch with Mine That Bird on the far outside coming on.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 13 Rachel Alexandra Borel 5.60 4.60 3.60 2 Mine That Bird Smith 6.60 4.80 3 Musket Man Coa 5.00 Winning Time: 1:55.08 $2 Exacta 13-2 39.20 $2 Trifecta 13-2-3 216.20 $1 Superfecta 13-2-3-10 2,903.80 $2 BE Susan-Preakness double 16.60
Left: Rachel Alexandra parades for the fans after winning the Preakness. Jockey Calvin Borel said, "I just knew it was the right decision (to choose to stay with the filly). I mean I'm paid to win and I knew she was going to win. All along I knew she was the best horse to ride all along. Sometimes you have to make a decision, and I had to make that decision, and I just got to thank Mr. Jackson to give me the opportunity to ride the filly."
Right: The trophy presentation with owner Jess Jackson holding up the trophy, jockey Calvin Borel, and trainer Steve Asmussen. Winning owner Jess Jackson said, "She just wants to run. Gender doesn't matter. A thoroughbred wants to run, and if a filly is as good as the colts, they ought to compete. That was my position and that's why we came. Monitored her health very carefully to make sure she was fit and ready. I think she could have been even faster if she had a little more time and she had a turf that didn't break away from her as she was running. But, at the same time, she showed the heart and skill of a champion, so I'm delighted that our decision not vindicated but was correct. I'd love to race in New York. The Belmont is always a consideration for a champion. It will depend on her. The horse always tells you whether they're ready."
Left: Rachel Alexandra heads to the test barn after the Preakness as assistant trainer Scott Blasi waves.
Right: Rachel Alexandra in the post parade. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Filly broke a little bit to the right early. The second quarter I thought was a little quick. She stayed on well. I think that, you know, the three things that I want to cover is Rachel Alexandra is good enough to win the Preakness and she proved that. (Previous trainer) Hal Wiggins and his staff did an unbelievable job to have her in this sort of shape mentally and physically. I can't say enough about Jess stepping up. Everybody talking about what they thought she was capable of. To step up and put her in this position, it definitely took some guts to do so. She had something to prove, lot of questions. I felt that she proved it emphatically. You mentioned the race didn't unfold exactly as we expected it to. She was still good enough to win a classic. She's a true champion, tremendous talent and be treated with the respect that that deserves."
Left: Rachel Alexandra in second as they pass by for the first time. Winning jockey Calvin Borel said, "She's the best horse in the country right now bar none. I love the colt. The colt ran a super race with me in the Derby and, you know, my filly, she kind of struggled the last quarter of a mile. When she went to reaching like I know she can, the ground was breaking out under her a little bit. When she left the gate, she kind of took a little bad step. Usually I just let the reins back on in and she just cruises. I had to reach and pick up about the 1/4 pole just to support her a little bit, but I think we could have went another round with her. She got so much determination. When you look in the filly's eyes, it's unbelievable. You win."
Right: Rachel Alexandra walks over to be saddled for the Preakness. She was saddled in the regular indoor paddock then walked out to the turf course saddle area.
Left: Second place finisher Mine That Bird in the post parade. His trainer Chip Woolley said, "I'm thrilled to death with the race my little horse ran. Everything was going according to Hoyle, until the turn when he was fanned a little wide. I thought we had a chance at the 1/8 pole. But you have to give that filly credit. She's a great one. The Belmont is next for us."
Right: Mine That Bird in last as they pass by the first time. His jockey Mike Smith said, "He's a tough little dude. He worked his way through there and kept on trying. If we could have gone another 1/16 mile, I think he would have tackled her. On the backstretch, I tried to duck back in, but there was a lot of traffic. I had to do what I had to do. Honestly, he's one of the best I've been on. He's very balanced. (Rachel Alexandra) beat the greatest colts in the country today. You have to take your hat off to her. I thought she'd come back to me, but she kept on going."
Third place finisher Musket Man in the post parade. His trainer Derek Ryan said, "I saw (Rachel Alexandra) breezing at Churchill before the Oaks and I knew she was a super star. My horse ran well, but we got beat by a great one. She's a filly for the ages."
His jockey Eibar Coa said, "No complaints at all. I had a good trip, except at one point at the 5/16 pole. I had to stop riding for three jumps. I think that cost me second place."
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