As the days pass, becoming weeks, that slowly blend into the months leading into the summer meets of Monmouth, Saratoga, Delaware, and Delmar division leaders start to emerge. On the left coast there is Rail Trip, Zenyatta, Lookin at Lucky, and Blind Luck. Rail Trip is being pointed towards defending his title in the Hollywood Gold Cup. Zenyatta will likely wait until the Del Mar meet before attempting another three-peat in the Clement Hirsch Stake. Lookin At Lucky is currently being freshened with the main summer goals the Haskell Invitational and Travers Stakes, while Blind Luck sets her sites upon the Delaware Oaks.
In the east come Blame and Quality Road, who will vie for divisional leadership in the highly anticipated Whitney Handicap. While not clear leader for the 3 year old division has stepped out in the east, there is no shortage of talent on display. In the immediate future, we will see the return of Jackson Bend and Schoolyard Dreams vs the ultra talented Afleet Express in the Pegasus Stakes. Overall, it seems that all the major horses in racing have some sort of plan, a goal in the near future. The only remaining horse, whose connections have not made their intentions clear, are those of the reigning Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra.
Last year, owner Jess Jackson, seemed to almost enjoy the wait and see game he played with the fans of racing. He would start with putting out a list of three or four racing's that were "under consideration." Then only days before entries were drawn would he release the star filly's next appearance. He did this yet again this year, waiting until the day entries were taken, before announcing that Rachel Alexandra would run in the Flure de Lis Stakes.
This process is not likely to change any time soon, but it is always fun to guess what Jackson will do next. What I expect we will see this year, will be far from the ambitiously planned campaign that was set before Rachel Alexandra last year. I foresee one start against males, at most for the champion filly, before her run at the Breeders Cup Classic.
Last year Jess Jackson made it well known, that after he acquired Rachel Alexandra, she would not be running in any race during the Breeders Cup, since the event was to be contested over an artificial surface. This year it is much different, with the main goal the Breeders Cup, which means they must keep Rachel Alexandra fresh, while also planning a campaign worthy of defending her Horse of the Year title.
I foresee a potential start in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap. At 10 furlongs it would give the striking filly a chance to contest at the knew distance and against some very formidable competition in Life at Ten. If she were to win in good fashion it would take care of the distance question mark that hangs over her head and be a nice little pay day.
For her next start, I definitely see Rachel shipping to the site of, arguably, her most spectacular and heart wrenching victory, Saratoga. Here I can see either a start in the Whitney or Ruffian, but definitely would see why her connections would lean towards the Ruffian. It is the same distance and grade as the Whitney and she would not have to take on the likes of Quality Road and Blame in one race so early in the year.
Next I would expect Jess Jackson to send her to the 10 furlong Personal Ensign, where she might have to run against Life at Ten and Unrivalled Belle, both quality horses. For her final prep, I envision a toss up between the Beldame and Gold Cup. Quality Road could be on a short vacation, wishing to enter the Classic fresh. The connections of Blame, on the other hand may show up, and maybe even the West Coast beast, Rail Trip.
The Beldame, would certainly be the wiser choice if the objective is to enter the race as fresh as possible. After two races contested at 10 furlongs already, this drop back would serve as a nice prep at a distance that everyone knows Rachel Alexandra loves.
Sure, it is a far cry from the all time season we saw last year, but, providing she wins these races then wins the Classic, Rachel Alexandra will end her four year old season with six wins from eight starts and two seconds. She will have amassed a total of four grade one wins along with victories in two grade two stakes. Not a bad season by any means, not even for Rachel Alexandra.