After a shocking second place finish in the Personal Ensign, beaten only by a length, the search for Rachel Alexandra's next potential start begins. Jess Jackson mentioned earlier, that he wanted the reigning Horse of the Year to be on a five week schedule, that would set her up for a start in this years Breeder's Cup.
As we look five weeks down the calender from the Personal Ensign, there are three races that pop out the most, the first being the Beldame, which is viewed by many as Rachel Alexandra's most likely next start.
The Beldame is only 8. 5 furlongs, a distance Rachel has run twice over this year, with the result being two second place finishes. The Beldame is at Belmont Park, the site of Rachel Alexandra's second stakes record and her 20 length beat down of Grade one winners Flashing and Malibu Prayer.
At this distance, her foes which already include Persistently, the filly who upset Rachel Alexandra in the Personal Ensign, and may very well include Malibu Prayer, Unrivaled Belle and Life At Ten. If there was a time for Rachel Alexandra to get revenge upon those who stole some of her thunder this year, this race would be it.
The Jockey Club Gold Cup would be the next most likely start. At 10 furlongs, many may point out that in Rachel's only try at the distance she lost and the final time was not all that impressive. I say, Rachel can still get the distance. Saratoga and Belmont are nowhere near the same. Saratoga is not the track a horse wants to be on the front end if they are want a serious chance at winning at 10 furlongs. The front end was exactly where Rachel was. Belmont is not as deep, and Rachel Alexandra skipped over the very track to a near 20 length victory last year.
The competition in this race may also put the connections of the Medaglia D'Oro filly off. Blame already had a good reputation as an exceptional closer when he came into the Whitney. He put an exclamation on that status as he ran down Quality Road, after the Pletcher trainee got away with coasting along on the front end. This race doesn't seem to have an abundance of speed, but Rachel will need to be at her best if she's going to hold off the son of Arch.
The last and least likely option would be the Hawthorn Gold Cup. This race is also at 10 furlongs, but again it is not over a track as deep and tiring as Saratoga has been the last couple years. The plus to this race are that the competition will not be quite as stiff as the Beldame or Jockey Club Gold Cup, which means there is less of a chance for Rachel to be used up before the Breeders Cup.
However the negatives are the travel and grade two status. Both the Beldame and Jockey Club Gold Cup are just a van ride from Saratoga, but the Hawthorn Gold Cup is all the way in Illinois. Why ship for a grade two when you have two grade ones to choose from right in your backyard?
So what should the connections of Rachel Alexandra do? Should they go for the softer Hawthorn Gold Cup? How about the shorter, but more contentious Beldame? Or, do you think they should go all in for the Jockey Club Gold Cup?