OCEANPORT, N.J. — Rachel Alexandra did her job. She showed up Saturday, battled the oppressive heat, won the Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park and even put a few extra fans in the seats. Despite temperatures that reached 103 degrees on the Jersey Shore, 12,859 turned out for the chance to see one of horse racing's biggest attractions.
But Rachel Alexandra did not deliver the sort of dazzling performance many have come to expect. Nearly a year after she defeated males to win the Haskell Invitational here by 6 lengths, Rachel Alexandra needed some urging from jockey Calvin Borel to get past the recent allowance winner Queen Martha in the stretch to win the Lady's Secret by 3 lengths. Her final time for the 11⁄8-mile race over a fast track was 1 minute 49.78 seconds, nearly three seconds off the track record.
"We're very pleased with her, how she ran today," the trainer Steve Asmussen said. "It was an awfully warm day, and she kept her composure. She was very relaxed off the other mare. The first thing Calvin said when he came off her was he loved how she came home today, and I think that will be the key to her future success."
Borel had Rachel Alexandra, the reigning Horse of the Year, close to the pace throughout. Queen Martha led early, setting modest fractions. Borel called on Rachel Alexandra midway on the turn, and the 4-year-old filly responded to stick her head in front near the top of the stretch. But Queen Martha, a filly who had never before raced on dirt or won a stakes race, hung tough. It was not until the final furlong that Rachel Alexandra, who is owned by Jess Jackson, edged away.
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Rachel Alexandra lost her first two starts this year before rebounding with a 101/2-length win in the Fleur de Lis Stakes at Churchill Downs. That race seemed to indicate that she had overcome whatever was bothering her earlier in the year, but Saturday's workmanlike performance might again raise the question of whether she is as good as she was in 2009.
That may be answered in her next start. Jackson was not in attendance to discuss his plans, but it appears Rachel Alexandra might race next in the Personal Ensign on Aug. 29 at Saratoga in New York. Asmussen said her schedule would be discussed when he meets with Jackson in the days ahead at Saratoga, where Rachel Alexandra is stabled.
Rachel Alexandra returned $2.20 on a $2 bet to win. The real betting action came in the show pool, where there was $1,234,515 bet on Rachel Alexandra to show out of a total pool of $1,300,465. The show bettors were rewarded with $2.10 on a $2 bet.
Neighboring racetracks Philadelphia Park and Delaware Park canceled their programs Saturday because of the heat. But Monmouth management decided to go on with the show, a decision that no doubt had a lot to do with Rachel Alexandra and the T-shirts that were given to all paying fans.
Devil May Care rolls
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Heavily favored Devil May Care took command leaving the stretch turn and drew away to an authoritative 4-length victory in the $250,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
John Velazquez rode the Todd Pletcher-trained Devil May Care to her third straight victory over members of her own sex, a streak interrupted by a 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
The Coaching Club Oaks, in which she ran 11⁄8 miles in 1:49.42 after being rated behind a moderate pace, was her fifth career win from eight career starts. Biofuel was a decisively beaten second and Acting Happy finished third of six.
Usual Q.T. wins at Del Mar
DEL MAR, Calif. — The Usual Q.T. rallied from just off the pace to win the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar by 2 lengths, his first stakes victory since December.