If indeed the most daunting test of her young career looms, Rachel Alexandra will at least have familiar hands guiding her along the way.
Two days after buying the brilliant Kentucky Oaks winner, Jess Jackson and partner Harold T. McCormick announced Friday they intend to run the filly in the Preakness Stakes on May 16 and that jockey Calvin Borel would retain the mount for the remainder of the racing season.
Rachel Alexandra is not Triple Crown-nominated and could only get into the middle jewel of the Triple Crown if fewer than 14 pre-nominated horses are entered and her connections pay a $100,000 supplemental fee.
"If she continues to be in perfect condition, our intention will be to run her in the Preakness," Jackson said in a release, adding the final decision would be made next week.
Borel also rode Mine That Bird to an upset victory in the Kentucky Derby, but he will give up that mount in order to stay on the filly he has called the best horse he has ever ridden.
"We're very happy to have the opportunity to continue to ride Rachel Alexandra," Borel said in a statement. "I've had the chance to ride some great horses, but she is one of the most special horses I've ever been around. I appreciate the faith that Mr. Jackson and Mr. McCormick have shown in me, and we can't wait to be there wherever she runs next."
Since being paired with Borel last fall, Rachel Alexandra has won five consecutive races by a combined margin of 431/2 lengths including her record-setting 201/4-length romp in the Kentucky Oaks.
"It came down to the fact that he knows and loves this horse, that he knows how to get the most from her and he knows how to win,'' Jackson said of Borel. "They were an amazing team at the Kentucky Oaks. We think this is a perfect match of rider and horse.''
When reached by phone Friday afternoon, Bennie "Chip" Woolley Jr., trainer of Mine That Bird, said he has been in contact with the agents of "a couple other riders" but that he would hold off on announcing Mine That Bird's new jockey for the next day or so.
"We have a plan B but we're not really ready to tell," Woolley said. "Also, Rachel Alexandra is not exactly for sure in there yet," he said, referring to the fact she could be bumped if 14 others enter.
Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to have her first work for new trainer Steve Asmussen either Sunday or Monday.
Previously trained by Hal Wiggins, the presence of the bay filly in the Preakness field has already caused some angst among her potential rivals.
"It's definitely going to change the race," Barry Irwin of Team Valor, co-owner of likely Preakness Stakes contender Hull, said Friday morning. "She's a tremendous racehorse. I'm going to wait and see what happens but ... for right now, we're moving forward with starting our horse."