LOUISVILLE — A decidedly gloomy forecast did not prevent the three central figures from this year's Triple Crown saga from showcasing their abilities at Churchill Downs on Monday morning.
Whether all three take their talents to Belmont Park next week, however, remains unresolved.
Although Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Preakness Stakes heroine Rachel Alexandra both posted solid works Monday morning, the plot line for the upcoming Belmont Stakes still lacks clarity as owner Jess Jackson said no decision has been made on whether to send his filly onto the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Rachel Alexandra shrugged off the presence of a loose horse and a downpour that hit as she started her work to cover 4 furlongs in :50.20 in her first move since her historic Preakness triumph.
Though her connections were pleased with what they saw from the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, Jackson said they needed more time to evaluate her recovery before deciding if she would tackle the 11/2-mile Belmont Stakes or wait for the Grade I Mother Goose Stakes against fillies on June 27th.
"We still can't make any decisions, but she's recovering nicely," Jackson said during a rainy morning. "I think for the time that has elapsed — it's only been nine days — she's right on course for being in top shape, but we can't make that decision until we know.
"It's up to her. We can't take chances and make a declaration, but we are still considering the Belmont. It's either that or the Mother Goose."
The lack of commitment from the Rachel Alexandra camp has Mine That Bird's connections in a holding pattern as well.
Jockey Calvin Borel guided Mine That Bird to his Derby win, but he got off that mount to stay with Rachel Alexandra — whom he has guided to six straight victories — in the Preakness.
Chip Woolley, trainer of Mine That Bird, originally said he would name a jockey for the bay gelding Monday. But with Jackson taking a wait-and-see approach, Woolley said he would give Borel more time in hopes of getting back his Derby-winning rider should the filly not go in the Belmont.
"We're probably going to hold off a few more days," Woolley said. "Out of respect for Calvin and them, we're going to give them a little bit more time to make their decision on what they're going to do. We'll see how things develop this week."
Mike Smith, who rode Mine That Bird to a runner-up finish in the Preakness, has a commitment to ride in California the day of the Belmont.
Borel was aboard Mine That Bird as the gelding worked 4 furlongs in :51 flat over the sloppy track Monday, but he refused to comment on his Belmont Stakes dilemma.
"I'd like to have closure on this, but it is the nature of the business," Woolley said. "You've got two good horses vying for the same rider. Nobody likes to be in this situation. Both horses are at the top of their game and it is a tough choice for the rider and it is tough for the trainers."
Both Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird are scheduled to work again at Churchill next Monday.
"My concern is her attitude," Jackson said of his filly. "She thinks she can run through a brick wall, and her attitude has to be monitored. If anything we have to pull her back a little bit because she's so eager to run."
Jackson might not have decided where Rachel Alexandra's next start will be but the outspoken owner did spell out where he did not want his classic-winning filly to run.
The wine mogul talked at length about his disdain for synthetic surfaces, a fact that could impact whether Rachel Alexandra competes at this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita Park.
If the bay filly does run in the Breeders' Cup, Jackson said it would probably be in the Classic against males — not the Ladies' Classic one day earlier.
"An unnatural surface to me is not where she should run," Jackson said. "If she runs at all on plastic, it's because she so damn good she can beat the boys in the Classic, not the Ladies' Classic.
"I don't want to race on the plastic at all," Jackson continued. "I'm not going to run her (in the Breeders' Cup) unless she has no other frontier to conquer. Then of course we might go."