Rachel Alexandra's 2010 debut Saturday at the Fair Grounds
The wait is almost over for Rachel Alexandra.
The 2009 Horse of the Year will face four rivals when she makes her first start in six months in Saturday's $200,000 New Orleans Ladies at the Fair Grounds.
The 4-year-old filly drew the No. 2 post position Monday and regular rider Calvin Borel will be aboard. Rachel will be challenged by Fighter Wing, Zardana, Unforgotten and Clear Sailing.
Rachel Alexandra completed an 8-0 campaign last year with a victory against older males in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 5. Rachel also won the Preakness and the Haskell Invitational against 3-year-old males.
Against 3-year-old fillies, she won the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs by 20¼ lengths and the Mother Goose by 19¼ lengths.
In the 11⁄16-mile Ladies, the filly trained by Steve Asmussen faces a field of 4-year-old fillies and mares. Her most formidable foe could be Zardana, a 6-year-old mare bred in Brazil who won the 2009 Bayakoa Handicap. She is trained by John Shirreffs, who also trains unbeaten Zenyatta, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner preparing to face Rachel Alexandra in the $5 million Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 8. Zenyatta makes her first start of the year in Saturday's Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita.
Fighter Wing, who drew the rail, set the pace in the Pelleteri Stakes last month at the Fair Grounds before finishing second to Clear Sailing. Unforgotten has earned more than $500,000 with several stakes wins.
Rachel Alexandra breezed 4 furlongs in 49 seconds Monday in her final work before the race.
Asmussen said Rachel "went beautiful ... did very well, looked good." The workout was Rachel's seventh this year.
■ State officials and New Jersey horse racing industry leaders said they have reached an agreement to reduce the number of racing dates at Monmouth Park this summer but boost purses to $1 million a day, tops in the nation. Under the agreement reached Monday, the track will conduct a 50-day meet, racing Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, plus three Monday holidays, from May 22 to Sept. 11. An official announcement is expected Tuesday.
McNabb, T.O. teaming up for TV show
Donovan McNabb will be throwing passes to Terrell Owens again. McNabb and Owens are teaming up on a basketball court instead of a football field in the new season of Spike TV's "Pros vs. Joes." The episode features NFL players that played college basketball against former NBA stars. McNabb (Syracuse), Owens (Tennessee-Chattanooga) and Antonio Gates (Kent State) will face Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith and Rick Fox.
■ Mike Holmgren is already making deals with his former team. The Seattle Seahawks traded backup quarterback Seneca Wallace to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2011 undisclosed draft pick. Wallace spent his entire seven-year career with the Seahawks and was always a favorite of Holmgren's when he was Seattle's coach. Now the Browns' team president, Holmgren has brought Wallace to Cleveland. Wallace's best season was 2008 when he started eight games in Holmgren's last season and threw for 1,532 yards and 11 touchdowns.
■ Chad Pennington will be back with the Miami Dolphins for at least one more season. The quarterback signed a one-year deal with the team Monday. He's expected to back up Chad Henne, who replaced him when Pennington injured his right shoulder in the third game last season. Pennington, 33, is recovering from the third operation of his career on his throwing shoulder. Twice he has returned from injuries to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year, most recently in 2008, when he led the Dolphins to their first playoff berth in seven years.
■ The Oakland Raiders released wide receiver Javon Walker and defensive end Greg Ellis. Walker was a disappointment right from the start after signing a $55 million contract that included an $11 million signing bonus two years ago. He caught 15 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown in two injury-plagued seasons.
■ The Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired wide receiver Reggie Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles for a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft. Brown has 177 career receptions and 17 touchdowns.
UK baseball starting long homestand
Kentucky's baseball team, 9-1 and ranked 22nd in Baseball America's poll, will open an 11-game homestand with a game against Evansville at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Wildcats were 2-1 on their most recent road trip, with wins against San Diego and a loss to Monmouth. Kentucky has been led offensively by senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley, who is hitting .400 with a home run and eight RBI. Pre-season All-American second baseman Chris Bisson is batting .378 with two doubles, a triple, two homers and 10 RBI. Evansville (3-8) is coming off a 2-1 series loss at Samford and has also posted two wins over Mercer.
■ Collegiate Baseball Newspaper named Kentucky junior right-hander Matt Little one of its three national players of the week. Little, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., struck out 11 batters in five innings and allowed just two hits. He earned one save and one victory in two appearances. He has a 0.82 ERA and three saves this overall this season.
■ Kentucky junior left-hander Logan Darnell was named the SEC's pitcher of the week after throwing a complete-game shutout at San Diego on Friday. The Joelton, Tenn., native, forced San Diego, a team ranked No. 19 in the Baseball America pre-season top-25, into 12 ground-ball outs and allowed his UK defense to turn a season-best four double plays.
Patterson honored for community service
University of Kentucky star Patrick Patterson was one of 12 men's basketball players named to the Southeastern Conference's Community Service Team. The junior from Huntington, W.Va., was honored for his visits to UK Children's Hospital and his involvement in the Hoops for Haiti project that helped raise more than $1 million for Haiti earthquake victims. Others named to the team were Alabama's Senario Hillman, Arkansas' Rotnei Clarke, Auburn's Lucas Hargrove, Florida's Dan Werner, Georgia's Trey Thompkins, Louisiana State's Alex Farrer, Mississippi's Zach Graham, Mississippi State's Barry Stewart, South Carolina's Austin Steed, Tennessee's Bobby Maze and Vanderbilt's Joe Duffy.
Ping waives settlement on square grooves
The 20-year-old Ping wedges with square-shaped grooves will no longer be allowed on the PGA Tour starting March 29 under an agreement reached Monday with Ping executives. John Solheim, the chairman and CEO of Ping, said the Phoenix-based company is waiving its right that had kept the PGA Tour from banning Ping Eye2 wedges made before April 1, 1990, that have deeper, wide grooves no longer allowed under new USGA regulations.
Those wedges were allowed through a 1990 settlement from when Ping sued the PGA Tour and U.S. Golf Association. Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, John Daly and Fred Couples were among players who used the Ping wedges. It had become such a divisive issue that Scott McCarron accused Mickelson of "cheating" by using the club.
Mickelson hinted at a lawsuit for being "publicly slandered," although McCarron later apologized.
The waiver takes effect the week after the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and will apply on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. It will not apply to amateur competitions.
The last word
ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla, to the Dallas Morning News, on how many words he got in during his last conversation with Dick Vitale:
"A precious few. I just wait until he comes up for air."