‘Rachel’ set for Woodward

Associated Press / August 25, 2009

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Rachel Alexandra is taking on a new challenge: racing against older horses in a bid to become the first filly to win the Woodward Stakes.

After dominating the 3-year-old filly division with romps in the Kentucky Oaks and the Mother Goose, and beating the 3-year-old boys in the Preakness and the Haskell Invitational, Rachel Alexandra will run against older competition for the first time in the Sept. 5 race at Saratoga.

The decision was announced yesterday by trainer Steve Asmussen following workouts by the filly and 3-year-old colt Kensei, both owned by Jess Jackson.

Asmussen said Kensei will run in Saturday’s Travers Stakes, a race for 3-year-olds. The Woodward is for horses 3 years and older.

Rachel Alexandra covered six furlongs in 1:12.58 while under stout restraint yesterday. Kensei, winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes, worked a half-mile in 50 seconds.

“Rachel Alexandra’s workouts have been excellent,’’ Jackson said. “Hal McCormick [the minority partner], my family and I, like other fans of horse racing, want to see her tested. If she goes up against older male horses, we’ll be better able to get a measure of her greatness.’’

Shortly after the announcement, the New York Racing Association said it had raised the purse for the 1 1/8-mile Woodward from $500,000 to $750,000.

The filly has won eight races in a row and is the leading contender for Horse of the Year.