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Dr. Miranda previews the 2023 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) from Fair Grounds, then gives her top picks & long shots from this Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep race. Early Oaks favorite Hoosier Philly makes her 3-year-old debut against a field that includes Pretty Mischievous, whose only career loss was to Hoosier Philly. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
After a perfect freshman campaign punctuated by her trainer Tom Amoss stating this is the most promising horse he has ever trained, Hoosier Philly’s time to shine has come. She is set to make her much anticipated 3-year-old debut at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in Saturday’s $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) presented by Fasig-Tipton.
Gold Standard’s Hoosier Philly, the ownership group’s first and only racehorse to date, was entered to face a field of five rivals including Selective LLC’s Chop Chop, the runner-up in both the locally run Silverbulletday and the Alcibiades (G1).
The Rachel Alexandra was carded as the 12th of 13 races on the Louisiana Derby Preview Day card with a post time of 5:41 p.m. CT. Saturday’s program also features the $400,000 Risen Star (G2). Both races for 3-year-olds are the first preps to offer 50-20-15-10-5 qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve and the Longines Kentucky Oaks. Along with the duo of 3-year-old stakes events, the program includes the $250,000 Mineshaft (G3) presented by Relyne GI by Hagyard, the $150,000 Fair Grounds Stakes (G3) presented by Horse Racing Nation, the $100,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial Stakes, and the $100,000 Colonel Power Stakes.
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After winning all three of her juvenile starts, including the Golden Rod (G2) and the Rags to Riches both by open lengths, Amoss sent Hoosier Philly for a freshening at Woodford Thoroughbreds in Florida, circling the Rachel Alexandra for Hoosier Philly’s sophomore debut. When she returned to the Amoss barn, the daughter of Into Mischief (out of the Tapit mare Tapella) proceeded to fire three successive bullet workouts. Hoosier Philly has done everything a trainer could hope from a stand-out filly.
“We have a lot of expectations for her based on what she’s done so far, so there’s a lot of anticipation about how she’s going to come back at three,” Amoss said. “Her morning preparation has been just as it was when she was two, so that gives us some feeling of confidence going into the race. But still, it is just her first race at three.”
Hoosier Philly’s sensational 2-year-old season earned her a spot in Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 4 where she was bet to 11-1, the 3rd-favorite behind “All Other 3 Year Olds” and Forte. Trainer Tom Amoss has targeted the 1 1/16 mile Rachel Alexandra for his highly-lauded filly all along, but if she wins, then what? She’d need to earn points in a Kentucky Derby prep race like the Louisiana Derby (G1) to qualify for a spot in the starting gates on the first Saturday of May.
“That’s just noise,” Amoss said. “We’re not looking at anything other than this race right now. We’re going to look out for her and do what’s in her best interest in each race. Right now, it’s the Rachel Alexandra, how she runs, and how she comes out of it.”
If Hoosier Philly continues her success and wins the Rachel Alexandra, it would be Amoss’ third filly to win this race. First was the 74-1 longshot Venus Valentine winning in 2016. Next it was eventual 2019 Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress.
“Serengeti Empress is the best horse I’ve ever trained and she won the Kentucky Oaks so there’s a special place in not only my heart but the barn, my family, everybody’s,” Amoss said. “We’ve got some things to still accomplish with a horse like this before we can start talking about how they compare.”
Currently ranked fifteenth with 10 points in the Kentucky Oaks points standings, Hoosier Philly will be guided from post No. 2 by jockey Edgar Morales.
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The top rival to Hoosier Philly in the Rachel Alexandra is Selective LLC’s Chop Chop. A nose shy of winning the Alcibiades (G1), the City of Light filly was sent off as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), but after a difficult trip around Keeneland’s main track under Joel Rosario, she disappointed her backers and connections, finishing last of 13.
“The Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Fillies) is a throw out race with the trip she got,” Cox said. “Last time here (in the Silverbulletday), you could say maybe she needed the race a little bit, but from a fitness stand point I thought she looked really good. The works were great but she just really didn’t go by (The Alys Look, winner of the Silverbulletday).”
Never leaving the barn and training forwardly ahead of her 3-year-old debut in January’s Silverbulletday Stakes, Chop Chop ran well enough to put 13 lengths between her and five of her foes, but she was unable to bid past stablemate The Alys Look in the stretch, and ended up finishing second. Cox has decided to add blinkers for her run in the Rachel Alexandra.
“I’m hoping the blinkers can help her get over the top if she ends up eye-balling another horse late in the race,” Cox said. “Even when she won it was by a narrow margin, so I’m hopeful this is something that can get her over the top and get her in the winner’s circle.”
With 12 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to her name, Chop Chop will break from post No. 4 with Florent Geroux aboard the lone Cox filly in the field. Silverbulletday winner The Alys Look awaits her next run, possibly in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) on March 25.
Godolphin’s Untapable winner Pretty Mischievous will make her 3-year-old debut in the Rachel Alexandra as well. Putting in three local works since last raced, the Into Mischief filly by the Tapit dam Pretty City has been training well, filling out, and maturing nicely for the Brendan Walsh barn.
“She’s doing great,” Walsh said. “We just backed off her there after the Silverbulletday because she had run continuously since her first start and we figured we needed to give her some down time at some point. She’s come back well, and her works have been good, so we’re all set for Saturday.”
After winning her first two races at sprint distances, Pretty Mischievous finished third behind Rachel Alexandra foes Hoosier Philly and Knockyoursocksoff in November’s Golden Rod. In her successful Untapable run, Pretty Mischievous was piloted by Brain Hernandez Jr. who placed her more forward than she had been previously under Tyler Gaffalione, who climbs back aboard on Saturday.
“She’s a pretty easy filly to ride,” Walsh said. “If she ends up prominent she’s prominent, if she ends behind, it won’t take her out of her realm. We’ll leave it to Tyler and wherever she finds herself.”
Pretty Mischievous will break from post No. 5, looking to add to her 13 Oaks qualifying points.
2023 Kentucky Oaks
Another sophomore filly with potential star power that was entered in the Rachel Alexandra is Belladonna Racing, Edward Hudson, West Point Thoroughbreds, LBD Stable, Nice Guys Stables, Manganaro Bloodstock, Runnels Racing, Steve Hornstock, and Twin Brook Stables’ Vahva. The daughter of Gun Runner broke her maiden by open lengths going 7 furlongs on the “Stars of Tomorrow II” card at Churchill Downs in November. Trainer Cherie DeVaux stepped Vahva up against stakes company in the Untapable, but after stumbling out of the gate and spotting the field five lengths, she could only manage to run third, over eight lengths behind the winner and Rachel Alexandra foe, Pretty Mischievous.
With three Oaks points to her name, DeVaux sent Vahva to Palm Meadows in Florida, where she trained forwardly and began touting her fine health with her dappled-out bay coat. Vahva has continued to shine since returning to Fair Grounds, putting in one local drill on Sunday Feb. 12 under exercise rider Irwin Rosendo. Luis Saez will retain the mount, looking for a clean break from the rail.
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