Owner Jess Jackson said he has no regrets about skipping the Belmont Stakes with Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra. That decision wasn't about ducking a rematch with Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and America's four-legged princess might face males again this summer.
"I think she could have taken it, but two hard races in a row wouldn't have been good for her," Jackson said yesterday. "We thought she needed a good rest after the Preakness, and she's fresh, healthy and ready to run."
Saturday's Grade I, 11/8-mile Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park will be Rachel Alexandra's debut in the Big Town. Her first start since the Preakness is a convenient re-entry point for a second season that could include more battles of the sexes. Jackson named the Haskell (Aug. 2, Monmouth Park) and the Travers (Aug. 29, Saratoga) as possibilities, along with the girls-only Delaware Handicap (July 19, Delaware Park), Coaching Club American Oaks (July 25, Belmont) and Alabama (Aug. 22, Saratoga).
"We're hoping to give her the chance to show she's the champion we already think she is," Jackson said.
He's also open to the idea of running her as a 4-year-old, as he did last year with two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. He ruled out the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, not wanting to repeat the failed experiment with Curlin on its Pro-Ride track.
"I have a strong dislike for plastic sur faces, and I don't think she should be exposed to that," Jackson said. "Like Curlin, she's a dirt horse, and he struggled on that track. I don't want to risk her on plastic."
Only four 3-year-old fillies will challenge overwhelming favorite Rachel Alexandra, winner of six consecutive stakes. Jockey Calvin Borel said he's not concerned about cutting back to one turn or about Big Sandy's deep surface.
"It really won't matter, because she puts herself in the race early," Borel said. "She's very versatile, and I don't think she'll have a problem with that track. She's an unbelievable filly, the best horse I've been on in my life. It would be silly for me not to ride her with confidence."