The Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GII) was born in 1982 and originally named the Davona Dale Stakes after the champion filly and Hall of Famer Davona Dale, who raced in New Orleans in the late 1970s and won the Kentucky Oaks (GI), Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (GI) and Acorn Stakes (GI) for owner/breeder Calumet Farm and trainer John Veitch.
In 2001, Fair Grounds renamed the race for another champion, Silverbulletday, who won the Davona Dale in 1999 en route to capturing the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes as well, and was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2009. The following year, the race got another name change, this time to honor the 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who went on to win the Kentucky Oaks and beat the boys in the Preakness Stakes (GI). She was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year in her first year of being eligible.
When the race was renamed for Rachel Alexandra, the Tiffany Lass Stakes, which is traditionally run in January as a prep for this event, was renamed to continue on the name of Silverbulletday.
In addition to the two winners the race has been named for, other notables to have crossed the wire first in the 1 1/16-mile prep for the Fair Grounds Oaks (GI) in five weeks includes Prospectors Delite, the dam of Grade I winner and leading sire Mineshaft; fellow notable broodmare Take Charge Lady; and champions Indian Blessing and Untapable.
Farrell is riding a two-race win streak heading into her initial graded stakes appearance of the year and a couple of nice workouts over the Fair Grounds main track since winning the Silverbulletday stakes last month. The Coffeepot Stables homebred daughter of Malibu Moon is a half-sister to grade 1 winners Carpe Diem and J. B.’s Thunder and has been expertly managed so far through her five-race career by trainer Wayne Catalano. She’ll certainly be part of the early pace scenario under jockey Channing Hill and her speed/class numbers indicate she’s a legit runner. This is by far the toughest field she’s ever faced, but her best is probably good enough.
Valadorna, who was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) after breaking her maiden last fall, returned to action in a fair grounds “non-winners other than” allowance back in January and won by a half-length at odds of 1-9 over a field she should have had no trouble with. She’s pretty solid and consistent, but her biggest drawback is that the horse who finished in front of her in the Breeders’ Cup, Champagne Room, returned from her winter freshening to finish a well-beaten third behind division leader Unique Bella in the Las Virgenes Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita earlier this month. Valadorna is talented and the Stonestreet Stables-owned daughter of Curlin in good hands with trainer Mark Casse and jockey Julien Leparoux, but she’s definitely going to need her best to beat the top choice from her position well back early.
Shane’s Girlfriend looked like a world beater and likely division leader last year after winning her first two races, including the Delta Downs Princess Stakes (GIII), by a combined 18 ¾ lengths; yet, in her first race of the year, she could only muster a well-beaten third in the Santa Ynez Stakes (GIII) against Unique Bella. The competition hereon out doesn’t get any easier, so she’ll need to regain the form she showed winning last year. The Doug O’Neill-trained daughter of Adios Charlie has been training well at her home base of Santa Anita and she also has a somewhat versatile running style if she needs it depending on pace today and her best should earn her a larger piece of the $200,000 pot.
Untapped is a promising young full sister to champion Untapable and drew the rail for her first start since a disappointing fifth in the Silverbulletday last out. The Winchell Thoroughbreds, who is trained by Steve Asmussen, has a win over this track and has been training well over it all winter, and she’ll love what will likely be a hotly contested pace in front of her. She doesn’t need much to be a factor for a slight upset here.
Wicked Lick hasn’t won in four starts since breaking her maiden in September, but she was a decent second in the Silverbulletday last out. A closer, she’ll love the pace but she may be just a smidge below the top choices in here, talent-wise.
Gris Gris finished behind Farrell in stakes company twice and has been a consistent runner overall since breaking her maiden in October. She just seems to want some softer company, at least at this stage of her career.
Majestic Quality is still a maiden and has her work cut out for her.