LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Even before she passed under the wire as the easiest of winners in the 135th Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, Rachel Alexandra already had people wondering: "What would she have done in the Derby?"
Indeed, with her breathtaking romp over six overmatched 3-year-old fillies, Rachel Alexandra immediately elicited all sorts of favorable comparisons to the males of her generation. Even with jockey Calvin Borel never asking her for a semblance of her best, Rachel Alexandra won the Grade 1, $554,500 Oaks by a stunning 20 1/4 lengths, the largest margin since at least 1910, which is as far back as the track's records go.
Rachel Alexandra, a Medaglia d'Oro filly owned by the L and M Partners LLC of Mike Lauffer and Dolph Morrison and trained by Hal Wiggins, returned $2.60 after finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.87 over a fast track. The time was just 0.23 of a second off the Oaks record, set six years ago by Bird Town.
Stone Legacy was in another zip code when she finished second, with Flying Spur another 4 1/4 lengths back in third. Justwhistledixie, the second choice on the morning line, was scratched earlier in the day because of an abscess in her left front foot. The injury is not serious, but it was "horrible timing," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Still, it seems highly unlikely that Justwhistledixie could have posed a serious threat to Rachel Alexandra.
The first post-race questions asked of Rachel Alexandra's connections concerned what she might have accomplished if they had waited another 24 hours or so to try her against the boys.
Morrison, who declined even to nominate his stable star to the Triple Crown, would not second-guess himself.
"The Triple Crown is the showcase of the future stallions of our industry," Morrison said. "Colts should run against colts, and fillies should run against fillies."
"They did the right thing," said Borel, a 27-year veteran jockey who two years ago won the Kentucky Derby aboard Street Sense. "This is the best horse I've ever ridden in my life. She'll go on and prove it down the road."
On a windy, humid, overcast afternoon, in front of a crowd of 104,867, the fourth-largest in Oaks history, Gabby's Golden Gal took the early lead from Rachel Alexandra, who was merely galloping on the leader's outside flank for the opening five furlongs. Into the far turn, Rachel Alexandra eased into a share for the lead, and then just kept going, increasing her margin even with Borel riding high and motionless.
In the unlikely event that Rachel Alexandra is entered for the May 16 Preakness, it would cost the owners a $100,000 supplementary fee.