OCEANPORT, N.J. -- A cool and collected Rachel Alexandra, the reigning Horse of the Year, captured the $400,000 Lady's Secret Stakes for fillies and mares in the oppressive heat Saturday at Monmouth Park.
It was her second straight stakes win following a pair of narrow losses to start the 2010 season.
Rachel Alexandra beat the pacesetting Queen Martha by three lengths. It was another 7 3/4 lengths back to Ask the Moon in third.
The temperature soared into the upper 90s on the Jersey Shore on Saturday afternoon. Combined with the humidity, the heat index cracked 100. The heat wave held the crowd to 12,859. Monmouth officials had hoped to attract more than 15,000.
Rachel Alexander rewarded them with a solid win, considering the conditions.
Queen Martha, making her first start on dirt, grabbed the early lead. Jockey Calvin Borel was content to let Rachel Alexandra sit second behind the 8-1 second choice.
They stayed that way until the top of the final turn, when Borel sent Rachel Alexandra after the pacesetter. They raced as a team around the bend, with Rachel Alexandra putting a head in front turning for home.
When Borel asked for more in the lane, Rachel Alexandra responded, pulling away comfortably in deep stretch.
"We're very pleased with her, how she ran today," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "It was an awfully warm day, and she kept her composure. She was very relaxed off the other mare. The first thing Calvin said when he came off her was he loved how she came home today, and I think that will be the key to her future success."
As for the future, that will be determined next week when owner Jess Jackson and Asmussen meet in Saratoga. Jackson did not make the trip to Monmouth.
The 1-10 favorite, Rachel Alexandra was a magnet for show bettors. Of the $1,300,465 bet to show, $1,234,515 was wagered on the winner. The card's total handle from all sources was $11,421,794, largest ever at Monmouth except for a Haskell day or the Breeders' Cup.
Rachel Alexandra paid $2.20 to win as she ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.78.
It was a triumphant return to Monmouth, where Rachel Alexandra beat the colts last summer in the $1 million Haskell Invitational, one of the key victories that propelled her to the championship in an 8-0 campaign.
To lure Rachel Alexandra back to Monmouth, the Lady's Secret underwent a major overhaul. The race was originally slated for Aug. 1 with a purse of $150,000. The additional $250,000 was contingent on Rachel Alexandra competing in the race. The distance was also lengthened from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles.
The Lady's Secret began a stellar nine-day stretch in New Jersey racing that culminates with the Haskell on Aug. 1.
* Island Time, the longest price in the five-horse field at 15-1, beat Triple Cream, the 13-10 favorite, by 1 1/4 lengths in the $91,500 Desert Vixen Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.
Carlos Marquez, Jr. was aboard for trainer Jason Servis as Island Time ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.03.